Everyone knows dogs are their human’s best friend. Our furry friends are loyal, chipper, always up for a game of fetch, there for us when we are sad, and always down for doing anything as long as they get to be by our sides. We love our dogs and we want to protect them. When it comes to protecting our four-legged friends, we try to anticipate anything that could harm them. One thing we don’t always think about is how what they eat can harm them.

Giving dogs the scraps from our table feels natural. There is a reason for that. The evolution of the relationship between canines and humans began with food. Early versions of the dogs we love today discovered we humans tend to litter, a lot. They discovered we make tasty food, and we tend to leave leftovers just laying around. As they took advantage of that fact, a relationship began to develop. Dogs found humans to be a convenient source of food and warmth. Humans found dogs to be a source of protection with a built-in alarm system, a war machine, a hunting tool, a source of warmth, and a loyal, affectionate companion. Humans cultivated the relationship and created an ever-expanding number of dog breeds that filled a variety of purposes, and the food scraps kept on falling from the table.

Ordinarily, it isn’t overly problematic for dogs to eat the food that humans do. After all, they’ve evolved to eat raw meat, and small amounts of most vegetables or fruits are usually not harmful. However, not everything is healthy for dogs. It is possible for dogs to have food allergies just like humans do. The kind of junk food that is high in sugar, salt, and fat and therefore not healthy for humans isn’t much better for your dog. Most importantly, there are certain foods that should never be fed to dogs. Chocolate is the big one that most people know they must not feed their dogs. Dogs love peanut butter, but some brands contain the sweetener xylitol and that is bad for dogs. There are other examples but, in this article, we are focusing on a food that many people are not aware they shouldn’t feed their dogs: onions.

Why are onions bad for dogs?  Aside from the fact that they make doggy breath worse, onions (along with other members of the Allium family, including onions, leeks, and chives) contain N-propyl disulfide. That causes damage to hemoglobin found in red blood cells that carry oxygen. The damage results in red blood cells rupturing and being cleared from circulation. That is called hemolysis, and it results in anemia. Symptoms of anemia include reddish or brown urine, lethargy, weakness, decreased appetite, gastrointestinal irritation, pale gums, and fainting. Serious symptoms include organ damage, organ failure and even death. Eating as little as 15-30g/kg of onions and other members of the Allium family can cause changes in the blood that lead to anemia. That means that one-fourth a cup can make a 20-pound dog sick. Eating smaller amounts over a long period of time can also be toxic.

It might seem easy to say you’ll avoid feeding your dog onions, but be careful. Think of how people with a peanut allergy have to carefully check the ingredients of prepared food to make certain they never consume anything with peanuts or anything prepared around peanuts. Many foods might have ingredients such as onion powder. Onions and the like are toxic for dogs regardless of whether they are fresh, cooked, or in a dried/powered form. Onion rings, onion dip, soups that have onion or garlic in the stock, any food sautéed with onions, beef pies with onions, pasta with garlic and onions in the sauce, or burgers and salads with onion on them should all be kept away from dogs.

Always make certain anything you feed your dog is free from anything related to onions. If you become aware that your dog has consumed anything with onions in it, take them to the vet immediately. Likewise, if your dog exhibits symptoms of anemia, bring them to the vet right away. The vet will perform bloodwork to confirm anemia. They may induce vomiting in the dog to get the toxin out of the dog’s system. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be called for. In all cases, the vet will care for your dog until their hemoglobin levels return to normal. Save your tears and don’t ever feed dogs onions!