Welcome back to Furbaby Fridays. Today I'm continuing the series on common pet toxins. Last week I talked about marijuana and this week I'm covering my all time faves...garlic and onions. Many folks know that onions are toxic but these same folks refuse to jump off the supplemental garlic band wagon. Too often I've had to correct that Old Wive's Tale that garlic repels fleas.
It doesn't and it never has. It doesn't repel ticks, lice or any other blood sucking or biting parasite.
Now that's out of the way. Let's get on with the discussion shall we?
I know some of you are shaking your head right now. You want to argue with me that if garlic is so toxic, why is it in some pet foods, recommended by some veterinarians as helpful to pets? Let me start off with this statement:
"ALL ingested garlic/onion will cause some degree of hemolysis in dogs and cats—it's only when sufficient red blood cells have been damaged to alter the overall oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and/or to cause hemoglobinuria (dark red-brown urine) that the toxicosis becomes clinically evident." Sharon Gwaltney-Brant DVM, PhD Diplomate, American Board of Veterinary Toxicology
What the good doctor above is saying is that even the very small amounts used in making these pet foods and maybe in your left over beef stew will cause damage to the animals red blood cells. If the animal is otherwise healthy, it's body will end up destroying the affected cells and creating new ones every three days...like usual. Unfortunately, if there is any other medical condition that has already caused problems, the body may not be able to keep up with the repair. So even in these patients, the very small amounts are a big NO NO.
|DO NOT FEED THIS TO YOUR PETS!!!|
Garlic can also be a potent cardiac and smooth muscle relaxant, dilate blood vessels and lead to hypotension. Both onions and garlic can be potent anti-thrombic agents: they prevent clot formation. So it really wouldn't be a great idea for you to give your big Labrador 3 or 4 cloves of garlic to boost his immune system on the morning he's going in for a fracture repair. This actually happened to one of my colleagues. They found out that there was a problem when they were shaving the dog for surgery and the skin started to ooze blood. That is NOT NORMAL! If they would have continued with the surgery, there could have been fatal consequences.
Baby food used to have onion powder in it and believe it or not it was one of the most toxic concentrations for animals if they were fed that long term. Lucky for us, most of the baby food companies have stopped putting it in there and veterinary hospitals can continue to use these foods to help entice finicky patients to get back to eating. Why doesn't it affect humans the same way as it does animals? Our red blood cells are a heck of a lot more resilient than the dogs and even more so than the cat. Cats if you haven't already figured out are just a whole other story all together! Every thing affects them to the nth degree more than any other species and in fact can kill them all that much faster too.
|Jaundiced gums and lips of a cat|
Take Home Message
While the small amount of garlic in pet foods made commercially and those in veterinary approved home cooked recipes can stimulate some of the changes biological changes listed above, it usually will NOT cause the hemolytic disorders in an otherwise healthy pet. It's when people start supplementing themselves using more than recommended by their veterinarians. This can be done by using additional raw garlic bulbs, but more so using the powders and dehydrated forms of onions. More in these cases is definitely not better!
Toxicity can be cumulative in these over-supplemented cases because the body doesn't have enough time to destroy the affected cells and also produce new red blood cells before even more are destroyed.
So instead of perpetuating the Old Wive's Tales, please, please PLEASE have these discussions with your own veterinarians to help you develop the best health care routine for your pets. Trust me, we would want to be proactive in your pet's health than have to see you on an emergency at 3am and have to tell you what you've been feeding your pet caused it's current illness.
Some links you'll want to bookmark
|Click here to go to the site|
ASPCA POISON CONTROL
See you next week for another segment on common toxicities in pets.