Can dogs eat tomatoes? The Labrador Site team takes a look at which parts of the tomato plant are toxic to dogs, and whether dogs can ever eat tomatoes safely.
Tomatoes contain a range of nutrients that are good for dogs. But they also contain a chemical called tomatine, which is toxic to dogs in high concentrations. Tomatine levels are lower in ripe tomatoes. So it’s safe for dogs to eat small amounts of correctly prepared red tomato. But green tomatoes and other parts of the tomato plant should never be fed to dogs. The tomatine levels are dangerously high in the roots and green parts of the plant.
Read on to learn why tomatine makes some tomatoes bad for dogs, how to avoid the risky parts of the plant, and exactly how to safely prepare ripe tomatoes for dogs.
Are Tomatoes Safe For Dogs?
While the jury is still out in some circles regarding whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables (as of 1883, the Supreme Court has sided with the vegetable advocates), no nutrition expert will deny that tomatoes as a food source are actually quite nutrient-rich, as well as highly popular.
But can dogs eat tomatoes? The answer is slightly less simple than you might have hoped – “yes and no.” Some parts of the tomato plant are safe for dogs to eat. Other parts, however, can be very toxic. And in certain rare cases, your dog may actually be allergic to tomatoes (hey, it happens to people too!). When it comes to tomatoes and dogs, it is very important you know which parts are safe to feed your friend.
Are Tomatoes Good For Dogs?
So, what’s the deal with dogs and tomatoes? Can dogs eat tomatoes and experience any health benefits? Tomatoes are popular snacks and meal ingredients for us humans, as they are low-calorie and high in fiber. They contain large amounts of the carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene, which can help fight off diseases.
Tomatoes are also packed with anti-oxidant vitamins – specifically, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin C. They have a lot to offer in the minerals department as well. They are packed with folate, chromium and potassium. So they’re clearly full of nutrients. But what effects do these nutrients actually have on our dog’s health?
Tomatoes For Dogs
Whenever we’re giving our dogs a new treat, it’s important to know how it will benefit our dog’s health. Finding treats with nutritional benefits is a great way to keep our pets happy and healthy! Here are some of the positive effects of the nutrients in tomatoes:
- Lycopene: reduces risk of heart disease and stroke, promotes strong, healthy bones, aids in cancer prevention.
- Beta-carotene: wards off metabolic syndrome and improves cognition.
- Vitamin C: improves immune response and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Potassium: promotes healthy blood pressure, nerves and muscles.
- Vitamin A: aids in good eyesight.
- Fiber: ensures healthy digestion.
- Vitamins C and A: maintains healthy skin and supports faster wound healing.
Sounds great, right? But, tomatoes aren’t always good for dogs. So, can dogs eat tomatoes at all times, or can tomatoes be bad for dogs?
When Are Tomatoes Bad For Dogs?
The danger of eating tomatoes for dogs comes in the fact that tomatoes and tomato plants contain high amounts of a toxic substance called tomatine. Tomatine is a form of solanine, a poison common to all plants in the nightshade family, including tomatoes. The stems, leaves, and roots, and immature green tomatoes can each contain up to 5 percent concentration of tomatine. Five percent concentration is quite a lot!
This can pose a challenge if you’re growing tomatoes in your backyard. As any dog-owner knows, if something looks like it’s off-limits, a curious dog will make a beeline for it! So if you decide to grow organic tomatoes, be sure you install a pooch-proof perimeter fence or place your potted tomato plants well out of reach of your dog. Make sure he can’t get to any parts of the tomato he should never eat!
Can Dogs Eat Green Tomatoes?
When are tomatoes bad for dogs? When they’re unripe. You should never let your dog eat green tomatoes. With the high concentration of tomatine, even a few could be very toxic and dangerous to your dog’s health.
If your dog inadvertently gets into your garden and eats green tomatoes, it is best to seek veterinary care right away. If your regular vet is not available, take your dog to an urgent care or poison control vet clinic urgently.
Can Dogs Eat Tomato Plants?
The same caution goes for tomato plants. Some parts of the tomato plant are safe for dogs, and some are not safe. Here are the parts you should never let your dog eat:
Again, these parts of the tomato plants contain a significant percentage of tomatine, which can cause your dog to become very ill.
Signs Of Tomato Poisoning In Dogs
If your dog has tomato (tomatine) poisoning, the ASPCA warns that these are the symptoms you are likely to see:
- Tremors or convulsions
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Severe gastrointestinal distress
- Cardiac distress
- Dilated pupils
- Behavioral changes
It goes without saying that if your dog displays any of these symptoms, you should rush him to a veterinary urgent care clinic right away! To avoid this, be sure to keep all toxic parts of a tomato plant away from your dog. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, take him to your vet even if you don’t think he’s digested any tomatine, as they may indicate a different serious health problem.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Tomatoes?
If your dog eats ripe, red, mature tomatoes, just watch her for the next hour to make sure she doesn’t exhibit any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction or tomatine poisoning. If your dog eats immature green tomatoes but only a trace amount (like a thin slice), watch her for the next hour to see if she shows any signs of tomatine poisoning. With only minor ingestion, some dogs may show symptoms and other dogs may be just fine.
If your dog eats a larger quantity of immature green tomatoes, it is best to contact your vet right away to make an urgent care appointment just in case. If your regular vet is not available for any reason, make plans to take your dog to an urgent care vet clinic as soon as possible if symptoms develop.
Dogs And Tomatoes — Can They Have Allergies?
Can dogs have tomato allergies? The answer to this question is a simple “yes.” Tomato allergies in dogs are not common, but it can happen. Unfortunately, there is no real way to know in advance whether your furry sidekick will be one of those rare dogs who are allergic to tomatoes. The only way to know for sure is to feed your dog tomatoes and then wait about 30 minutes.
If your dog has a tomato allergy, you will likely see some or all of these symptoms:
- Licking feet
- Itching skin
- Hot pink or red ear skin
- Skin rashes
- Growling stomach
It is also worth mentioning that the symptoms of a tomato allergy will look different than the symptoms of tomato poisoning.
Can Dogs Eat Ripe Tomatoes?
What about ripe, red tomatoes? Are tomatoes good for dogs when they’re ripe? Don’t they contain solanine/tomatine too? The answer is “yes,” but ripe, red tomatoes contain only trace amounts of tomatine. This makes ripe tomatoes generally safe for dogs to eat every so often as a treat. However, just to be safe, you probably don’t want to feed even ripe, red tomatoes to a young dog, since puppy immune systems are still developing during the first year of life.
Can Dogs Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
Can dogs have tomatoes that are of the cherry variety? These small, sweet fruits are a popular favorite with humans. So long as the tomato treat is ripe and red in color, no variety of tomato is off-limits. You can safely feed cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes and other varietals. However, you may want to feed a lesser quantity of a larger tomato.
Can Dogs Eat Grape Tomatoes?
The same goes for grape tomatoes. Another popular snack favorite, it’s tempting to toss a grape tomato to your pup while you’re enjoying them yourself. Just remember to make sure it is fully ripe, and only give them in moderation. It’s worth noting that grapes themselves are dangerous for dogs — but grape tomatoes are not actually related to grapes!
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Tomatoes?
Cooked tomatoes deliver the potent anti-oxidant lycopene in a form the body is more easily able to absorb, which is one benefit of eating cooked rather than raw ripe, red tomatoes. So can dogs have tomatoes that are cooked?
You can let your dog eat pure, ripe, red cooked tomatoes occasionally as a treat. However, be SURE that no green or less mature ripe tomatoes were added during the cooking process, as these can be toxic to your dog. Also be sure the cooked tomatoes do not contain any additional ingredients, such as sodium, spices or additives that may be harmful to your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Canned Tomatoes?
In the case of canned tomatoes, so long as the tomatoes used are sourced from ripe, red, mature tomatoes only, they should be safe for your dog to eat. But it is also a good idea to check the ingredients list first. Here, you are checking to be sure no additional ingredients, such as sodium or preservatives, have been added to the canned tomatoes. If you see these additives, it is best not to feed the canned tomatoes to your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Tomato Soup?
Are tomatoes bad for dogs if they’re included in tomato soup? The main reason not to let your dog eat tomato soup is because other ingredients may have been added to the soup, such as sodium, flavorings, spices, onions, garlic or dairy. These additional ingredients may be harmful or toxic to your dog. If you’re not sure about any of the ingredients, it is best to avoid giving it to your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Tomato Sauce?
Eating cooked tomatoes has actually been shown to aid in absorption of their nutrients, especially lycopene, which offers a potential range of potent health benefits. However, take care to only give your dog cooked tomatoes or tomato sauce when you know only ripe, red, mature tomatoes were used.
Also, be sure you know what other ingredients may have been added to the sauce before allowing your dog to try some. For example, two common complementary ingredients in tomato-based dishes, onions and garlic, can be toxic to dogs.
Can Dogs Have Tomato Juice?
Again, it’s important to look at the potential additives in tomato juice to make sure that there isn’t anything that could be harmful to your pup. If the tomato juice is made from pure, ripe tomatoes, then it should be safe in small quantities for your dog. However, it’s unlikely that a dog would want to drink much tomato juice. A tongue-lap or two will probably be enough for him!
Can Dogs Eat Tomato Paste?
Similarly to tomato sauce listed above, the concern is what may have been added to the paste. If it is just pure tomato paste from ripe tomatoes, such as in a designed-for-dogs pizza recipe, it should be safe in moderation.
Can Dogs Eat Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Once again, the concern is not so much about the tomatoes themselves, since sun-dried tomatoes are usually made from ripe tomatoes. But they are also often sold packed in oil or with other additives, such as garlic and other seasonings, that may be detrimental to your dog’s health. If you make sun-dried tomatoes at home, they are likely to be made from ripe, peeled, organic tomatoes — and they should be fine for your pup.
Health Benefits Of Tomatoes For Dogs
We have already discussed some of the potential health benefits for dogs. As is the case for humans, dogs can benefit from the vitamins, fiber, and other health-supporting factors that are inherent in tomatoes. But those same health benefits can be achieved in other ways, too.
Ultimately, there are pros and cons to tomatoes for dogs. As your dog’s owner, when it comes to tomatoes and your dog’s health, you get to make the final call on whether you think the possible benefits outweigh the potential risks. The answer to the question, “Are tomatoes good for dogs?” really depends on your decision in your individual case.
How Can I Feed My Dog Tomatoes?
How can dogs have tomatoes safely? We now know tomato plant leaves, stems, roots and immature green tomatoes are potentially toxic to dogs. However, ripe, red, mature tomatoes have sufficient nutrient and health benefits that it may be worth offering your dog a ripe tomato treat now and again.
One thing you should do before letting your dog eat ripe tomatoes is to remove the skin or wash the tomato thoroughly with a vegetable wash solution. This is especially important if the tomatoes are not organic.
Organic Tomatoes For Dogs
Organic produce is grown and processed without use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, dyes, genetic engineering or synthetic agents of any kind. If there is any part of a ripe, red tomato that may contain other unknown toxins, chemicals or poisons, it is the skin.
This can even be the case with organic tomatoes, since the skin can pick up toxins circulating in the outside air. Once you remove the skin of a ripe, red tomato, your dog can generally enjoy tomatoes safely in moderation.
How Many Tomatoes Should I Give My Dog?
When it comes to Labradors, “where there’s a will, there’s a way” seems to be the standard species motto. In other words, spend any amount of quality time in canine lover circles, and you are bound to hear a story or two about “that time my pup got into my tomato garden and ate….” You are also likely to hear that the pup in question survived her adventures. Thankfully, modern veterinary medicine has more than a few miracles up its sleeve.
While there is no hard and fast rule regarding how many ripe, red tomatoes a dog should be permitted to eat, one good rule of thumb is to feed a smaller dog fewer tomatoes. Also, if your dog is trying ripe, red tomatoes for the first time, only offer a slice or two until you know for sure how he will respond. One large or two smaller red, ripe tomatoes fed as a weekly treat will give your dog the benefit of all the nutrients in tomatoes without exposing him to any potential issues from the tomatine.
Dogs And Tomatoes — How To Feed Tomatoes To A Dog
You don’t just have to give your dog plain old tomato slices! There are loads of recipes online for homemade dog treats that include tomato. If you want to give your dog a tomato dog treat that is a bit more exciting, check out these recipes:
- Cheesy Tomato Dog Biscuits
- Cheesy Tomato Basil Treats
- Tomato Pizza Dog Treats
Does Dog Food Contain Tomatoes?
Generally speaking, tomato is not a commonly used ingredient in most commercial dog foods. You may come across a dog food that lists “tomato pomace” among the ingredients. This is the crushed-up pulp of seeds and flesh, and is safe for dogs to eat. But it’s relatively rare to find dog food that includes tomatoes.
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes Summary
Dogs can eat tomatoes in a few specific scenarios. However you will need to weigh up the potential risks with the possible benefits. Never feed your dog green tomatoes, or a tomato based product which may have other ingredients that could disagree with him.
In the vast majority of cases, offering your dog the occasional ripe, red, mature tomato treat will potentially enhance its overall health. But in a small minority of cases, however, allergic reaction is a possible risk. Does your dog enjoy tomatoes as a treat? We’d love to hear about your dog’s opinion on tomatoes in the comments below!
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References and Further Reading
- Hall, H., M.D., “Killer Tomatoes and Poisonous Potatoes?,” Science-Based Medicine, 2012.
- Szalay, J., “Tomatoes: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts,” Live Science, 2016.
- Basko, I, DVM, “Ask Dr. B – Are Tomatoes Toxic To Pets?,” Holistic Vet, 2013.
- Raines, E., DVM, “Are Tomatoes Toxic to Dogs,” Vet Info, 2011.
- Paredes, R., “Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes? Read This Before You’re Red In The Face,” Dog Pack, 2016.
- Yuangklang, C., ‘“Digestibility of Sundried Tomato Pomace in Dogs,” Journal of Applied Animal Science, 2015.
- ‘Tomatoes‘, Pet Poison Helpline
- ‘Tomato Plant‘, ASPCA
- ‘Nix V. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893)‘, US Supreme Court