The wonders of garlic are hailed in cookbooks, health guides and the world wide web. It has been said to aid treatment of the common cold, lower cholesterol, repel mosquitoes, keep away vampires and even prevent the plague! Whether you believe in the wonders of garlic or not, there are lots of people out there in the population who do.
You will also find numerous sources on the web claiming that feeding garlic to your pets is a ‘natural’ way to control fleas. Firstly, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that this works. Secondly, there is evidence showing that garlic, like all Allium species including onions, can be very toxic to pets.
Garlic and its relatives contain a chemical substance called ‘propyl disulphide’, which is metabolised in the liver to thiols. These thiols undergo reactions with your pets red blood cells producing free oxygen radicals which lyse or pop the red blood cells and deactivate the haemoglobin, preventing the blood from carrying oxygen around the body to where it is needed. The pet becomes anaemic.
The anaemia may cause your pet to be lethargic, sleepy or ‘just not himself’. If it is more severe your pet may develop swellings around the face, a bounding pulse, belly or paws, show pale, blue or muddy brown gums or even collapse. The anaemia can be fatal if severe, and pets may require oxygen therapy or a blood transfusion.
The toxicity of garlic is not altered by cooking- whether it is fresh or cooked it will still contain propyl disulphides. The anaemia may be caused by a single dose of garlic (or other Allium species), or my long term exposure to smaller amounts. Using garlic regularly in an attempt to control fleas or feeding a dog table scraps containing onion are common scenarios where poisoning occur.
You might be thinking “But garlic is natural, how can it be bad for my pet?” Please thing carefully about that statement. Poison Ivy is natural, so is deadly nightshade and snake venom. Being natural does not automatically mean that it is good or healthy for your pet.
Before deciding to use any ‘natural’ remedy on your pet, consult your veterinarian about any possible toxicities. All over the world there are vets thinking “Thank goodness they asked before using that harmful substance on their pet.” Anaemia is not healthy for your pet and they will be better off without garlic in their diet.