HEALTH & CARE

How Much Garlic is Toxic to Cats: Understanding Feline Food Poisoning

gray cat smelling garlic
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Garlic is one of the various human foods that are toxic to pets. While you can’t always be there to monitor what your cat eats, there are times when you make the mistake of leaving some garlic outside and within the cat’s reach. This is why the question of how much garlic is toxic to cats is an important one.

The good news is that your cat has a natural tolerance level to garlic so not all cases will require you to panic. Still, you need to know how you are going to determine the critical state of health your cat might be in when you notice that she has consumed garlic. That is why we decided to present to you a detailed article on the subject.

In this article, you will find out exactly how much garlic is toxic to your cat and what to do in case of an emergency. At the end of this piece, we believe you will have become a better cat parent than before—you will be better prepared to handle any situation without panicking.

How Much Garlic is Bad for My Cat?

cat eating garlic

The amount of garlic that a cat can take before they get susceptible to the negative effects is based mainly on the weight and age of the cat. A cat that is getting 1-2 cloves of garlic per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day might succumb to the infection that occurs as a result of that and dies.

This means a cat weighing 3kg (6.6 pounds) should not be given more than 3 – 6 cloves of garlic per day. For cat parents that use the powder form of garlic, note that a single teaspoonful is equal to one clove.

As the cat starts to get older, you should not only consider their weight but also the natural decline in their immune system. Must you give them garlic, go for a dosage lower than what their weight allows for.

Garlic is really not something that you should treat your cat to if you can help it. However, you should know that there are some safe doses of the crop for your cat. Healthy cats can usually take a slice of a single garlic clove two to three times a week and not have to worry about anything.

If your cat consumed the garlic herself, even though you feel what she took is within the safe dose, it doesn’t hurt to take her to the vet and give yourself some peace of mind.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

What is Garlic Poisoning in Cats?

garlic

When your cats consume toxic doses of garlic, a series of things begin to happen in their bodies. It all starts with the garlic entering the cat’s bloodstream where it starts to rupture their red blood cells. This will then lead to a case of hemolytic anemia.

The thing about this condition is that it doesn’t slow down over time, meaning every moment you wait before getting the cat some help will just contribute to worsening their condition.

Even though garlic might have been reported to have a lot of medicinal uses, including its application in preventing heart-related problems, it should never be included in a cat’s diet.

In a multi-pet household, you could have noticed that your dog consumes a fair amount of garlic without showing symptoms while your cat can’t stand a level near that. The main difference is in their hemoglobin structures.

The hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cells which is tasked with carrying oxygen to different parts of the body. When the cat consumes garlic, the molecules of their red blood cells get oxidized by sulfoxides from the garlic. In essence, this leads to the destruction of the red blood cells.

In a bid to separate the good from the bad, the spleen classifies the damaged cells away from the healthy ones. What that leads to is the thinning of the blood, which of course, is detrimental to the cat’s health.

Symptoms of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

cat weakness

Garlic poisoning is one of the hardest to diagnose in cats. The reason is that the early symptoms can take anywhere between two to four days after initial ingestion to start showing up. When the garlic has kicked into effect, though, you will start noticing signs such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Collapsing

  • Diarrhea

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Increment in the rate of respiration

  • Increased heart rate

  • Pale gums and weakness

It is not rare to see that your cat has also lost interest in food due to the sickness.

As soon as you spot a combination of the above symptoms in your cat, the proper thing to do is to take the cat to the vet as fast as you can. Remember that the longer you wait, the slimmer the cat’s chances of recovery will be.

When you get to the pet, it is your duty as the parent to narrate all you can remember about the cat’s conditions. Let the vet know when you thought your cat might have ingested the garlic, the symptoms you observed, and any other information you think might help.

The vet then must perform a series of tests on the cat. They will usually conduct complete blood counts, urinalysis, and a blood chemistry profile test on the cat. What they will be looking for is the presence of Heinz bodies in the body of the cat.

However, you should know that these Heinz bodies may be present for a variety of different reasons other than garlic poisoning. That is why you must be able to give enough information so that the vet knows the source of what they will be addressing.

Treatment of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

hydrogen peroxide

The treatment model that will be applied to your cat will be dependent on when the poisoning occurred.

For a recent consumption, the vet will usually start by inducing an oral treatment in the form of administering hydrogen peroxide (about 3%) to the cat by mouth. This treatment aims to remove all the garlic that is yet to be digested in the cat’s stomach, thus reducing the possibility of the case getting worse.

A stomach wash (a process known medically as the gastric salvage) may also be induced in a bid to ensure all of the toxins that had been deposited in the cat’s stomach as a result of the gastric poisoning are removed in time.

It is also not uncommon that the vet might decide to employ the use of activated charcoal. Due to its high absorbing properties, the coal will be able to recover a lot of the toxins in the stomach of your cat before they enter the bloodstream and do more damage than necessary.

It is possible that your cat didn’t get garlic poisoning from ingesting the crop directly or in food. In the case that your cat got exposed due to a spray or homeopathic product that has garlic as an active ingredient, the vet will have to bathe the cat thoroughly. This is considered necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of the poisoning should your cat try to groom herself again.

Although this is rare, the cat might need to be taken in for a complete blood transfusion if she has lost a considerable amount of her red blood cells to the garlic infection.

After all the above has been considered, the vet still has to monitor the condition of the cat for a while. This is how they will determine whether or not the cat needs additional support in terms of fluids or oxygen.

Due to the vomiting and diarrhea that come with the condition, your cat will then be given some IV fluids to keep her strength up and nutritional needs met.

When your cat is still at a low to moderate level of poisoning from garlic, chances of recovery are usually very high. In the case where the poisoning has reached an almost critical level, the cat may face some complications in the journey to recovery.

It is not uncommon for your vet to want to keep the cat for a few days under observation. That will help to monitor her progress and determine what best to do for her.

In that time, you might want to tidy up your place to make sure no loose garlic—or other known human foods that are poisonous to cats—is scattered around. This not only includes your cooking items but pills and homeopathic products that might contain garlic in them as well.

When the cat is sent back home to you, discuss with the vet to find out what at-home care practices you should engage in.

Prevention of Garlic Poisoning in Cats

cat in the fridge

There are diverse causes of garlic poisoning in cats. The most common ones that can occur at home include the cat seeking out the garlic for herself and consuming it or getting access to a garlic-infused piece of meal in the house. That is why it is important to keep all your garlic-related food items away from your cat’s reach.

Since the ingredients in a lot of food items are listed in order of abundance, you should be concerned if the garlic is a part of the first five or ten ingredients you come across.

In general, the ideal thing to do when introducing a new treatment or food type to your cat is checking with your vet first.

You should also teach your cat not to jump onto tables or kitchen counters so she will not accidentally ingest any garlic leftover from last night’s dinner.

See Also: How to Keep Cats Off Counters

It is also not uncommon that cat parents make the mistake of using sprays and/or homeopathic products containing garlic on their cat’s skin. As we all know, cats like to groom themselves by licking their bodies; this is also one of the very common ways by which the cat can get poisoned by garlic.

It has already been established that these sprays are not as effective as they are touted to be. You could opt for an alternative that will be suitable for your cat instead.

If you will be leaving town and have to let your cat stay with someone for a while, it is your responsibility to let them know everything they should not be feeding her.

Other Human Foods that are Poisonous to Cats

orange cat eating grapes

Now that you have learned about garlic poisoning and how to take care of it when your cat is found in such a situation, the story doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, garlic is not the only human food that makes cats susceptible to poisoning and even death.

Some of the most popular food items that you will want to keep away from your cat are:

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Chocolate

  • Onions

  • Grapes

  • Raisins

  • Xylitol (from sugarless gums, candles, and toothpaste)

  • Yeast dough

You will want to keep your cat away from houseplants as well. If your cat likes to chew on plants, you should plant some cat grass which is certified safe for cat consumption.

See Also: How to Grow Cat Grass

Wrap Up

poisoned cat

No pet parent likes to see their pets sick, but it is something that happens without notice. When it does, the worst thing to do is panic. Now that you have information such as that which has been provided above at your disposal, you should be better informed on what to look out for, what steps to take in case such unfortunate things happen, and how to ensure the occasion doesn’t repeat itself.

Has your cat ever been at the vet’s on account of a garlic poisoning case? Let us know how it happened and what you did to manage the situation. The vet might tell you to feed your cat some pumpkin, which is good for digestion, to get all the toxins out of your cat’s system, but too much of anything is never good, and you should know precisely how much pumpkin is good for cats.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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