My Cat Ate Garlic: Now What? (Solved & Explained!)

Part of loving our cats comes with feeding it the right diet, making sure it is clean, happy and healthy.  Sometimes, be it through owners being unaware or just by accident, our cats may ingest foods that are not ideal for their health and could even cause serious damage to their bodies.  

When your cat ingests garlic, it could be fatal.  That is why it is very important to reach out to your veterinarian right away if you think your cat could have eaten garlic.  Cats ingesting garlic can cause conditions such as hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia and methemoglobinemia, which all deal significant damage to your cat’s red blood cells that circulate through its body to provide oxygen.

It’s important that cat owners stay up-to-date on the latest scientific recommendations for their cat’s diet and not stray by feeding table scraps with garlic in them or pure garlic.  It’s also important to learn a variety of ways to prevent your cat from reaching garlic.  Education is the first step in protecting your cat; this article will provide you the tips to do so.

What Happens When Cats Eat Garlic?

When cats eat garlic, it can cause hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia and methemoglobinemia which all damage cat red blood cells.  Garlic has this effect on cats because like other members of the Allium family, this plant contains disulfides and thiosulphates.  These compounds can cause your cat’s red blood cells not only become fragile but even burst.

Garlic in even the smallest amounts can be fatal to your cat.  If you’re attempting to determine what amount your cat’s body can tolerate, it’s best to err on the side of caution and refrain from giving it even a little bit because even one clove of garlic can lead to extreme toxicity in your beloved feline.

Symptoms Of Cat Eating Garlic

There will likely be a number of observable symptoms if your cat eats garlic.  These symptoms can be mild or range to more severe.  It is important that you notify your vet immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested garlic as sometimes it may take a few days for symptoms to be expressed.  These symptoms include: 

  • Breathlessness
  • Symptoms Of Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Pale, Yellow Or “Muddy” Gums
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Discolored Urine (a color similar to “port wine”)
  • Collapse/Fainting Due To Lack Of Oxygen
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral Irritation
  • Panting
  • Coma

Diagnosing A Cat Who Ate Garlic

To properly diagnose your cat, your veterinarian will perform a series of tests to determine if it’s having issues with its red blood cells caused by conditions such as hemolytic anemia.  To do so, your cat’s vet will order a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile and a urinalysis.

While taking a blood sample, your cat’s veterinarian should be able to spot the Heinz bodies if they are present, indicating hemolytic anemia.  

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Treating A Cat Who Ate Garlic

After thorough testing, your cat’s vet may induce vomiting using activated charcoal and then monitor it for a few days.  In some cases, the vet may use a gastric lavage to assist with inducing vomiting in your cat.

  Sometimes in serious cases vets must order a blood transfusion for your cat to survive the anemia.  If your cat’s veterinarian observes your cat is already or is becoming anemic, they will likely provide additional supportive care which includes IV administration of fluids and medications as well as oxygen therapy.  

Why Cats Eat Garlic

Surprisingly, garlic is sometimes given to cats intentionally by their owners.  There are myths that are unfortunately still popular within the pet care world and one of them says that feeding garlic to your cat will prevent it from getting heart disease and fleas.  Although garlic does have some health properties and can aid in flea prevention, it is still majorly poisonous to your kitty.

Other reasons cats may ingest garlic can include:

  • Dietary Deficiencies 
  • Genetics
  • Boredom/Lack Of Enrichment
  • Compulsive Disorders
  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Weaned Too Early From Mother

These reasons listed above may indicate that your cat has underlying health conditions, causing it to eat non-food objects or strange foods that are deemed harmful to their health.  If you see your cat exhibit any of these symptoms, it is important you contact your vet as quickly as possible, even if you cannot confirm the ingestion of garlic. 

Preventing Cats From Eating Garlic

As the saying goes, prevention is key.  That is why it is of utmost importance for you and any household members that reside with your fur baby to be vigilant in making sure your best friend is not at risk of ingesting garlic, even the smallest bit.  Studies have shown that just a single clove of garlic is plenty enough for cats and small dogs to contract this blood disorder.

To prevent your cat from eating garlic, be sure to store garlic in an area your cat cannot reach, such as inside your refrigerator, on top of the refrigerator, in cupboards or secured kitchen drawers.  Be sure you never accidentally or intentionally feed your cat garlic by refraining from giving it handouts made with garlic.  

When you cook with garlic, make sure you keep your space clean.  If you drop any garlic while working with it, be sure to pick it up immediately to keep it out of your cat’s grasp.  Finally, be sure to inform all the members in your household to be careful when working with garlic and to be vigilant about keeping it stored away from your cat in its place.

Summary

Although it’s scary when your cat ingests something poisonous, you don’t have to worry too much if you’re can act fast.  The longer you wait to contact your vet, the likelier it will be they’re in danger.  By learning how to prevent the consumption of garlic, what the signs are that it’s been poisoned and what to do, you’re now an even more responsible pet owner. 

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