The smell of roasting garlic is one of those scents that immediately make most of us hungry. It's featured in cuisines around the globe and is found in many of our favorite foods. Scientific evidence even suggests that garlic has medicinal benefits for humans, so it is perfectly natural for us to wonder if we can feed garlic to our dogs.
The answer, emphatically, is no.
Is it safe for dogs to eat garlic?
Garlic might be good for us, but dogs metabolize certain foods, including garlic, differently than we do. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, garlic and other members of the allium family, including onions, contain thiosulfate, which is toxic to dogs but not to humans.
Thiosulfate causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Symptoms of anemia include pale mucous membranes, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, jaundice, and dark colored urine. Garlic toxicity also causes symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, depression, and dehydration.
How much garlic is toxic to dogs?
Studies have found it takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilograms of body weight to produce harmful changes in a dog’s blood. To put that into perspective, the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between 3 and 7 grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot of garlic to get really sick. However, some dogs are more sensitive to garlic toxicity than others, and consumption of a toxic dose spread out over a few days can also cause problems.
This means that if your dog accidentally eats something with a little garlic in it, he will probably be okay, but intentionally feeding your dog garlic is a recipe for a veterinary visit.
Can I feed my dog garlic bread?
Garlic bread will almost certainly catch your dog's attention, but in addition to garlic, garlic bread also usually contains large amounts of butter, oils, cheese, and herbs that can upset your dog's stomach. This high-calorie food is also a source of unnecessary calories and fat, and offers no nutritional benefits to your pet.
Check out these fruits and vegetables that are safe for dogs instead for alternative healthy treats.
Can I feed my dog garlic supplements?
Despite garlic's known toxicity, some websites and well-meaning dog owners recommend garlic supplements for dogs as part of a natural wellness plan or as a flea and tick preventative. This contradiction can be very confusing for dog owners.
Garlic as a health supplement for pets has not produced consistent positive results in studies. While very small doses might be safe for most dogs, the lack of conclusive evidence and the known risks are something for dog owners to seriously consider. If you do decide to feed a garlic supplement, always check with your veterinarian about what is appropriate for your dog. Feeding an incorrect dose of a garlic supplement could have toxic effects, so plan on working with a veterinarian to come up with the best treatment and prevention plan for your dog.
Treating garlic toxicity in dogs
If your dog does ingest a large amount of garlic, your best bet is to take him to the veterinarian. Garlic and onion poisoning are rarely fatal in dogs, but your dog may need supportive care to keep him comfortable. Your veterinarian may recommend intravenous fluids to keep your dog hydrated, and may prescribe a medication to control vomiting. In severe cases, blood transfusions might be necessary.
Alternatives to garlic for dogs
If you want to give your dog a healthy treat, consider feeding fruits and vegetables that are high in valuable nutrients, like apples, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.