Translate This Blog

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Toxic Onions

This is a topic that most pet owners are likely unaware of, and an event today reminded me of that.

My receptionist came back from lunch, and almost in passing asked me if onions are dangerous to cats. She had taken an onion off her hamburger and laid it on the counter since she doesn't like onions. Her cat jumped up and quickly ate it. She didn't think anything about it at the time, and almost didn't ask me. I had her immediately go back home, get her cat, and bring him in.

As soon as she arrived back at the hospital, I placed a feeding tube down his esophagus and gave him about 48cc of hydrogen peroxide. This is what we commonly give to induce vomiting, which he did within a few minutes. When a toxin is ingested, if you can get to the pet within about 60 minutes, you can often get them to throw it up and prevent absorption. You should never do this with caustic substances, but for many poisons and objects it works well.

Goober (yes, that's his name) threw up the food he had eaten, as well as several large pieces of onions. He was acting perfectly normal, though he was VERY unappreciative about having a rubber tube forced down his throat. We were able to get what appeared to be all of the onion out of his stomach before it passed, and I think he will be fine. If she hadn't brought him in quickly, we could have been dealing with a serious or fatal situation in a few days.

Why the big worry? Onions are very toxic to cats. Potentially fatally toxic, in fact. They cause abnormalities in the red blood cells leading to their destruction and severe anemia (called Heinz body anemia due to the structure created within the blood cells), and can also cause kidney failure. This can happen relatively quickly, and with only a small amount of onion. It has been known to happen after cats ate baby food with onion powder as an ingredient. Garlic is in the same plant family, and can cause the same toxicity. Cats have died from people giving them garlic tablets as a way to prevent fleas (which garlic does NOT do, and has been studied scientifically). These plants are also potentially toxic to some dogs, but the risk is nowhere nearly as serious as with cats.

So keep all of this in mind. NEVER give your cats anything with any onions or garlic in them. This is a very serious toxicity, and requires intense hospitalization and even blood transfusions once symptoms begin.

29 comments:

  1. I know that onions are not good for dogs. But what if you use tomato sauce that was made with onions (it's a thin, consistent sauce - no onions present but was cooked with onions during preparation). Is that safe to use?

    I make lots of dog treats for my dog and his buddies and just checking on whether I can use some homemade tomato sauce in a I normally bake.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. Read the article. Baby food with onion powder isn't OK so why would homemade tomato sauce with onions in be OK?

      Delete
  2. We live on a sailboat in Mexico. Over the last 5 days I've been feeding our 13 year old cat some cooked chicken & onion & garlic.

    By now the food is fully digested.
    We do not have access to a Vet.

    Is there anything I can do?

    I had *no* idea onion & garlic was toxic!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Unfortunately at this point there is nothing you can do but hope for the best. If your cat becomes ill you will need to find a vet immediately, but that may be difficult for you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you very much for responding to my comment.

    Tigger does not seem worse for wear.

    We will ask around and see about locating an English speaking Vet here in La Paz.

    Thanks for being there for us "out here."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi my kitten ate some chicken yesterday that was cooked with an onion. No solid onion pieces, but the chicken was stuffed with it so it did taste like onion... Now she just threw up and I'm worried, but the food would be digested by now. Some advice would be appreciated!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, my cat Mickey was given some tuna mixed with onions and mayo about five days ago and has been very weak since then, he also doesn't eat so we took him to the vet where we were told he had worms so he got some medicine for that. He now seems to have recovered somewhat but I know fear he has gone blind :(, he doesn't respond to any visual stimuli and does not move around like he usually does, his head is always turned downwards and he cant find where anything is. PLZ help me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Gerald......Hey..whatever happened to ur cat?? I sure hope he got better. I'v read that onions &/or garlic are severely toxic to cats..it essentially makes their red blood cells explode &often the cats need a blood transfusion as a result. Im hoping maybe he didnt eat so much as to kill him &maybe he regenerated new red blood cells over time. Im so sorry to hear this happened to you &hope u are living now happily with a 16yr old cat :) It's really disappointing that vets arent required(upon a new pet's 1st vet visit) to give the new pet owners (no matter how experienced they are!) a "manual" listing the foods dangerous for that particular animal & some basic do's &don't.....HOWEVER, most vets dont even know (or ignore the fact) that cranberries are toxic to cats & they even carry food that they sell, containing cranberries!! ALL cranberries contain natural-occuring benzoic acid! Google "cats+benzoic acid" & see the horror. Then Google "cats+cranberries" & see the lie.

      Delete
    2. @Megan....Iv been told, when my cats got into a sandwich I left out &ate a minimal amount of carmelized onions, that the symptoms wouldnt be immediate but may take 5+days to be noticable. HOWEVER, the E.R. Vet told me that on the phone &suggested that since the onions were cooked, it'd likely have no effect. This is soooooo not true according to everything Iv read from the most reputable holistic pet sites!! Did u know that vets (& human drs) are NOT REQUIRED TO TAKE CLASSES IN NUTRITION?!! This is true....I think human docs take 1 class, but still....ONLY 1!! That makes NO sense. Hopefully, u got ur cat to the vet if he suddenly seemed lethargic or had irregular breathing :(

      Delete
    3. Actually, we are required to take nutrition classes. When I was going to vet school it was required during undergraduate as a prerequisite for entry into veterinary college, and we had a required nutrition course during our vet training. The source you obtained that statement/information from is absolutely incorrect. Now that doesn't mean that we get a ton of nutrition training, but it's certainly than none, and we absolutely are required to take nutrition.

      Delete
  7. This is so sad to hear, what ever happened to your cat, did he/she go blind or recover?

    ReplyDelete
  8. My cat stuck his head into a shopping bag with a bag of onions in it..A few minutes later his left eye became red and slightly swollen around the eye. Will he be ok? This happened yesterday, Jan 23 2013.
    Thank you, Julie

    ReplyDelete
  9. Onions are most toxic when eaten, but this is not normal. If he is still like this I would recommend taking him to your vet.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I feed our chickens and dog Thomas Labs Brewer's Yeast and Garlic Powder to combat fleas and provide health benefits. There are feeding instructions right on the bag for cats, dogs and chickens. Is garlic powder any different? I assume the company did extensive testing before putting out the product.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Garlic is similar to onions but not quite as toxic. I would be cautious with them, but the amounts in these products are generally not a problem.

    It should be noted that a couple of studies have looked at the supposed flea-repellent effects of garlic and found that it does absolutely nothing. There are no peer-reviewed, published data that show that garlic or brewer's yeast does anything to prevent fleas.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My kitten just stepped in some salsa. I believe I cleaned it all off if him before he had the chance to start cleaning himself. Should I still watch for signs of onion poisoning?

    ReplyDelete
  13. What about freeze dried onions? My cat MAY have eating some off the top of something I baked tonight.. he was up on the stove licking away when I came in. It has been over an hour already and I don't see signs of panting or anything abnormal. How long does it take for signs to show up and for me to know if I need to take him to the emergency vet?

    ReplyDelete
  14. My husband and I discovered that our cat loves to have broth added to her meat/fish that we feed her every day and so we have been giving it to her regularly for about 2 months. We have noticed that before she started the broth she was overweight, which our vet said was not a serious problem and she was healthy anyway.
    Since she started the broth she has lost about half her weight. We are wondering if this could be diabetes or could the broth have brought on another disease due to poisoning. BTW - we are stopping the broth with immediate effect and are very sorry we ever started her on it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Actually, being overweight is a serious concern in cats and can significantly increase the risk of diabetes, liver failure and other diseases. An overweight cat isn't healthy. I can't say that the broth is causing problems, but with that much weight loss I would recommend talking to your vet about blood tests and possibly x-rays to look for causes like kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, and other problems.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My son and his best friend both work at a pizza place, and often bring home pizza and garlic bread (both heavily laden with onions and garlic)... My Sasha (3 yr old stray we rescued just short of a year ago) got into the sauce, and within 24 hours was dreadfully ill. She was weak, fatigued, and lost a dramatic amount of weight within 24 hours. I brought her to the vet the next morning, and she had a rapid heart rate, was dehydrated etc. The vet (on call, not her normal vet) gave her antibiotics and sent her home after running a CBC and thyroid panel(please note, my Sasha also has feline herpes virus and gets frequent sinus infections etc.) by ten PM she was struggling to breathe and was burning up with a very high temperature. I brought her to the emergency vet (again, not her regular vet, who I found out was in Italy) and this one gave her fluids and ran a CBC and metabolic panel. Her RBC's were bottomed out, HCT was tanked. This vet said, with a frown, "at first glance, it looks like feline leukemia, but I'm just not sure"... After the fluids and an NSAID (her temp was 103.7!) we went home. My mom was reading up on feline leukemia etc. and came across an article about the toxicity of onions and garlic in cats...and my Sasha had EVERY symptom!!! She has improved slightly, her fever is gone (she probably had an underlying sinus infection) she is getting enough strength back to actually walk around the house and jump into the windows, though she still sleeps FAR more than normal. We will be taking her back in when her regular vet gets home from Italy on Thursday to check her kidneys and to run another CBC to make sure her blood counts are going back up...but I hope and pray that people take the onion and garlic toxicity thing seriously. I had NO idea that it was toxic to cats! It just breaks my heart that this is so little known and just how easily someone could poison their kitty without even realizing it! Thank you so much for posting this article, and getting the word out!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. My cat has been having diarrhea for quite a while now, with a long hx of GI upset (first due to Giardia, then due to superinfection following antibiotic treatment.)
    Recently, we noticed that the tops of chive plants that we have have been chewed. I'm now worried this may be causing my cat's diarrhea. From what I can tell the amount that she may have ingested would be not much more than 200 mg if any.
    Currently, her only symptom is diarrhea. Her activity level is fine, her appetite is fine. No vomiting (other than a hairball a week ago.) Too late to induce vomiting so I think I'm just going to watch and wait.

    ReplyDelete
  18. How long does it generally take for symptoms to appear? My very small kitten (2 lbs) may have eaten a small amount of onion on the night of Monday 9/16. It is currently Thursday 9/19 and he has been somewhat lethargic today (between 48 and 72 hours after possible ingestion)...but at the same time he has been off and on energetic and lethargic by the day since we got him a week ago. Should we take him to the emergency vet, or can I call my vet tomorrow?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Not sure if anyone will read this but...how long does it generally take for symptoms to appear? My very small kitten (2 lbs) may have eaten a small amount of onion on the night of Monday 9/16. It is currently Thursday 9/19 and he has been somewhat lethargic today (between 48 and 72 hours after possible ingestion)...but at the same time he has been off and on energetic and lethargic by the day since we got him a week ago. Should we take him to the emergency vet, or can I call my vet tomorrow?

    ReplyDelete
  20. If it was a significant amount the symptoms will normally show up pretty quickly, in a day or less. If he seems stable and just somewhat lethargic, you are probably okay waiting to see your vet in the morning. But if you have any real concerns, it would be better to call the emergency clinic.

    ReplyDelete
  21. So my 3 year old, 12lb cat just ate a dime sized piece of onion peel (the paper like skin of the onion) I called the ER vet (because its 3am) and they said if it was just the peel and not the fruit of the onion, she should be fine. But I can bring her in to throw up if I want to. And to watch her for the next day or so.. should I be worried??

    ReplyDelete
  22. I would agree with the ER vet, though obviously you need to very carefully watch your cat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! She is acting fine this morning. Eating and playing. But I'll be watching her for the next few days.

      Delete

Thank you for making a comment on my blog! Please be aware that due to rampant spammers putting links in their comments I moderate every comment. Any comments with an external link will likely be deleted and marked as spam. If you are someone who is posting links to increase the traffic to another website, save me and you the time and hassle and simply don't comment. To everyone else.....comment away!