Cats are allergic to garlic along with other similar items like onions. This includes both fresh and dried products used for spices. The toxins that both of these items include are S-methylcysteine sulfoxide, propyl disulfide, methyl disulfide, and allyl disulfide.
What Will Happen If My Cat Eats Garlic?
Both garlic and onion are used as flavor enhancers in many foods. Some human baby foods also have onion in them. It is not recommended that these types of products be fed to pets. In both dogs and cats, the toxins listed above that are found in garlic and/or onion can actually cause what is known as Heinz body anemia. This condition essentially results in a breakdown of the red blood cells and anemia. The very small amounts of garlic that are present in some commercial pet foods have typically not been shown to cause any problems however.
In addition to fresh and dried products that are used for spices, all bulbs, bulbets, flowers, and/or stems of garlic and onion are poisonous to both cats and dogs.
While the actual toxic dose needed to negatively affect a cat is unknown, it should be noted that cats do seem to be more sensitive to such products than dogs.
Symptoms Of Toxicity
The following symptoms are common when a cat ingests garlic or onion:
- Discolored urine
- Liver damage
- Asthmatic attacks
- Allergic reactions
- Contact dermatitis (in cases of skin exposure)
If you think that your cat has ingested garlic or onion it is important to get them immediate medical attention. Time is of the essence and could be the deciding factor in whether or pet lives or dies. Never ignore signs of your pet ingesting these types of products, especially if you witnessed them consuming garlic or onion. It also never hurts to call your veterinarian or pet poison control center ahead of time before seeking medical treatment just to give them a heads up. Inducing vomiting and bathing your pet thoroughly if dermal (skin) exposure has occurred are also options one can take, but in any case contacting a veterinarian is your best bet and should be done either way.
Rapid Response And Treatment
If you suspect that your cat has eaten garlic or onion there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that your pet is getting the best treatment necessary. They are as follows:
- Don’t panic! Panicking can interfere with the process of helping your pet.
- Take a few seconds to safely collect any have on hand any material involved in the accident. This may greatly benefit the situation when it comes time to talk to your vet or APCC toxicologists, as they may be able to determine what poisons are involved.
- In the event that your pet needs to be taken to a veterinarian if possible, take the product’s container or wrapper with you. Be sure to also collect in a sealable bag any material that your cat may have vomited or chewed.
If you witness your pet consuming toxic material do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any symptoms. Sometimes, even if poisoned an animal may appear normal for several hours or even days after the incident. Time is of the essence when it comes to saving your cat’s life.
Call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA animal poison control center for more information. The telephone number for the ASPCA poison control center is (888) 426-3335. There is a $65 consultation fee for this service.
Having the following information on hand is also helpful:
- The species, breed, age, sex, weight, and number of animals involved
- The animals symptoms
- Information regarding the exposure, including the agent, the amount of agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure
- If possible have the product packaging or any garlic stems, pieces, bulbs, etc. available for reference
If your cat is losing consciousness, suffering from seizures, or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your cat to your local veterinarian or clinic immediately. Treatment can potentially save your cat’s life. This often includes inducing your cat to vomit, limiting the absorption of the toxin by administering activated charcoal as an absorbent, and/or administering intravenous fluid therapy to prevent dehydration. Your vet or poison control center will know what is best in this type of situation. Never ignore garlic or onion poisoning, this could make the difference in whether or not your cat lives or dies.
Preventing And Dealing With Future Kitty Emergencies
When it comes to preventing poisoning and other emergencies in the future it is a great idea to invest in an emergency first aid kit for kitty. This kit should include the following items:
- Phone numbers to your local veterinarian clinics, poison control centers, etc.
- A fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide (3% USP) used to induce vomiting
- A turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (used to administer peroxide)
- Saline eye solution
- Artificial tear gel (this will be used to lubricate eyes after flushing)
- Dishwashing liquid (mild and grease cutting) – Will be used for bathing an animal after skin contamination
- Forceps to help remove stingers
- Muzzle (can be used to protect against fear or excitement induced biting during emergency)
- A can of your pet’s favorite wet food (can be used to calm the animal)
- A pet carrier