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Can dogs eat tomatoes?

A bunch of cherry tomatoes

If there’s any pet that requires constant attention, it’s a dog. And there’s nothing more important than the food he eats every day. 

As you’re probably aware, dogs are quite happy to sniff out and chow down on just about anything. Unfortunately for you both, this means that he might end up eating something that isn’t good for him or may make him sick. 

It’s also hard for an owner to know exactly how their doggo will react to a new food. They might feed him something they think is perfectly ok but turns out to be quite dangerous. 

There are lots of human foods that dogs can eat that offer great health benefits. So, how do you know what’s good for him and what’s not? One food that often confuses dog owners is tomatoes. We all know that tomatoes are good for us humans, and harbor a huge range of antioxidants and nutrients. But can dogs eat tomatoes?

Are tomatoes good for dogs to eat?

Well, yes and no. Dogs can eat tomatoes, but only occasionally and in limited amounts. 

Tomatoes aren’t poisonous and aren’t the worst food your pooch can eat. However, some parts of the tomato plant that may have a negative impact on your dog's health. It’s important to know how to serve them safely. 

The benefits of giving your dog tomatoes

Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, which means that parts of them contain substances that are toxic in high amounts. It’s very unlikely that a dog could eat enough tomatoes to actually be poisoned, but it’s still possible if he raids someone’s garden! 

  • Tomatoes are a good source of nutrients. Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, an essential nutrient and powerful antioxidant. Although dogs can make their own vitamin C within their bodies, any additional antioxidants are always helpful. Vitamin C helps to fight off harmful free radicals while also contributing to your dog’s overall wellbeing.
    Tomatoes provide a good dose of potassium, an important mineral that helps in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Folate and potassium work together to help with muscle health and energy levels. Vitamin K1 is also present in tomatoes, which helps with healthy blood clotting and bone health.
  • Tomatoes are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is a valuable antioxidant that has many benefits for canines. Research has shown that lycopene helps to promote healthy vision, and functions alongside other nutrients to help slow the acceleration of eyesight issues in older dogs. Antioxidants like lycopene are also thought to help maintain a dog’s fur and skin, and may even help in preventing arthritis and heart disease.

Can tomatoes be bad for dogs?

The problem with tomatoes is that they contain solanine and alpha tomatine, two compounds that are also found in nightshade plants like green potatoes and eggplant. The highest concentration of solanine in tomato plants is in their green parts: the stems, vines, and leaves, and also in the tomato itself when it’s unripe. 

Although the concentration of solanine rapidly decreases as the tomato ripens, green tomatoes are definitely not safe for dogs. Of course, most owners probably wouldn't dream of feeding their dog a green tomato, but dogs themselves don't know what’s good or bad for them! If you have a veggie garden at home, you might need to fence off the tomato plants before your pooch decides to sample a few unripe tomatoes.

If your dog does chow down on a few green tomatoes or the green parts of the tomato plant, monitor him closely for the next 48 hours. Poisoning can result in gastrointestinal irritation, or something more serious. Common signs to watch for include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, loss of coordination, weakness, dilated pupils, poor appetite, or excess drooling. 

Fortunately, this is still pretty rare. It would take a lot of green tomato material to actually make your dog sick. But it’s still not worth the risk! 

The good news is that dogs can actually eat the red, ripe tomatoes that we humans enjoy so much. Just don’t try feeding your dog tomato sauce! Sauces may contain red tomatoes, but only in small amounts. The rest of the ingredients are likely to be all sorts of sugars, starches, and added flavorings.  

Dogs with medical conditions, such as acid reflux or gastrointestinal issues, may struggle to tolerate tomatoes. 

How to prepare tomatoes for dogs

Always choose fresh, red tomatoes that are fully ripened. Make sure you rinse the tomato well, as many store-bought tomatoes tend to be sprayed with pesticides. Otherwise, stick to tomatoes that you know the source of. Remove all the stems, leaves, and any parts of the vine before serving. Cut it into small slices that your dog can eat safely, and be sure to watch how he handles it. 

As with any new food, it’s always wise to check with your veterinarian before adding it to your dog’s diet.

There are also other fruits and vegetables that your dog might enjoy:

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 15, 2020.

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