Onions : In the group of onions
(sulfur compound foods), we include
chives, leeks, shallots, scallions,
turnips, garlic and even cabbage!

From time to time we hear the wildest stories about onions.  Some people say they are a must in a primates diet, others say they are bad for them.   Time for us to set things straight.  Why this confusion?  It’s simple, onions are good for primates but have a bad effect on a primates body when overdosed.   Many things are dangerous when overdosed.  The best example here is vitamin D3.  Vitamin D3 is very important in a primates diet but causes issues when overdosed.  Let’s make a comparison and then you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to include onions in your primates diet.





Onions are known as a medicine.  They not only block cancer dramatically, lower cholesterol, thin the blood and warn off blood clots but they also fight chronic bronchitis, infections, hay fever and asthma.  It is also known that onions calms animals down.  An owner of a large group of old world primates said that she relies on onions to keep her primates healthy during the winter. Especially when primates have been exposed to viruses or when your monkey is in a lot of stress, onions can be the solutions.


Besides the fact that they may promote gas, onions raw or cooked can cause Heinz body anemia when overeaten.  While eating onions (but also turnip, cabbage, garlic, …), red blood cells get destroyed and this causes anemia.  However, red blood cells get regenerated all the time and a number of red blood cells have to be destroyed before this happens.

“Yes but my vet told me that onions are really bad for animals!”

We all know that must vets nearly only work with cats and dogs.  It is indeed a fact that especially cats are more sensitive to Heinz body and therefore they should never eat them.

“How can I see that my monkey has anemia?”

Blood work will show whether or not your monkey has anemia.  However, you can already do some check ups yourself.  The gums of a primate should be pink.  If
the gums and mucous membranes or a primate are pale and your primate seems to be tired all the time, then this could indicate that your primate has anemia.  With blood work you will know for sure.

“What is the recommended dosing?”

Weight Primate Max Dosage
1.25 lb < 1/8 cup
2.5 lb < 1/4 cup
5 lb < 1/2 cup
10 lb < 1 cup
20 lb < 2 cups


Many primate owners have been feeding onions for years without any problems.  A lot of them even feed their primates onions on a daily bases to keep them healthy during the winter.  What is very important when feeding onions is the fact that you should never overdose which could be done very easily with smaller species like marmosets and tamarins.  Therefore extreme caution for these species is required.  I believe that adding onions to your primates diet once or twice a week is a good idea especially in periods of stress and illness.

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