Anaemia can be caused by
consumption of onions
ONIONS have only relatively recently been identified as a cause of anaemia in dogs. And contrary to popular belief the same applies to garlic, which is often put into dog food as a natural anti-bacterial and attributed with the added advantage of 'building immunity'. Many people still believe that onions and garlic are good for dogs and put them in their dogs' food. But they do need to read more about the effects of onions and treat them accordingly. And foods in the onion family are just as dangerous whether raw, fried, boiled, baked or powdered.
The specific type of anaemia that can be caused by plants of the onion family is Heinz-body hemolytic anaemia. Anaemia is a condition where the number of red blood cells in the body is decreased. The job of the red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the tissues, so as you can imagine when there is not enough oxygen arriving at its destination the body becomes depleted and may die if the depletion continues.
When onions are eaten they cause the red blood cells to become more rigid - bad news for blood cells, which need to be soft and pliable to negotiate blood vessels of all shapes and sizes. These cells can only become rigid to a certain degree, then they burst. The more onions that have been eaten the worse the problem will be - if a dog manages to eat a few onions in one sitting then it could be in serious trouble. It could also be in trouble if it is regularly fed onions or garlic in small amounts as small daily amounts will simply rupture a smaller amount of red blood cells but on a regular basis, thus the anaemia will be slower to manifest but just as deadly. Just how serious the dog's illness is will depend on the amount of onion consumed, the length of time onions have been given in the dog's food, and of course the size of the dog.
Indicators that your dog has problems may be very pale gums, or if a lot of cells have burst there may be a red or brown colour in the dog's urine. The dog may be panting and have a rapid heart rate because of the tissues having not enough oxygen, and there may be vomiting and diarrhoea, weakness and jaundice.
Cats are just as susceptible so they should also never be fed any onion family products. It has been reported that feeding kittens or puppies on baby foods may be very harmful to them - this is because they are so small and baby foods often have onion or onion powder in them.
So be very careful when feeding puppies and small dogs - read the labels of any new foods and don't buy any with onion in them. Remember the long slow build-up of ruptured cells can be just as debilitating as the bag of onions eaten on the same day causing massive numbers of burst cells.
I know there will be some people who say "I have been giving my dog a bit of onion (or a clove of garlic) most days and it has never been harmed". But to them I would say "How do you know that? Have you had your dog tested for anaemia?" Until that dog does have a test you can not claim that it has suffered no consequences. If you do have your vet conduct a test and it is clear, then count yourself as lucky and stop feeding the onion right away. To continue such a practise is tempting fate a little too far. - EP