Whether you’re a home gardener or a keen cook, your dog is likely at your heels. And when dogs are tempted to help themselves, or you accidentally drop a piece on the ground, you might be left asking, ‘can dogs eat leeks?’
As a vet, this is a problem I’m familiar with, so we’re going to look at whether dogs can eat leeks and what you should do if your dog has eaten leeks.
We’ll also discuss what impact eating leeks might have on your dog and how to avoid any situations that could lead to a sick dog in the future.
Can A Dog Have Leeks?
Leeks are a part of the allium family, which is toxic to dogs. Other allium family members include onions, shallots, and garlic, all of which are toxic to dogs. The most harmful is garlic, which is estimated to be roughly five times the potency of leeks. However, the toxicity of leeks is not to be underestimated.
We, humans, love the taste of alliums, so we often use them in cooking. Before feeding leftovers to your dog, you should consider whether they contain any alliums, including leeks, onions, garlic, or any powders or stock that might include alliums. It’s safest to avoid feeding your pet leftovers as so many human foods can pose a threat to your pet if consumed.
Why Can’t Dogs Eat Leeks?
Leeks contain a toxin known as n-propyl disulfide (a type of organosulfur compound). In dogs, these are metabolized differently to humans and can lead to a process known as ‘oxidative damage.’ Damaged red blood cells are more fragile and likely to burst. This leads to anemia (reduced levels of red blood cells), which causes reduced oxygen delivery around the body and can be life-threatening if not treated.
Studies have shown that ingesting just 0.5% of a dog’s body weight in onion (also a part of the allium family) can be enough to cause changes to the blood cells.
Symptoms of anemia caused by leek poisoning may include:
- pale-colored gums,
- lethargy or depression
- reduced appetite
- blood in the urine
If you are concerned about your pet showing any of these signs, be sure to contact your vet or call a poison advice service helpline.
Does It Matter If It’s Cooked Or Frozen?
Another common question is whether cooking or freezing certain foods alters their toxicity potential. No matter how they are prepared, leeks should be avoided and are still considered poisonous even when cooked or frozen.
My Dog Ate Leeks – Should I Worry?
Although not the diet of choice due to their toxicity, it is possible that dog could sneak a leek. It happens. If your dog has eaten one, here’s what to do:
Prevent Further Ingestion
Ideally, put your pet into a different room — this allows you time to clean up any spills and prevent them from eating more.
Establish the following:
- What have they eaten?
- How much?
- How long ago?
Contact Your Vet Or A Pet Poison Helpline
Many variables affect the advice given, so it is best to contact your vet for personalized information. Try to provide your vet with as much information as possible, including the information above, so that they can make an accurate assessment of your dog’s risk.
Each dog is different and may react differently to toxin ingestion, so it’s always better to be safe and contact your vet, even if you think you know what they’ll say. Certain breeds of dogs (mainly Japanese breeds like Akitas and Shiba Inus) demonstrated more sensitivity to ingestion of allium toxins. So this may also affect how your vet chooses to treat them.
Follow Advice Given
If you visit your vet, try to take any packaging or other information about the product to help them.
Avoid Similar Episodes In The Future
Could you keep hazardous foods in a different place? For example, a cupboard higher up or in a separate pantry? Don’t forget to educate children and visitors about the risks of feeding human food to dogs.
Will Leeks Upset My Dog’s Stomach?
If your dog has eaten leeks, they’ll likely suffer from an upset stomach. While this is less serious than leek poisoning, it can make your pet feel pretty poorly. Some gastrointestinal side effects, for example, may include vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, and abdominal pain. Your pet may also show some other signs, such as lethargy or weakness.
What Is The Treatment For Leek Poisoning?
It is essential to act quickly if you think your pet could have ingested a toxin. If it has not yet been digested, it may be possible for your veterinary surgeon to induce vomiting to get rid of as much of the offending toxin as possible. Your veterinarian might give an injection that makes your dog vomit. This is significantly safer than home remedies for inducing vomiting, many of which are dangerous and can cause severe problems, as well as restricting the treatment your vet can safely give.
Once your dog has vomited, your vet may prescribe a specific amount of activated charcoal to be given by mouth. This bonds any toxins that remain in the gut, reducing the amount available to cause damage. Please note, this is very different from standard charcoal, and you should not feed your dog charcoal after toxin ingestion. Further, activated charcoal should only be given if prescribed by your vet.
If it’s too late to induce vomiting, it may be necessary for your vet to investigate and treat it further. Your vet may perform some blood work and give your dog intravenous fluid therapy (sometimes known as a ‘drip’) to help stabilize and support them. In severe cases of leek poisoning, where anemia develops, your dog may require a blood transfusion to replace the red blood cells that the toxin has damaged.
Will My Dog Be Okay If He Ate Leeks?
Luckily, most cases of leek poisoning tend to be mild and are rarely life-threatening. However, a dog can die from allium poisoning. If your dog has eaten leeks, prompt treatment is essential to reduce the chance of them becoming dangerously ill with anemia.
Prevent Your Dog From Eating Leeks
Try to avoid feeding your dog leeks, and make sure any family and friends are also aware. Leeks, like other alliums, are often used as ingredients in stews, soups, and other dishes, so it’s best to avoid feeding leftovers altogether.
Store your leeks out of reach of a curious pup, and make sure that food waste bins are secure and out of reach.
Something else to consider is whether you have any vegetables growing in your garden that a curious pup might dig up. If so, it is best to keep these areas fenced off.
What Vegetables Are Safe For My Dog?
As pet parents, it is understandable that sometimes we are looking for something different for our furry friends to try. Instead of leeks, why not try to tempt them with other healthy snacks. As with everything, these are best enjoyed in moderation and only as a treat rather than a dietary staple.
These dog-safe snacks may consist of:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
While some snacks are okay, it is also worth remembering that as long as you are feeding a ‘complete diet’ (most off-the-shelf pet food diets from reputable brands fall into this category), this contains all of the vitamins and minerals they need. So, if in doubt, you’re always best to avoid feeding anything you’re not too sure about.
Like other alliums, leeks are poisonous to dogs. Always remember to check what you are feeding your pet and whether there are any risks associated with doing so, especially when feeding tidbits of leftover human food. It is easy to overlook a small bit of garlic, onion, or leek in a casserole dish that you prepared several hours ago.
If you suspect your dog has eaten leeks, it’s vital to contact the nearest open vets, or the pet poison helpline, for advice on what to do next.