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Can Dogs Safely Eat Onions?
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Can Dogs Safely Eat Onions?

Amelia, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jul 17, 2020

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Certain foods that humans eat are not considered safe for dogs to consume. In fact, some of these foods can be very dangerous for our canine friends to eat. Most people who eat raw or cooked onions only have to, perhaps, think about how this food will negatively affect their breath. When it comes to dogs eating onions, though, there might be quite a bit more to worry about than a case of bad breath.

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1

Onions Contain a Toxic Substance

Onions Cause Human Eye Irritation Magdevski / Getty Images

There is a compound found in onions that's known as N-propyl-disulfide. This compound gives onions its strong odor. It is also the cause of eye irritation when you peel and slice an onion.

Other than that, N-propyl-disulfide is not dangerous to humans. It can, however, damage your dog's red blood cells. This substance found in onions lessens the red blood cells' ability to transport oxygen. It also causes a dog's body to treat blood cells as invaders, resulting in anemia. This, if not treated promptly, can lead to internal organ damage, organ failure, or even death.

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2

All Onion Parts Are Toxic To Dogs

Fresh Onions gmnicholas / Getty Images

It's not simply the white fleshy part of the onion that is dangerous to dogs. Every part of an onion can cause distress and blood cell damage to your furry friends. This includes the leaves, the juice, and even processed onion powders that you might sprinkle on foods to add flavor.

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3

Onions In Any Form Are Harmful

Dog Waiting For Dinner Scraps RyanJLane / Getty Images

It's not just raw onions that can be harmful for dogs to eat. Even cooked onions, either alone or inserted within a recipe, are potentially toxic for Fido. Cooking onions doesn't remove the N-propyl-disulfide that can cause red blood cell damage to canines. It's best to read all labels before giving any human food to your dog, as even a small amount of onion as an ingredient can be dangerous. Throwing your dog scraps from the dinner table can be harmful unless you're sure nothing has been cooked with onions.

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4

Some Dogs Can Eat a Tiny Amount of Onion Without Getting Sick

Dog Eating Scraps of Food Pekic / Getty Images

It often takes time for toxicity from eating onion to build up in a dog. This means that if you accidentally drop a bit of food that has onion in it and your pet gobbles it up, it probably won't make him or her sick. This also holds true for dinner gatherings, when a well-intentioned guest feeds your furry friend a few little scraps under the table. But if your dog gets a hold of a large amount of onion-containing food, like a bag of onion rings, then you should seek out your veterinarian's care right away.

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5

The Amount of Onion That Will Harm a Dog Varies

Raw Onion wsmahar / Getty Images

Some dogs that consume as little as half an ounce of onion in any form might experience changes in their blood system. A rule of thumb is that dogs who eat onions that equal more than 0.5% of their body weight in one sitting are in danger. For instance, a dog that weighs 20 pounds will get sick if she eats one-fourth of a cup of onion in any form. A medium-sized onion (about 3.5 ounces) eaten by a 45-pound dog will result in toxicity.

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6

How To Know If Your Dog Has Onion Toxicity

Lethargic Dog gradyreese / Getty Images

Perhaps you've witnessed your pet gobble down a whole sliced onion that dropped to the floor during a meal preparation. There's also a chance that your dog ate some food containing onion without your knowledge. Either way, it's important to know the symptoms of onion toxicity that can lead to hemolytic anemia. Make note as to whether your canine shows signs of:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weakness
  • A lessened appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Passing out
  • Red or brown discolored urine
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
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7

How Veterinarians Diagnose Onion Toxicity

Veterinarian Taking Blood Sample simonkr / Getty Images

When a dog ingests a toxic amount of onion, it oxidizes or corrupts, the body's protein known as hemoglobin, which is in red blood cells and carries oxygen to other cells. When this happens, clumps are formed in the blood, making oxygen transport much less efficient. The clumps are called Heinz bodies. The vet will take blood samples from your dog and examine them under a microscope to see if Heinz bodies are present.

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8

Treating Dogs For Onion Toxicity

Dog Vomiting

If your dog has very recently eaten a toxic amount of onion, your vet may induce vomiting. He or she may then be placed under watchful care to be sure enough healthy red blood cells are now being produced to replace any damaged ones. If the onion toxicity is very severe, your pet may need to undergo a blood transfusion. With appropriate care and early intervention, your dog should be fine.

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9

Certain Breeds Are More Susceptible To Onion Toxicity

Akita Dog Galina Zhigalova / Getty Images

Although all dogs should avoid being fed onions of any kind, some canine breeds are genetically more prone to the effects of onion toxicity than others. If you have a dog that is full or part Akita, Shiba Inu or Japanese Chine, be extra careful about having onions or onion-containing products and foods within their reach.

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10

Foods That May Have Hidden Onion Ingredients

Dog Eating Pizza Pekic / Getty Images

Be careful when sharing your dinner scraps with your pet. Some popular foods that humans love may have cooked or raw onion in them, or even onion powder and spices. Unless you are absolutely sure there is no onion in it, refrain from giving your dog a piece of your pizza, food with tomato sauce on it, Chinese food and even some baby foods.

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