Toxic plants

Is Garlic Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Garlic Toxic To Cats?

Garlic is a kitchen staple in most Asian household kitchens. It is commonly used as an herb or seasoning to add flavor to dishes. However, just like its other plant relatives, chives, leeks, and onions, these bulbous herb is toxic for your cats. 

Garlic contains organic sulfur compounds that can cause oxidative damage to a cat’s red blood cells that can lead to hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed more quickly than they are produced. In an instance of garlic ingestion, contacting a veterinarian is a must.

What Is Garlic?

Cat sits near Garlic

Garlic or scientifically known as allium sativum is a close relative of onion, scallion, chive, leek, and shallot. This plant member of the Allium genus and Liliaceae family is native to Central Asia and known to have been used by humans for centuries, particularly in Ancient Egypt for both culinary and medicinal purposes.  Some cat owners feed garlic to their cats because it is claimed to have therapeutic properties, such as reducing heart disease and fleas. On the other hand, garlic is toxic to cats and should never be eaten by them.

Clinical Signs of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

Garlic and cats

Garlic poisoning symptoms usually show two to four days after consumption, making it difficult for cat owners and veterinarians to diagnose the ailment. The following are some of the symptoms you may notice:

  • Ataxia or lack of muscle coordination
  • Appetite loss
  • Pale gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue 
  • Jaundice 
  • Red or brown-colored urine
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Lethargy 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Altered level of consciousness

First Aid and Treatment of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

Garlic with a cat trying to sniff it

If the garlic was recently taken, the vet will orally give hydrogen peroxide solution to induce vomiting. This will remove all of the garlic that has not been digested from your cat’s stomach, preventing the illness from escalating. Gastric lavage may also be performed or the vet may also opt to use activated charcoal.

Your cat’s condition will be monitored by the veterinarian to see if he need supportive care such as IV fluids or oxygen therapy. Because of the vomiting and diarrhea that this illness induces, cats with garlic poisoning frequently require IV fluids to avoid dehydration.

If your cat’s condition is serious and he has already lost a significant number of red blood cells, he may require a complete blood transfusion to survive.

Recovery from Garlic Poisoning in Cats

Recovery rates are good in mild or moderate cases of garlic poisoning, although cats with severe cases of garlic poisoning may experience difficulties. Talk to your vet about at-home care for your cat once he or she is allowed to return home.

Garlic should be removed from your cat’s diet, and only vet-approved cat diets should be used. Give your cat plenty of fluids as this will aid in clearing up his or her sensitive stomach. Make your cat comfortable at home while regaining strength.

Prevention of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

If you use garlic in your cooking, make sure you keep it out of reach of your cats. Do not leave your food unattended, particularly foods with garlic in it, as cats are naturally curious and might take a nibble on your food.

If you love plants but have cats at home, check out these lists:

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