Can dogs eat garlic?

Dog sitting next to a sign

Although most dogs would quite happily take a seat at their parent’s table and eat the same meals, there are plenty of reasons why this is a bad idea.

For a start, table manners aren’t really a dog’s forte, but more important than this is the fact many foodstuffs fine for human consumption are actually poisonous to dogs.

One of these is garlic, a mainstay in different cuisines from around the world. This innocuous-looking bulb is actually toxic to dogs’ insides, so every effort should be made to keep it from their mouths.

Why is garlic poisonous to dogs?

Along with other members of the allium family — including onions, leeks and chives — the offending substance contained within the plants are organosulfides. These are converted to sulfur compounds when moving through a dog’s body, which can damage red blood cells.

As these cells are responsible for transferring oxygen around the body, there are dangerous consequences should they be impeded in their job, including hemolytic anemia, hypertension or hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells).

And this isn’t just raw garlic, either. Cooking, processing or drying garlic doesn’t make it any less toxic to dogs, so anything which uses it as an ingredient can pose a possible risk — this includes powdered garlic.

What are the symptoms of garlic poisoning in dogs?

When garlic starts to play havoc with your dog’s insides, there are some easily spottable signs. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Drooling

What should I do if my dog consumes garlic?

This depends on how much they eat.

Say your dog accidentally snaffles a slice of garlic bread or something comparatively sized while your back’s turned, don’t worry — a small amount is extremely unlikely to be toxic. Just keep an eye out for the symptoms listed above in the following hours and contact the vet if they do.

Now, what happens if it’s not just a slice of garlic bread, but the whole loaf? Or somehow they’ve managed to scoff huge numbers of cloves or powder? This might sound outlandish, but new parents will quickly learn dogs are capable of the extraordinary when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t.

In this hypothetical situation, it’s important to have your dog be seen by a vet as soon as possible, as speed is of the essence when it comes to the ingestion of poison.

If your vet deems it necessary, they might use activated charcoal to absorb the toxins or induce vomiting in your dog, although this can only be done in the two hours immediately after consumption. In severe cases, your vet might choose to perform a blood transfusion on your pet.

How much garlic is too much for dogs?

As mentioned above, a little bit of garlic shouldn’t cause too much harm. However, larger quantities are likely to bring about worrying reactions. As a general rule of thumb, this takes 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilogram of a dog’s weight.

Admittedly, that would mean eating a fair few cloves in one go, especially for large-breed dogs. However, it’s thought that some dogs are more susceptible to garlic poisoning than others and might feel detrimental effects after having consumed less.

What’s more, it’s possible this tipping point can be reached if your dog eats garlic across the space of a few days, rather than in one binge.

Why is there garlic in some dog foods?

After hearing this concerning prognosis, you’ll probably be surprised to learn garlic is sometimes listed in the ingredients of dog food recipes. As this article explains. Why would anybody entertain the idea of putting a poisonous substance in dog food?

This comes back to the level of garlic present again. Usually, there will only be teeny-tiny amounts of garlic present in commercially prepared dog food and this will have been approved as safe by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AACFO)

In fact, one study concluded that dry dog food containing less than 1% garlic would be unlikely to have any negative health outcomes.

Why even run the risk in the first place, you might ask? Well, just as with the dishes humans prepare, garlic will make dog food taste better, but there are even some findings that garlic in carefully controlled doses can have a positive impact — one paper found that aged garlic extract could increase the number of antioxidant enzymes in a dog.

Of course, this trial was done under laboratory conditions using precise measurements — we wouldn’t advise trying to find the sweet spot when it comes to garlic in your kitchen at home, what with the scientifically proven consequences that come with accidentally giving your dog too much.

Can garlic help with flea control?

One of the more curious theories linking dogs and garlic is that the plant can act as a natural flea repellent, supposedly by creating a strong bodily scent to ward off the pests.

Although some swear by the homemade treatment, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest it’s effective. There are also many other proven flea repellents — some with natural ingredients such as lemons — that are much safer to give to your dog.

The bottom line

When it comes to garlic, consuming a large amount might give your dog an unwelcome reaction, or even prove fatal in rare scenarios. However, a little bit is unlikely to cause harm and it may even be beneficial in small doses.

As with many areas when it comes to your pets, we’d recommend following the experts. That means avoiding giving your dog garlic or human food that uses garlic as an ingredient, but not being perturbed if you see garlic listed as an ingredient in dog food.

Besides, isn’t your dog’s breath bad enough already without the extra garlic?

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