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Can Dogs Eat Garlic? How Much Garlic is Toxic For Dogs?

Did your dog eat garlic? Maybe you want to feed your pup some garlic bread during dinner? Our veterinarian walks through if garlic is safe in the article below.

Joanna Woodnutt

Last Updated: September 18, 2020 | 7 min read

Dog Looking at Garlic Clove

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate garlic, we recommend you contact your own veterinarian immediately.

Curious to find out if dogs can eat garlic? Maybe your dog just ate some garlic bread, or a chunk of garlic and you aren’t sure what to do? Well, the short answer is that yes, garlic can be toxic to dogs. It depends on the form that the garlic was consumed, and the quantity they’ve eaten. However, garlic in small quantities may not show any side effects.

If your pup eats some garlic bread, it probably will do nothing more than make them a little gassy. But the answer changes if your dog eats an entire bulb of garlic. This can cause Garlic toxicity (poisoning), and it may or may not impact your dog depending on how much was consumed. Dogs eat all kinds of things they shouldn’t, and Garlic is just one more thing that’s on the list.

You may have heard that garlic is a natural canine flea preventative. Or maybe you’ve heard that garlic is completely toxic to dogs. Working out whether garlic is safe for dogs can be tricky, so we asked our vet Joanna Woodnutt to take a look at both sides of the story.

Is Garlic Poisonous to Dogs?

Garlic has definitely been associated with illness in dogs. It’s generally considered toxic by most vets and poison centers. The good news is that it’s rarely fatal. But affected dogs are often very ill, and need supportive veterinary care. Garlic contains five known toxic compounds for dogs. They are mostly the same toxins as onions, which are thiosulfates. These can cause gastric upset as well as cause damage to your dog’s red blood cells, causing anemia.

What Kinds Of Garlic Are Toxic?

Raw and cooked cloves and bulbs of garlic are toxic to dogs. Wild garlic is also considered poisonous. Garlic powder is toxic, too- as is liquid garlic supplement. In other words, if it has garlic in it, it should probably be avoided. Whilst we’re on the subject, all alliums are considered poisonous to dogs- including onions, chives and leeks- and cats and horses can be poisoned by these ingredients, too.

What Happens if a Dog Eats Garlic?

Dog at Vet
In severe cases, garlic ingestion will result in a trip to your veterinarian.

Just like any dog toxic food, it depends on how much they ate. It’s been reported in clinical studies that it takes about 15 to 30 grams per kg of bodyweight before you may see serious negative impacts (provided your dog isn’t allergic to garlic). This means they’d need to eat quite a bit of garlic before seeing any majorly negative side effects.

Garlic has a complicated ‘mechanism of action. This is the term we use to describe how it does damage. First, it can irritate the mouth and guts. It will cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. But if these signs don’t appear, it doesn’t mean that your dog is safe. Garlic contains the thiosulfates bis-2-propenyl trisulfide and bis-2-propenyl thiosulfonate among others.

These compounds interfere with your dog’s ability to reverse damage to their hemoglobin. This is the compound in your dog’s red blood cells that carries oxygen. The damaged hemoglobin cannot carry oxygen, but it also makes your dog’s red blood cells very fragile. They end up bursting and being broken apart in a process called hemolysis. In other words, large quantities of thiosulfates found in garlic ‘dissolve’ your dog’s red blood cells.

This means that your dog is likely to become anemic. Their gums and inner eyelids are likely to be a bit pale, or even jaundiced. They might also get out of breath more easily and become weak and lethargic. The body will recognize that not enough oxygen is being pumped and speed up the heart rate and breathing rate, too.

Garlic also contains compounds that relax heart muscles and widen blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure. It will increase your dog’s heart rate further, and make it harder for blood to be pumped.

Can a Dog Die From Eating Garlic?

Yes, theoretically. However, in practice, it is rare for a dog to die from eating garlic, as long as they get veterinary support. A few days after the damage to the red blood cells occurs, the body starts to make new red blood cells. As long as they don’t eat any more garlic, these red blood cells should be normal and the dog will recover.

Of course, the more garlic your dog eats the more severe the symptoms, and if they go undiagnosed and untreated its not impossible that this becomes fatal. Certain breeds have been known to react more sensitively to Garlic.

Based on my experience, Japanese breeds are also more likely to have severe symptoms with garlic ingestion, although it’s not clear why this is.

My Dog Ate Garlic: What Should I Do?

Sick dog laying down
If your dog ate garlic, you should immediately contact your veterinarian.

If your dog eats a small amount of garlic (like a single dropped clove) and not regularly, you probably don’t need to worry. You can keep a close eye on them and watch for signs of tummy upset or pale gums- although remember that these can take several days to become obvious. However, if your dog decides to eat several cloves, or if they’re small, of Japanese descent, or if they have already been taking garlic supplements for a while, it’s a good idea to follow our steps below.

Step 1:Prevent Your Dog From Eating More Garlic

The last thing you want to do is find they’ve eaten more garlic whilst you weren’t looking- so if there’s a spill you should shut your dog away and quickly clean up the mess so other pets aren’t in danger.

Step 2: Immediately Call Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on next steps. They might recommend that you make your dog sick, or might prescribe some activated charcoal to absorb the toxin and help your dog pass it without the toxic compounds being absorbed by the body.

Step 3: Take Your Dog into the Vet if Recommended

If your dog has eaten enough garlic to worry your vet or is showing symptoms, hospitalization may be necessary. Oxygen therapy is usually required, as this allows the red blood cells that are still functioning to carry more oxygen with less effort. Powerful antioxidants are usually given to help the red blood cells fight off the effects of the garlic. IV fluids and even blood transfusions are sometimes necessary for dogs that have severe anemia as a result of eating garlic.

Healthy Alternatives to Garlic

Dog Waiting on Raw Food
There are plenty of healthy alternatives to Garlic, including carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato.

There are plenty of healthier alternatives to Garlic that you can feed your pup. If you are looking for some different fruits or vegetables that can make a quick and healthy snack, we’d encourage you to test the following:

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some other common questions we hear from dog owners when it comes to Garlic. If you feel like we’ve missed something, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section!

What Happens if my Dog Eats Garlic Bread?

Garlic bread is typically fine. Unless raw garlic cloves are used in the creation of the garlic bread, it shouldn’t pose a problem for your dog. Most garlic bread is commercially made, and a powder is used to create the garlic flavor. If you are making it from scratch and use raw cloves of garlic, your dog would have to consume a significant amount for it to cause problems unless they are allergic.

What Happens if my Dog Eats Garlic Powder?

Again, this will depend on how much. A small amount of consumed garlic powder will likely cause no issues, whereas an entire bottle will. We always recommend contacting your vet, and if your dog exhibits any erratic behavior, it’s recommended you take them to the vet right away.

What Happens if my Dog Eats a Garlic Clove?

This depends on the amount consumed. A full garlic bulb only contains around 7 grams of garlic. So your pup would have to eat two full bulbs in order to cross into the range for it to be toxic. If your pup ate a small clove of garlic, the chances are that they will be fine. Again, we recommend contacting your vet for further guidance.

Why Do They Put Garlic in Dog Food?

Confusingly, garlic is thought to have some health benefits, and in very small doses is thought to be safe. The main problem is that very few of garlic’s positive effects have been proven, and those that have were studied in humans, who don’t have the same problems with garlic as dogs do.

In addition to this, studies have now shown that garlic poisoning can occur with small doses over time as well as with huge one-off doses. So why is garlic and garlic oil used in dog food? Well, just like oatmeal, garlic and garlic oil make it taste good. And so far, there haven’t been any major problems with feeding it at this very, very low dose. Because of that, they’ve carried on doing it.

Final Thoughts

Similar to grapes, garlic is toxic to dogs. However, it’s probably fine if your pup consumed a very small amount. Unless you have a very small dog or a Japanese breed, you probably don’t need to rush to the vet if they sneak a single clove as a one-off. But you should definitely try to keep garlic consumption to a minimum. If it’s in their food already don’t supplement it further, or you risk tipping them over the edge.

Whilst there seems to be a lot of argument on the internet as to whether garlic is safe or not, it’s a good idea to consider who is making the argument. Supplement companies and some food companies say that garlic is safe. And they would, because they want to sell you some of their products.

Vets and poison centers say it isn’t safe. This is because they don’t gain anything from doing so. Since there are plenty of good foods and flea prevention options that don’t feature garlic, I’d recommend avoiding any possible risk and avoid garlic altogether. Sorry Fido- no more garlic bread for you!

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