Curious to find out if dogs can eat garlic? Maybe your dog just ate some garlic bread or a chunk of garlic, and you are not sure what to do next? Well, the short answer is that yes, garlic can be toxic to dogs. It depends on the form of garlic consumed and the quantity they have 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 should not, and garlic is just one more thing 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. Determining whether garlic is safe for dogs can be tricky, so we asked our vet Joanna Woodnutt to 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 is 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 some gastrointestinal upset as well as 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 also toxic, as is a liquid garlic supplement. In other words, if it has garlic in it, it should probably be avoided. While we are 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?
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 body weight before you may see serious negative impacts (provided your dog isn’t allergic to garlic). This means they would 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 insufficient oxygen is being pumped and speed up the heart and breathing rates, 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 do not 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, it is 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?
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 are 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 out they have eaten more garlic while you weren’t looking– so if there’s a spill, you should put your dog in a safe room and quickly clean up the mess, so other pets are not in danger.
Step 2: Immediately Call Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on the next steps. They might recommend that you try to make your dog vomit or 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 To 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 garlic. IV fluids and even blood transfusions are sometimes necessary for dogs that have severe anemia as a result of eating garlic.
Can Dogs Eat Garlic Bread?
This is a prevalent question among dog parents, with a lot of conflicting information surrounding it. The answer is a bit mixed, as garlic bread can be ok in small amounts, depending on how it is prepared.
As a general rule, canines should not eat garlic-heavy foods, especially those using fresh, whole cloves. Most commercial garlic bread products use garlic powder, while homemade bread may use fresh garlic. If you make it from scratch and use raw garlic cloves, your dog would have to consume a significant amount for it to cause problems unless they are allergic.
A piece or two will not cause harm, but it is not something to make a regular habit of letting your pup eat. It may encourage your pup to seek out more of that garlicky flavor. Garlic bread is delicious and full of butter, which dogs will love the taste of. Garlic bread is also heavy in oils, salts, and other spices that pets should not be eating. It is not good for them to eat a lot of and not something that is part of a canine’s natural diet.
If your dog gobbles up a large amount of bread, especially a heavily garlicked loaf, they may start to experience symptoms of toxicity. The amount and type of garlic are key here, as fresh garlic is much more potent. It is wise to reach out to your vet to be on the safe side. If you notice odd or alarming behavior in your pup, take them for medical treatment as soon as possible.
What happens if my dog eats garlic bread?
Most of the time, this will not cause a huge reaction. Unless your dog ate an entire loaf of bread or whole raw garlic cloves, they will likely be ok. Your pup may have an upset stomach and some unpleasant gas for a few days. Keep an eye out for any stomach issues, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. It is always ok to check with your vet to be sure. Any side effects will usually work through your dog’s system in a day or two.
Healthy Alternatives to Garlic
Feeding canines human foods is tricky, and garlic is one of those foods that owners must be very careful about. 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 encourage you to try the following:
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some common questions we hear from dog owners when it comes to garlic. If you feel like we missed something, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section.
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.
How much garlic is toxic to dogs?
The common guideline is that 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kg of a pup’s body weight can cause harmful effects. They need to eat a large quantity to have severe effects, but even smaller amounts should be avoided.
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 proven beneficial were studied in humans, who don’t have the same problems with garlic as dogs do.
In addition, studies have now shown that garlic poisoning can occur with small doses over time and with huge one-off doses. So why are garlic and garlic oil used in dog food? Well, just like oatmeal, garlic and garlic oil make it taste good. And so far, there have not been any major problems with feeding it at this very, very low dose. Because of that, they have continued to do it.
Similar to grapes and leeks, 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 occasionally. 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.
While there seems to be a lot of debate 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 because they want to sell you some of their products.
Vets and poison centers say it isn’t safe. This is because they do not 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 avoiding garlic altogether. Sorry, Fido- no more garlic bread for you.