Can I Give My Dog Tomatoes?
Our dogs, in many ways, are our children. They love to make messes, they often don’t smell all that great, and they take forever to potty train. But perhaps their most childlike quality is in their eating habits: If our dogs see us eating something, they want to gobble it up without any knowledge of what it is. Whether we are eating filet mignon or simply chewing a stick of peppermint gum, our canine companions want a taste.
Sometimes, we share our snacks without concern—after all, apples and carrots are notoriously dog-friendly foods. But there’s one food, a fruit which masquerades as a vegetable, that many pet owners are unsure of: Tomatoes. Though few people are willing to eat this fruit by itself, we put it in absolutely everything: the tomato is a key ingredient in pasta sauces, pizza sauces, soups, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and salsas. That’s a lot of table scraps to look out for!
So, are these juicy red salad staples safe for our pets? Can dogs have tomatoes?
The answer: Yes, and there may be some health benefits to feeding your dog tomatoes. But, despite these potential health benefits, it is very important to do so only in moderation. Your dog will be perfectly fine if they eat a ripe tomato on occasion, but if they eat under ripe tomatoes or a very large amount of ripe tomatoes, they may experience negative side effects.
Many of the benefits humans reap from tomatoes also apply to dogs. The tomato’s most famous super power is a chemical called lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of a whole host of cancers, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic illnesses. Lycopene, the chemical responsible for tomatoes’ beautiful red color, is both a carotenoid and a powerful antioxidant. Although this antioxidant is not considered an essential nutrient by dog food companies (which means that many kibble brands are sadly lacking), it has been linked to improved health. Ripe tomatoes can be a great way to safely provide your dog with a boost of free radical-fighting lycopene, which is thought to be particularly effective against cancers of the lungs and esophagus.
Lycopene is also known for supporting eye health, which can make a difference for dogs as they age. Studies suggest that this antioxidant can prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration in aging pets.
Tomatoes even support bone health. Several studies have shown that consuming more lycopene reduces oxidative stress and bone loss—which means your dog will be less likely to suffer from broken bones or osteoporosis in their twilight years.
In addition, tomatoes are loaded with nutrients like potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, all of which are beneficial for dogs. Though one tomato will not meet their daily requirements for these vitamins, it can serve as a tasty supplement.
Things to Keep in Mind
Though tomatoes are loaded with the good stuff, dog owners beware: these fruits are members of the nightshade family. This means that the tomato plant (roots, stems, and leaves) is full of solanine and tomatine, which are both extremely toxic to dogs. These two compounds are also present in large quantities in both green tomatoes and unripe red tomatoes. As a general rule, keep your dog away from tomato plants, do not allow them to eat unripe tomatoes, and limit their serving size to avoid toxicity. If your dog consumes a large quantity of tomatoes, look out for symptoms of tomatine poisoning. The most common symptoms are upset stomach, cardiac problems, fatigue and weakness, dilated pupils, seizures, drooling, tremors, and poor coordination. As long as the poisoned dog receives treatment, their prognosis is generally good.
When feeding your dog tomatoes, go for the ripest ones you can find and remove any green leaves or vines. Once the tomato is ripe, it can be fed to them raw or very lightly cooked. If you choose to give your dog cooked tomatoes, pay attention to how they are cooked—if they are heavily salted, seasoned, or fried in oil, you may be better off setting aside a few chunks of raw tomato while you are preparing dinner. Dogs do not need oil or salt to enjoy this savory fruit.
When introducing your dog to tomatoes, start with very small portion sizes and carefully monitor your pet for several hours after they have eaten. If they show any signs of digestive distress, lethargy, itching, or behavioral changes, stop feeding them tomatoes and take them to the veterinarian immediately. Though ripe red tomatoes are considered safe for dogs, some dogs have food sensitivities and allergies. In addition, dogs with arthritis should not eat tomatoes— tomatoes, and all nightshade plants, can worsen arthritis symptoms.
Overall, it is safe for dogs to eat ripe tomatoes, and there may be some health benefits to the lycopene found in the flesh. Tomatine poisoning is only a risk for dogs who eat unripe tomatoes, or who eat parts of the tomato plant other than the fruit.
Dog Eating Tomato Video: