Does Garlic cause immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA)?

Our question this week was:

I have a black Labrador Retriever service dog. He is definitely "treat motivated." I was reading your article on Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs and on page 3 it mentioned toxins such as onion and garlic being possible causes for IMHA. I looked at the ingredients of the supposedly "healthy" treats I've been feeding my dog and both of the jerky-type treats from companies like Wellness my dog?


Sandra Miller


Hi – thanks for your email Sandra. You wrote asking is Garlic dangerous to your dog. You read a blurb in our article about Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs (IMHA) (also known as Auto-immune hemolytic anemia). This is a blood disorder caused by immune system dysfunction. Basically the body's immune system begins recognizing the red blood cells as "foreign" and starts destroying them. Red blood cells (RBC) destruction leads to anemia.

No one knows why this condition occurs. Some believe that the immune system is triggered by certain factors – there are lots of there including vaccines, drugs and some herbs like garlic.

I don't think you are poisoning your dog. Lots of dogs received vaccines, drugs, and herbs without problems. It is something within a dog's body that responds inappropriately. I don't like to give any drugs, vaccines or herbs that aren't necessary but like I mentioned, – most dogs do great and in most cases – if they are needed –the benefits by far outweigh the risks.

On the other hand – I don't think dogs NEED garlic and I would not seek to feed it.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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