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Why can’t dogs eat onions?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Good effects of onion consumption

Onion is a cooking ingredient that enhances the flavors and the aromas of food. This pungent bulb that is a member of the Allium family contains compounds with health promoting benefits. Studies conducted on onions have proven that it have blood sugar lowering capabilities. Onions are rich in chromium, a mineral that helps the cells to react with insulin thus onions are highly recommended for people suffering from diabetes. Onions are noted to lower cholesterol levels as well. Regular consumption of this cooking ingredient has the effect of lowering high blood pressure. Onions make a significant contribution in lowering the risks of heart diseases.

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Bad effects of onion consumption

Regular consumption of union will give you a not so pleasing breath. This cooking ingredient was proven to have toxic effects when consumed by our canine friends.  This pungent bulb is safe for human consumption but it is extremely dangerous for our furry pets. All forms of onions – cooked, raw or dehydrated would have bad effects on the dog’s health. Onion toxicity is dose dependent. A single ingestion of hefty quantities can kill the dog. The effects of regular consumption of onions in small doses may go undetected for several days but the toxicity would build up over time.

Hemolytic anemia

Onions cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. Onions have theosulphate, a substance that cannot be digested by dogs. Theosulphate causes the oxidation of the protein hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays an important role as it carries oxygen to all the vital organs and tissues of the dog. When theosulphate oxidizes the hemoglobin in the red blood cells, Heinz bodies are formed. These are clumps of bubble-like projections in the cell that eventually burst causing the cell membranes to weaken. Anemia would result when red blood cells are destroyed.

Signs of onion toxicity

The effects of onion poisoning will manifest at once if large quantities are ingested in a single meal. The toxicity symptoms may not be detected at once if small quantities are consumed regularly because the red blood cells are slightly damaged. The bubble-like projections though would accumulate over time until the bone marrow can no longer cope with the repairs that has to be done, this is when the dog would vomit and have diarrhea, when the dog would weaken and refuse to eat. Jaundiced eyes, bluish gums, bloody urine and breathing difficulties will be noticed as the tissues and the vital organs are no longer provided with sufficient supply of oxygen.   

Helping the pet

Obviously, the best way to prevent onion poisoning is to keep onions away from the pet. Refrain from giving the dog table scraps and foods that contain onions.

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