Onions are well known as a flavorful (yet tear-inducing) staple in kitchens across the world. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy the taste of onions, you most likely feel confident that humans can safely consume the different varieties of this root vegetable in both cooked and raw form.
Now, you may be wondering why we are talking about onions. How in the world does this relate to your dog? Well, it turns out that this is one area where dogs and humans differ greatly. Let's investigate.
There is a common misconception that raw onions and garlic (both members of the allium vegetable family) can be a beneficial addition to a plant-based diet for dogs. We are here to set the record straight on this topic once and for all. In this guide, we'll give you clear answers to quell any uncertainty around the question of whether or not dogs can eat onions safely. We will leave you equipped to make more informed and safe decisions as a pet parent.
Read on to find answers to the most questions around onion ingestion and your dog. You can use this guide as an essential tool to help you take ownership of your dog's well being and avoid costly emergency vet care and emotional stress down the road. It's a win-win.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Onions? Can Dogs Eat Cooked Onions?
We'll cut to the chase and give you a straightforward recommendation before we get into any details for this primary question.
You should not intentionally feed your dog raw or cooked onion. When it comes to dogs of every breed and size, onion consumption can cause a lot more harm than good. Onions, along with other members of the allium family, are toxic to dogs.
Given that raw and cooked onions are toxic to dogs, the critical question we should investigate for the remainder of this section is actually: Why can't dogs eat onions?
While dogs technically may not get sick from an accidental, tiny bite of your burger topped with onion, they will very likely get sick and experience damage in their digestive tract from eating onion consistently over a long period of time. Moreover, feeding your dog a very large portion of onions in one meal could cause severe and immediate toxic effects. This is an extremely important reality for a dog owner to be aware of. You need to know that your pet can't eat onions because onions are classified as a toxic food for dogs.
Before you panic at the thought of onion toxicity in dogs, rest assured that we are here to inform and help you understand what exactly this means and how you can take steps to keep your dog safe. Regardless of whether you own a dog that is from a mixed breed or pure breed, this information applies to you and your pet. To get started, let's peel back the layers of an onion to look more closely at the number one ingredient that makes this food so dangerous for your dog.
N-propyl disulfide is a toxic oxidant found in onions. This ingredient is the major culprit behind the serious damage that onion ingestion causes dogs' red blood cells. This information should not be taken lightly. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, toxic doses of this ingredient will result in immediate symptoms of poisoning in your pet, and - at worst - cause severe and sometimes fatal oxidative damage to your dog's red blood cells. If you remember only one thing from this guide, let it be that you should not feed your dog this ingredient.
How Much Onion Is Bad For A Dog?
Although we already established that you should avoid feeding your dog onion, there is one factor that can influence just how toxic onions really are for your pet specifically. Keep in mind that this factor is also highly relevant for anyone inquiring about other ingredients in the allium family. For example, if you are asking yourself "how much garlic is toxic to a dog?", you should pay close attention. With both onions and garlic, the factor that you need to evaluate is size.
A larger animal, such as a 90-pound adult German Shepherd dog, will have a much higher toxicity threshold for eating a few cut up onions than, say, a 4 pound Chihuahua puppy. In fact, a small dog and any level of N-propyl disulfide is a lethal combination. It is almost guaranteed that your tiny dog will get very sick if he or she eats onion directly. While our recommendation to never feed your dog onion still holds, you should always consider your dog's weight class when evaluating potential health complications from accidental onion ingestion.
Helpful tip for a dog owner: Here's an informative piece of knowledge to have as an owner when it comes to dog size and onion toxicity. According to the experts, a medium onion (about 100 grams) could cause a dangerous spike in toxicity levels for a medium-sized (about 45-pound) dog. Apply the ratio in this approximate sizing framework to account for your own pet's size, and you can roughly estimate the level of onion ingestion that could cause toxicity for your pet specifically.
What About Dog Foods?
As a dog owner, you deserve to know exactly what ingredients you need to avoid to keep your dog healthy and safe. In this guide, we have given you all of the facts and information you need to confidently add onion and N-propyl disulfide to this list. Given your newfound sense of confidence and awareness around onion toxicity effects for your dog, you'd assume that well-known dog food brands would never include this ingredient in their product. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In 2019, a company researched 2,969 dog food formulas to test for potentially harmful or toxic ingredients. Shockingly, 178 of the products were disqualified for including toxic levels of onion. Even more, there is a high chance that this list of disqualified products includes recipes from brands that you are really familiar with, such as Purina Beneful.
This same narrative of companies continuing to use toxic or dangerous ingredients in dog food extends beyond just onions and applies to many other ingredient categories. Chemical preservatives (BHA and BHT), artificial colors, MSG, farmed salmon, and sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) are just a few examples of ingredients beyond onions that dog food companies continue to use that are unhealthy or potentially dangerous for your pet.
We know this is shocking and feels unjust. As a consumer and dog owner, you shouldn't have to worry about brands selling dog products with toxic ingredients! However, you can take control of your purchasing power starting today. It is important to ensure that you pick dog food brands that only use ingredients that are beneficial to your dog. This means that you should head to your pantry and take a few moments to read the ingredient list on the back of your current dog food bag.
So, What Happens If Your Dog Eats An Onion?
Despite your knowledge that onions are toxic for dogs, sometimes situations arise that you can't control. No pet owner is perfect, and mistakes happen. In this case, your dog ate onion. If your pet consumes onions directly at a concerning quantity level, and you are concerned that they may need veterinary care, you need to look out for the following tell-tale signs of food poisoning and onion toxicities (also known as hemolytic anemia):
- Decreased appetite
- Pale gums accompanied by signs of weakness or general lethargy
- More severe symptoms of poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhea or shaking
While it is important to monitor your dog's symptoms at home, it is always the safest bet to take your dog to your local veterinarian immediately. If you have pet insurance, you should have coverage for emergencies such as this to help reduce any stress around the associated costs of an emergency visit.
Helpful tip for a dog owner: You should put the following number into your phone along with your veterinarian's contact information. This is important to have in case of an emergency if your pet consumes a toxic amount of onion.
Pet poison helpline: (855)-764-7661.
Now that you have completed the guide, let's return to the series of key questions we asked and outline the high-level takeaways to review:
- Can dogs eat onions? (No, and this answer applies to both raw and cooked)
- Why can't dogs eat onions? (Onions are toxic, and they contain high levels of N-propyl disulfide)
- How much onion is bad for a dog? (The major factor to consider here is size. See helpful tip for dog owners to review details)
- What about dog foods? (You cannot assume that dog food companies avoid toxic ingredients, including onions. Always do your research)
- What happens if your dog eats an onion? (Look for the key symptoms of onion toxicity, but most importantly take your dog to the veterinarian immediately)
The information on this page is not a substitute for veterinary help. Please contact a vet for help with any concerns that you have.