Garlic is an aromatic and tasty addition to many favorite dishes, and it can be found in many forms including raw, in cooked products, minced, or powder. While delicious for people, garlic can be very dangerous for cats to eat.
Is Garlic Bad for Cats?
Whether cooked or raw, garlic is toxic to cats, and your pet should never eat it in any form, including:
Jarred minced garlic
Garlic powders and salts
All homemade or prepackaged foods containing garlic (including baby foods and broths)
Garlic is a bulbous vegetable belonging to the genus Allium, which also includes onions, chives, and leeks. None of these should ever be included in your cat’s diet or treats.
Garlic contains a toxic compound called sodium n-propyl thiosulfate. This toxin causes damage to red blood cells, making them fragile and leading to their breakdown and destruction (hemolysis). Hemolysis results in anemia in addition to red or brown urine discoloration. Anemia means the body’s organs are no longer getting enough oxygen and, in severe cases, can result in organ failure and death.
Garlic poisoning can become life-threatening and should be treated as a medical emergency. If your cat ingests garlic, take them to the vet immediately. Do not wait until they are acting sick.
How Much Garlic Is Toxic to Cats?
Garlic is five times more toxic than onions. Due to the small size of cats and the potency of garlic, small amounts can result in severe poisoning.
In the average-size cat (10–12 pounds), less than one small glove of garlic (about 4–7 grams) can be enough to result in severe toxicity. This also means that less than 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic or less than 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder can be toxic to cats.
It’s difficult to quantify the amount of garlic in cooked or preprepared food. So, if your cat eats any garlic or garlic-containing products, take them to the vet immediately.
Garlic Poisoning Symptoms in Cats
If your cat ate garlic, clinical signs may develop within a day but may be delayed by a few days. Signs to watch for include:
Pale pink, white, or pale yellow gums
Discolored (red or brown) urine
Increased respiratory rate
Increased heart rate
My Cat Ate Garlic. Now What?
Ingestion of a small amount of garlic or garlic-containing products can result in garlic poisoning. If your cat ingests any garlic, take them to the vet immediately. Try to determine how much garlic was eaten, and take any packaging with you, when applicable.
You can also call your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 for more help determining if your pet needs to go to the emergency room.
Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home, and do not wait to seek veterinary care. If you think your cat ate garlic or you witnessed them eat garlic, they should be treated as quickly as possible.
Treating Garlic Poisoning in Cats
Diagnosis of garlic poisoning is typically through a combination of history, clinical signs, and microscopic examination of a blood sample. The toxic compound in garlic (sodium n-propyl thiosulfate) creates specific structural damage to the red blood cell that can be seen under a microscope.
If your cat ate the garlic within the past two hours, your veterinarian may start by attempting to induce vomiting at the hospital. Unfortunately, it is difficult and often unsafe to induce vomiting in cats, so your vet will discuss decontamination options with you. They may recommend administering activated charcoal to bind any additional toxin in the stomach. In severe cases, your pet may need to be hospitalized for IV fluids and even a blood transfusion.
Most cats recover from mild ingestion of garlic and do not have any long-term complications. However, severe garlic poisoning can be fatal, especially without treatment. Prevention is key, so never allow your cat to eat garlic or foods containing garlic or garlic powder.
Peterson, Michael E. Small Animal Toxicology. 3rd ed. Elsevier Saunders; 2001.
Hovda, Lynn, et al. Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Small Animal Toxicology. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons; 2016.
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