If you've blogsurfed recently, you may have run across folks getting their undies all bunched up over a "deadly dog food recipe" which appears on Rachael Ray's website and in Modern Dog magazine. The recipe, which looks to make a few pounds of food, includes 1/2 of a medium onion, cooked. Onions are on the list of toxic foods for pets.
Rachael Ray's "pet friendly" recipes are described as food you can share with your pets and contain an advisory about checking with your Vet regarding which foods are safe for your pet. Her personal pet is a Pitbull.
If we are to consider that I am not a moron (please, indulge me), we can possibly make the following assumptions:
1. I know Rachael Ray is a cook, not a Vet, and that's prolly why she has that disclaimer on her recipes.
2. I know Rachael's dog is a Pitbull which is a medium sized dog. My dog, who I might prepare the recipe for, may be bigger or smaller than her dog and thus, I may have more or less concern about the ingredients. Meaning, I understand a teaspoon of something toxic is a bigger worry when fed to a tiny dog than when consumed by a large dog.
3. I know I'm not going to make this recipe as the sole food for my dog's lifetime. (The pet food corporations have failed to train me.) I might prepare it on a special occasion but it's too complicated for regular feeding.
4. I know my Vet is many good things but not a nutrition expert and so if I want to learn about foods appropriate for dogs, one of my resources is going to be The Google.
Here's what my crystal-Google-ball reveals:
Dogs develop hemolytic anemia if they eat enough onions. I don't think that it matters too much whether the onions are cooked or not. The quantity of onions required is high enough that dogs can generally tolerate small doses of onions without any problem and moderate amounts of onion without clinically apparent disease, even though there may be measurable changes on lab test results. Cats are probably a little more sensitive to onion toxicity than dogs are. I can't find an exact quantity of onions required to cause toxicity problems in dogs, but there are several case reports of onion toxicity and they involve whole onions or sizable portions of chopped onions (like a cup or more).
2. Article from a pet supply vendor:
Onions in any form may cause anemia in dogs. Whether raw or cooked, fresh or dehydrated, onion seasoning or onion powder, a large enough quantity in comparison to the dog's size may create anemia.
A small quantity of onions may not create any serious illness in most dogs but, since there is no real need to feed onions to dogs, it is best to keep them away from your dogs.
3. A bit from Dr. Patty Khuly:
Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this could result in gas, diarrhea, or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog's diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. Severe anemias and even death can occur if the dog ingests lots of onions and receives no treatment.
I admit I had to cherry pick these findings from among the many Never-Feed-Onions-OH-NOES! warnings out there. I tend to discount hysteria when I come across it, but that's just me.
For an additional resource, I look at Juliette de Bairacli Levy's book The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat and I note that she fed her Afghans a small amount of raw onion on occasion.
Now for the moment of truth: what do I do with this recipe for Poison Stew? I consider the size of my dog relative to the amount of onion in the portion of the recipe the dog will eat. I consider how often I will be feeding this recipe. And I make an informed decision based on my options. I may choose to simply omit the onion from the recipe or I might feed the meal as-is to my big dogs and feed the little dogs something else. That's what I did over the weekend when I made some potato pancakes (with onion) that didn't turn out as scrumpdillyishus as I'd hoped. I fed the leftovers to the big dogs and gave the little dogs leftovers from Billy's breakfast (eggs and potatoes, no onions).
Now if you really want to get all frothed at the mouth over Rachael Ray, why not focus on the crappy dog food line she's hawking? Cos her pet friendly recipes sound pretty good to me.