What is Leeks Poisoning?
Many foods that are safe for us are toxic to dogs, so you have to be careful what you feed them. The leek, which is part of the allium family, causes moderate to severe gastrointestinal upset (abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting), respiratory problems, and major damage to your dog’s red blood cells. Even though people may be able to enjoy the health benefits of leeks, certain proteins in your dog’s blood are unique and leeks can have a serious negative impact on their system. If you believe your dog has eaten some kind of leek, whether it is from your vegetable bin or the garden, see a veterinarian immediately, even if there are no symptoms.
The leek (Allium ampeloprasum) is a type of vegetable responsible for poisoning in dogs, similar to its relatives the onion, garlic, and chives. Even a small portion of leeks are dangerous for your dog and causes damage to the red blood cells, producing hemolytic anemia. Because of this, your dog’s bone marrow cannot work fast enough to replace the damaged blood cells and eventually will decrease the oxygen levels in the blood. Respiratory arrest and organ damage are also likely to follow, and this is fatal if treatment is not started right away.
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Symptoms of Leeks Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms of leek poisoning depend on the number of leeks consumed and the size of your dog. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Appetite loss
- Blue or white gums
- Breathing difficulty
- Dark urine
- Excessive drooling
- Extreme weakness
- Fast heart and respiratory rate
- Foul breath
- Inflammation of the spleen and liver
- Loss of muscle function
- Stomach pain and cramping
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
The leek (Allium ampeloprasum) is part of the Amaryllidaceae family in the asparagales order of the allium genus. Leeks are also a member of the onion genus that originated in Western Asia and Southern Europe. The plant became popular when cultivated in the United States and now it can be found all over the world. Leeks have flowers that are shaped like an urn and can be red, pink, or white with purple or yellow stamens. There are several types of leek which are:
- Allium ampeloprasum (wild leek, broadleaf wild leek)
- Allium porrum
- Allium tricoccum (wild leek, ramp, spring onion, wood leek, wild garlic)
- Allium ursinum
Causes of Leeks Poisoning in Dogs
The cause of leek poisoning is the organosulfate compounds which cause oxidative hemolysis. This is a life-threatening condition which is also known as hemolytic anemia and destroys the red blood cells faster than the bone marrow can make new ones. A decreased red blood cell count reduces the oxygen in the blood, causes respiratory distress, and may eventually lead to organ damage.
Diagnosis of Leeks Poisoning in Dogs
If you can bring a sample of the leek plant that your dog ate, this will help determine the type eaten. This is important because not all leek types have the same toxicity rate and it helps get the diagnosis more quickly. The faster the veterinarian can get a diagnosis the sooner the treatment can begin. Leeks poisoning is not difficult to diagnose, but your veterinarian will want to rule out any possible underlying disease. Be sure to provide your dog’s medical health records, recent injury or illness, and vaccination records. The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination which will include your dog’s weight, height, body temperature, reflexes, respiration rate, blood pressure, and pulse oximetry (blood oxygen level). Laboratory tests will be done including blood glucose levels, arterial blood gas, complete blood cell count, and chemistry profile. Additionally, a urinalysis will show hemoglobin casts and the blood tests should show damage and defects in the blood cells. Abdominal x-rays, CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound can show the condition of your dog’s kidneys, spleen, and liver.
Treatment of Leeks Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will start your dog on intravenous (IV) fluids right away. Decontamination is the next step which includes encouraging your dog to vomit with a hydrogen peroxide solution, a warm water lavage (stomach flush), and administering activated charcoal to absorb the remaining toxins. Your dog may be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and to provide supportive treatment such as oxygen therapy, blood transfusions, and medication for the anemia.
Recovery of Leeks Poisoning in Dogs
Even though leek toxicity can be serious, it is rarely lethal if your dog is healthy and if treatment is started right away. You can take your dog home once the toxins are out of your dog’s system. Iron supplements will need to be continued for about a month until you return for a follow-up blood test. Antibiotics may also be prescribed for 7 to 10 days. Do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.
Leeks Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I made potato and leek soup for lunch and gave Webster about half a cup of the leftovers. About 1 hour later he's had diarrhea twice and a bit of blood in his most recent stool. He's still playful and being himself though.
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We bought some sausages from the butchers which were leek and pork. We cooked them and chopped each one into about eight, we fed our dog about three pieces of sausage before I thought to check if they were safe to eat. We realised they weren’t and stopped feeding him, this was only a couple of minutes ago so atm we aren’t seeing any symptoms however we will keep our eye on him to see if anything develops. We can’t really afford to pay any unnecessary vet bills right now. Should we take him to the vet or is only three pieces not enough to have major worries over? Thanks in advance.
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I have just discovered that leeks are poisonous to dogs and am very worried about my labrador. Last week I fed him left over chicken casserole that had leeks and onions in it over a course of about 4/5 days mixed with some of his usual dog biscuits. He last ate this on Friday. On Sunday morning he had no appetite and it took him until lunch time to eat his breakfast. He wouldn't eat his supper and didn't want his breakfast on Monday - He eventually ate his breakfast by lunchtime. I bought some wet food for him which he ate slowly last night. For the last two days he has been subdued. This morning he ate his breakfast and seems perkier. I have now learned that leeks are toxic to dogs. Could I have done any longterm damage to him? I am very worried
My dog accidently ate a strip of Leek and I am worried about her. So far there are no symptoms but should we go to the vet straight away?
I have literally about an hour ago given my dog the left overs from the chicken casserole, I didn't realise leeks are from the onion family, I should have checked but I didn't think, I will keep my eyes peeled for any of the signs and symptoms but should I be very worried? She literally had one Chicken Breast and the rest of the juices that were in the pot which obviously did contain a small amount of leeks
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