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J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1998 Apr 15;212(8):1260-6.

Heinz body formation in cats fed baby food containing onion powder.

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Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis 95616-8734, USA.



To determine whether cats fed baby food with onion powder develop Heinz bodies and anemia and to establish a dose-response relation between dietary onion powder content and Heinz body formation.


Prospective study.


42 healthy, adult, specific-pathogen-free cats.


Commercial baby food with and without onion powder was fed to 2 groups of 6 cats for 5 weeks. Heinz body percentage, PCV, reticulocyte percentage, turbidity index, and methemoglobin and reduced glutathione concentrations were determined twice weekly and then weekly for 4 weeks following removal of the diet. For the dose-response study, 5 groups of 6 cats were fed a canned diet for 2 months that contained 0, 0.3, 0.75, 1.5, or 2.5% onion powder. Heinz body percentage, PCV, and reticulocyte percentage were determined twice weekly.


Compared with cats fed baby food without onion powder, cats ingesting baby food with onion powder had significantly higher Heinz body percentages that peaked at 33 to 53%. Methemoglobin concentration also significantly increased but did not exceed 1.2%. Glutathione concentration, PCV, and food intake did not differ between the 2 groups. Rate and degree of Heinz body formation differed significantly between various onion powder concentrations fed. Compared with 0% onion powder, the diet with 2.5% onion powder caused a significant decrease in PCV and an increased punctate reticulocyte percentage.


Baby food or other foods containing similar amounts of onion powder should be avoided for use in cats because of Heinz body formation and the potential for development of anemia, particularly with high food intake. Cats with diseases associated with oxidative stress may develop additive hemoglobin damage when fed baby food containing onion powder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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