Can Dogs Have Ketchup?
Americans like condiments, and perhaps the most American condiment is ketchup. We know that this sweet and salty burger topping has none of the nutrition of its wild, unprocessed cousin (the humble tomato), but we love it anyway. We add it to sandwiches and hot dogs and we pour it over French fries and hash browns. The boldest among us even add this bright red condiment to other junk foods like mac ‘n cheese and pizza. Regardless of your favorite way to eat this fun, junky additive, it probably makes its way into your diet at least once a week.
Because we pour it on absolutely everything, our dogs’ lives are filled with opportunities to eat ketchup. We know ketchup is not a health food, exactly, but is it harmful if Fido gets a taste? Can you give your dog ketchup?
The answer: technically, yes, dogs can eat ketchup. Most commercial ketchups do not contain any toxic substances in high enough amounts for the occasional dollop of the red stuff to do any immediate damage. Even though it’s not toxic, however, ketchup is generally not recommended for canine consumption because it is nutritionally empty, highly processed, and full of questionable ingredients like sugar and salt.
Unsurprisingly, there are no real health benefits when it comes to ketchup. Though tomatoes are full of good stuff, including antioxidants, water, and fiber, ketchup is so highly processed that all of these powerful properties have been removed. Put simply, ketchup is what you get when you remove all of the best parts of the tomato and add sugar and salt to the scraps. Though the Reagan administration would have liked to call ketchup a vegetable, most of us understand that there is a big difference between a whole tomato and this heavily processed condiment.
Despite the general understanding that ketchup is not the same as a tomato, some people claim that ketchup is an “excellent source of lycopene.” Whole tomatoes are very high in lycopene—a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and some cancers. Ketchup, on the other hand, has lost most of its lycopene content in the manufacturing process. If you want to boast to your friends and family that your burger is a health food thanks to all the lycopene in the ketchup, go for it. But if you’re looking to boost your dog’s lycopene intake, ketchup is not the way to go.
Since there is nothing to gain from giving your dog ketchup, all you’re doing is piling extra calories onto their food. Ketchup offers no nutrition and no dietary fiber, which means that it is not a satiating food. If your dog eats a lot of condiments, don’t be surprised if they start packing on the pounds. Most dogs have far lower caloric needs than humans do, so extra calories add up fast.
Ketchup is empty calories, but, even worse than that, it contains many ingredients that can harm your dog in the long run. One of the big ones is salt. Just like humans, eating too much added salt on a regular basis can exacerbate cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Even worse: dogs have a much lower tolerance for salt than humans do, which means that they are far more likely to suffer from salt poisoning. Also called hypernatremia, salt poisoning can cause permanent organ damage and even death. Symptoms of hypernatremia include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, low energy, stumbling, clumsiness, swelling, extreme thirst, excessive urination, kidney problems, seizures, and tremors. If you think that your dog has consumed a lot of salt and they show any of these symptoms, take them to the vet. Treatment often includes intravenous fluids and other supportive care, which can be life-saving.
Things to Consider
Though they are not present in large enough amounts to cause immediate problems, many toxic ingredients are included in the typical bottle of ketchup. Two of the common flavorings used in ketchup, garlic, and onions, are poisonous to dogs in significant amounts. While a dollop of this condiment from time to time is unlikely to hurt them, it is possible that the effects of consuming low doses of toxins can add up over time. Ketchup also contains ingredients that can result in allergic reactions, which may be immediately life-threatening. Consult a vet if your dog shows any symptoms of allergic reaction after eating a food containing ketchup.
In conclusion, giving your dog a squirt of ketchup every now and then is most likely not going to cause any significant damage. That said, this condiment is junk food and should be treated as such. When it comes to dogs and ketchup, abstinence is the best policy—they do not need all that sugar, salt, and empty calories.
Dog Eating Ketchup Video: