What is Garlic Poisoning?
The chemicals in garlic enter your cat’s bloodstream and begin to rupture red blood cells, which will quickly lead to hemolytic anemia, a very dangerous condition. Some of the symptoms you may observe include vomiting, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, and pale gums.
The longer you wait to get your cat medical help, the more serious his condition becomes. If you see any of the symptoms of garlic poisoning, take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent potentially fatal complications.
Garlic, a member of the Allium family, is commonly used to add flavor to our favorite foods. Some cat owners give their cats garlic because it is believed to have medicinal benefits, including the prevention of heart disease and fleas. However, garlic is toxic to cats, so it should never be included in their diet.
Symptoms of Garlic Poisoning in Cats
Garlic poisoning symptoms may not begin right away. In fact, it often takes between two to four days following consumption for the symptoms to appear, which can make diagnosing this condition very difficult for cat owners and vets. Some of the symptoms you may observe include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory rate
- Increased heart rate
- Pale gums
Causes of Garlic Poisoning in Cats
Garlic poisoning is caused by exposure to garlic. The amount of garlic that it takes to poison your cat will vary depending on your cat’s weight, health, and type of breed. In most cases, a single clove of garlic is all it takes to poison a cat.
After garlic is consumed, it begins to damage the red blood cells, which makes them more likely to burst, eventually leading to hemolytic anemia.
Diagnosis of Garlic Poisoning in Cats
If you spot any of the symptoms of garlic poisoning, bring your cat into a veterinarian for treatment immediately. Describe the symptoms you have observed, when they began, and any changes to your cat’s diet.
The vet will begin by performing a series of tests, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile. The results of these tests will help the vet determine your cat is suffering from low levels of red blood cells. The vet should be able to spot Heinz bodies, which occur when the cat is suffering from hemolytic anemia, in a blood sample.
However, there are a number of causes of hemolytic anemia, so the vet cannot determine your cat has garlic poisoning just from the presence of Heinz bodies alone. In many cases, the diagnosis is made based on the presence of Heinz bodies and the information provided by the cat owner. That’s why it’s so important to be as detailed as possible when talking to your vet about your cat’s condition.
Treatment of Garlic Poisoning in Cats
Treatment will vary depending on when your cat consumed the garlic. If the garlic was recently consumed, the vet will begin to induce vomiting by orally administering a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. This will remove all of the garlic from your cat’s stomach that has not been digested and prevent your cat’s condition from worsening. A gastric lavage, which is the medical term for stomach wash, may also be performed to ensure all toxins have been washed out of the stomach.
The vet may need to administer activated charcoal as well. Activated charcoal absorbs toxins so they do not get the chance to enter your cat’s bloodstream and cause further damage.
The vet will need to monitor your cat’s condition to determine whether he needs supportive care such as IV fluids or oxygen therapy. It is common for cats with garlic poisoning to need IV fluids to prevent dehydration because of the vomiting and diarrhea this condition causes.
If you used a spray or homeopathic product with garlic on your cat’s skin, the vet will need to thoroughly bathe the cat to remove any lingering toxins.
Although it is rare, if your cat’s condition is severe, and he has already lost a lot of red blood cells, he may need a complete blood transfusion in order to survive.
Recovery of Garlic Poisoning in Cats
In mild or moderate cases of garlic poisoning, recovery rates are high, however cats with severe cases of garlic poisoning may suffer complications.
The vet may keep your cat after treatment to ensure his condition is stable before releasing him to you. Once he has been released, talk to your vet about at-home care while your cat recovers. First and foremost, it is important to remove any garlic from your cat’s diet and stick to vet-approved cat foods. Check all of the products you use—including any homeopathic flea or skin treatments—to ensure garlic is not included.
If you use garlic in your cooking, be sure to keep it in an area where your cats cannot reach it.