The Dangers of Onion Powder


The Dangers of Onion Powder

3 min read
Dec 05, 2021

Although our pets are family, we must use caution when feeding them from the family table. There are several ingredients that may be very healthy for us and can be toxic to our companion animals. Most of the time when speaking with pet owners about poisonings, I can expect to hear about chocolate, raisins, medicines, and species of plants and flowers. While these are commonly known toxins, there are less known toxins that we may be either feeding on purpose without realizing the danger on inadvertently feeding as a component of a seemingly-safe food.

Whole foods, extracts, juices, and powders that are from the allium genus of the plant world are widely consumed in American homes and present a specific, and often deadly, danger to dogs and cats. They contain chemicals that can damage the red blood cells of our companion animals and cause them to burst leading to a condition called hemolytic anemia that can lead to death if not treated right away.

Plants belonging to the allium genus are:

  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Shallots

Of particular concern is that the powdered or juiced version of garlic and onion can be in several foods that you may not suspect as being a danger to your pet. I was surprised while on vacation with my dog and cat when I went to a popular Tex-Mex restaurant and realized that I couldn’t get a side of anything on the menu for either of them due to all of their meat items and fries containing onion powder. This included the seasoning on their steak, chicken, and beef as well. Had I not thought to look the ingredients up online, I would have thought nothing of ordering a side of meat for them while on the road. Onion and garlic can be hidden in many processed foods including:

  • Seasoned meat
  • Flavored crackers
  • Flavored rice
  • Seasoned frozen vegetables
  • Pot pies
  • Sauces
  • Seasoned tomatoes
  • Canned Soups and chilis
  • Gravies

Even more alarming, I recently found that a popular brand of pet food had some new high-dollar treats that contained onion powder as an ingredient. While this is used as a flavoring in some pet foods under the belief that small amounts of processed powder may be safe, research indicates the best practice is to avoid any amount of any version of these plants altogether as even small amounts can cause some minor damage to red blood cells. To be on the safe side I returned the treats and contacted the company.

It is important to remember that powders are even more concentrated than the whole ingredients and thus it would be near impossible to determine a “safe amount” even if one does exist. In addition, cat’s red blood cells are much more fragile, and a smaller amount can have a toxic effect.

The following are some of the symptoms of allium poisoning:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Red or brown urine
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panting

It is always important to get your pet to the vet immediately if you believe they have ingested any poisonous or questionable ingredient. There can be a delay of several days after ingestion before clinical signs are displayed. Your vet can offer supportive treatments that increase the chance that your pet will recover including fluids, charcoal treatments, specific vitamin therapies, and blood transfusions.

PetFirst Pet Insurance can help to cover costs of the diagnosis and treatments associated with food poisoning. Protect your cat or dog today and make sure they are prepared for any type of emergency. Get your quote today! 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.