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Health & Wellness

Can dogs eat onions?

No (not even if they’re cooked).

Onions are one of the most commonplace foods in a human diet, served as the star ingredient (e.g., onion rings) or as a supporting player in infinite recipes. But just because they’re typical for us doesn’t mean it’s the same for our furry family members — in fact, quite the opposite. 

We spoke to Dr. Fotios Bris, DVM, MS, a veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in Brooklyn, New York, to find out whether or not this vegetable is safe to share with dogs. And it turns out that onions are toxic for dogs, and it doesn’t matter the part of the onion or the type. From red onions to yellow to white, even a small amount of onion can cause harm to our best friends, so it’s important to keep them far away from your pup’s diet. 

Are onions good for dogs?

Alliums, the vegetable family in which onions reside (along with garlic, scallions and shallots, for instance), are a big no-no for dogs. In fact, of all the edible plants out there, it’s one of the most toxic, and it doesn’t take a lot to trigger sickness or even death. The main reason? Onions contain a sulfur compound called n-propyl disulfide, which dogs can’t digest. Instead, it causes a breakdown of red blood cells, leading to severe anemia. Ingesting even a small amount can cause serious harm, and be fatal. It doesn’t matter the form it takes, either — be it onion powder, onion skin, onion flesh or onions that are caramelized or cooked, it’s all equally problematic. If you’re concerned that your best friend has eaten any part of an onion, watch out for these symptoms: 

An important thing to keep in mind is just how commonplace onions are in so many human foods, many of which dogs might crave. From hamburgers to gravies to broths to brines and sauces and marinades, onions are in a lot more than we even realize. So it’s important to triple-check ingredient lists on anything you might feed your pup. 

What to feed your dog instead of onions

If it’s a crisp, crunchy and flavor-packed veggie you want to feed your dog, you can do a lot better than onions. Cucumbers, celery, broccoli and green beans are all safe, healthy alternatives that offer that satisfying snap while also being super nutritious. However, considering all of these are large, tough vegetables, make sure to chop them up into small pieces that can be consumed safely, so as to prevent any choking hazards. 

RELATED: Can dogs eat coconut?

What to do if you think your dog ate onions

If you think your dog ate some onion (even if just a little bit, or even if it was an ingredient in something like meatloaf), contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) for advice, which might entail coming in to undergo a urinalysis check or blood work. In case of an emergency, it is best to have a plan in place, so you can act fast and get your pup the help they need. Here are some quick steps to get you started:

• Write down the address and phone number of your nearest animal emergency room.
• Keep a pet first aid kit in your car and house.
• Organize all of your pet’s medical records and vaccination cards.

Responsible snacking

Like most foods we eat, it’s only natural that our pets would want a bite, and it’s always tempting to share. But onions are one food that’s off the table — in any form. 

We’re confident that onions aren’t the only human food your dog would love to sink their teeth into (cue the drool). Check out our series “Can dogs eat ... ?” to learn more about which human foods are off-limits and what’s fair game.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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