Renowned author and cook Julia Childs is said to have introduced North America to the shallot in the early 1960s. In the ensuing years, aspiring chefs and home cooks had difficulty finding shallots at their local grocer stores. But now, decades later, the shallot is a staple in most North American households. Many of these households are also homes to hungry and curious dogs — which has pet parents wondering if their dogs can eat shallots.
Even though there are over several hundred varieties of shallots, Western grocery stores typically offer the long and short-bulbed pink shallot, as well as the French "griselle" or grey shallot. Most households use shallots for salad dressings, sauces, stews and roasts. It's also a common practice for cooks to alter the flavor of dishes by substituting shallots in place of onions. Known for their mild, sweet and aromatic flavor, the shallot is the perfect union of onion and garlic.
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Shallots most likely originated in Asia and traveled through India to the Middle East, where classical Greeks named them after the ancient Palestinian city of Ascalon. Shallots were first introduced to Europe during the 12th Century when crusaders brought them home as "valuable treasures" looted from military campaigns throughout the Holy Land.
Is a shallot the same as an onion?
While many cooks commonly substitute onions with shallots in recipes, a shallot isn't technically the same as an onion. However, along with scallions, garlic, leeks and chives, both onions and shallots belong to the allium family of aromatics. Shallots share a similar flavor to onions, but their character is less sharp. Some even may describe shallots as sweeter than an onion. When cut open, onions have rings that are easily separated. Shallots, on the other hand, break apart in cloves — much like a bulb of garlic.
Can dogs eat shallots?
No, dogs cannot eat shallots. Shallots are toxic to dogs and can cause gastroenteritis, anemia and other painful side effects including vomiting, discolored urine and fainting. The health risks are the same to your dog whether they eats raw shallots, cooked shallots or dehydrated shallots in soup or spice mixes.
Signs of onion poisoning in dogs
Allium toxicity, also referred to as onion poisoning, causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which is commonly known as gastroenteritis. Symptoms of Allium toxicity in dogs often begins with irritation in the mouth and throat, causing dogs to drool excessively. The inflammation and drooling can quickly lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While gastroenteritis symptoms are painful and uncomfortable for your dog, they're typically not fatal.
However, it's important for pet parents to understand that onion poisoning can be fatal to dogs. Depending on the size of your dog and the amount of shallots they've eaten, Allium toxicity can rupture and destroy your dog's red blood cells, which results in anemia. Anemia is a condition where your dog doesn't have an adequate amount of red blood cells circulating in their blood stream. Red blood cells transport hemoglobin, which is a protein that delivers oxygen throughout your dog's body.
Additional signs that your dog may have onion toxicity after eating shallots may include:
- foul breath
- elevated heart rate
- abdominal discomfort
- excessive drooling
- decreased appetite
- pale gums
- reddish urine
How many shallots does a dog have to eat before poisoning occurs?
Most veterinary research agrees that dogs experience Allium toxicity when they eat 0.5 percent of their body weight in shallots, onions, leeks, garlic or chives. A 50-pound dogs will experience Allium toxicity after eating 0.25 pounds, or 4 ounces, of shallots.
How is onion poisoning diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will rely on your observations to help diagnose whether or not your dog is suffering from Allium toxicity or anemia. If you suspect that your dog has eaten shallots, document any suspected symptoms over a 48 hour period. The worst stage of poisoning often occurs several days after shallots have been eaten. If at any point in your observations you believe your dog is suffering from Allium toxicity — or if you witnessed your dog eating shallots — contact your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian will use a combination of medical history, blood samples, and other tests to diagnose onion poisoning.
How to treat onion poisoning
It's not recommended that you attempt to diagnose and treat Allium poisoning without the guidance of a veterinarian. If indeed your dog has eaten enough shallots to trigger Allium toxicity and its resulting anemia, only a veterinarian has the skills and tools to initiate a successful treatment protocol.
A veterinarian may use a variety of methods to treat onion poisoning in dogs, including administering activated charcoals, fluids or oxygen. Your veterinarian may also induce vomiting, or, in extreme cases, perform a blood transfusion on your poisoned dog.
How to prevent onion poisoning
The best prevention for onion poisoning is to ensure that your dog does not have access to shallots or any other aromatic in the Allium family. Keep any packaged food products that are seasoned with shallots, like chips or soups, tucked away in cupboards where your dog cannot access them. Similarly, keep fresh shallots out of reach by placing them into sealable containers or inside the refrigerator.
If you're a gardener who is growing shallots or any other Allium, instal fencing around the garden area to prevent your dog from digging up any harmful vegetables.
As shallots have become more prevalent in Western kitchens, so have incidents of onion poisoning in dogs who have unwittingly eaten these toxic members of the Allium family. Shallots are poisonous to dogs. When your dog eats enough shallots, they could suffer the painful symptoms of Allium toxicity or anemia.
Be sure to keep shallots, onions, leeks, chives, garlic and scallions away from your dog. Place them on hard-to-reach shelves, inside sealable containers or tuck them away in the refrigerator.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten shallots, but have not directly witnessed consumption, document any symptoms over a 48-hour period. This will help your veterinarian diagnose and treat Allium toxicity.