Why Are Onions Bad For Dogs and Cats?

We have listed onions in our list for the 9 Worst Food Items For Dogs. But we never went much into the details as to why onions are so bad. In every Indian households, onions are a must. We cook it with many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and though it makes for delicious human food it is strictly not allowed for dogs and cats. As responsible pet owners we must take extra care that our onion scraps don’t reach their adventurous mouths and hungry bellies.

The Indigestibility of Onions

Any food can be bad if we cannot make good use of it in our body. Onions just happen to be one of those vegetables, your dog and cats just can’t digest. They contain a substance called thiosulphate, and the substance becomes harmful because your pets are unable to break it down. This thiosulphate then goes on to attack the red blood cells in your pets body resulting in hemolytic anaemia or Heinz Body Anaemia. Thiosulphate is not only toxic for dogs, but cats as well. So, kitties do not get a free pass to onion rings!

Onions also contain a compound called organosulfur which creates a poison that their digestive track easily absorbs. The combination of organosulfur with thiosulfate becomes deadly for both dogs and cats. Research shows that while 5g of onions for cats, and 15-20g of onions for dogs can be harmful, it is worse if they have small amounts of onions on a daily basis than having a high amount of during a single sitting. So, if you are someone who let’s your pet nibble on a bit of your food, make sure you only share food that doesn’t have any onions in them.

Are There Any Types Of Onions That Are Non- Toxic

No. Onions, spring onions, garlic and any other onion forms that you are can think of, are toxic to dogs and cats. The cooking method doesn’t reduce its toxicity either. So, fried onions, boiled onions and even onion powder have the same affects. The problem is dogs and cats do not identify the toxic nature of onions. They will happily take a bite if you give it to them and this is more worrisome.

Baby food also has onion extracts so, while most ingredients in baby food are safe for dogs, please go through the ingredients and check for onion and garlic extracts.

How Do I Know If My Pet Ate Too Many Onions?

You may take all the necessary precautions and keep onions well and away from your pets. But accidents are inevitable. Your dog or cat may still get their nose into some fried onions without you having any knowledge about it. So how do you know if they have eaten some onions? Here are some symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Pale Gums
  • Reddish Urine
  • Fainting
  • Loss of appetite
  • A sudden shift in mood – a active happy go lucky puppy may suddenly show less interest in things

In this case vomiting may be a good thing because it is the body’s natural tendency of getting rid of harmful toxins. However, you must make sure you take your dog or cat to the vet as soon as possible. In fact, if your pet hasn’t vomited but you rushed them to the vet right on time, they may try to induce vomiting as an attempt of getting rid of the onions in the body. They will offer your pet with supportive care so that their body can work towards growing their red blood cells on their own. In severe cases pets have needed blood transfusion from another pets.

The symptoms often vary from dog to dog. Veterinarian Tina Swan says, ““I had a young dog with signs of partial paralysis and weakness of his back legs. The clue to the problem was that the owner had fed the dog some macadamia-crusted salmon with sautéed onions the night before. It can be difficult to determine what causes a toxic reaction in pets, especially if they’ve eaten table scraps.”

The case above is more complicated because the puppy dealt with the toxins from onions and macadamia nuts – both of which are fatal do dogs. In India macadamia nuts are not as popular but it is an ingredient in many imported products. A combination of two toxic ingredients are even worse for dogs. So, always be mindful of what you share with your pets.

Long Term Onion Consumption Vs Sudden Intake

As we said earlier. The long term effects of onion consumption is much worse for your pet. Long terms onion consumption can lead to liver damage, asthmatic attacks, allergic reactions, weakness, diarrhoea and even dermatitis – a skin condition that causes itching and redness.

The affects of onion consumption in pets is also irreversible if it is something they are having in the long run. So, it is not something we can take lightly. The size of your pet is also really important. The smaller your pet the worse effects they will have from the onion. So, be very careful and make sure what you give them is onion free. Some dogs and cats cannot even tolerate eating from a plate that had onions on them. So, make sure to wash the plate well before offering them anything from it.

 We hope this article was helpful to you. There are many debates around onions and garlic and true a tiny accidental nibbling of onions is not going to hurt them but it is important to be careful. Though different dogs and cats have varied immunity, poisoning from onions should not be taken lightly.

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About The Author

Dheepakh Rajaram

Dheepakh Rajaram

Dheepakh is a dedicated pet parent. His love for his dogs turned him into a pet food enthusiast. He has dedicated all his life to understand pet food nutrition and is eager to learn everyday.

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