Dogs can eat tomatoes, but it’s important to know what the limitations are and why. If you want to feed your dog tomatoes, you must first understand what the tomato plant is made up of and how its components might have a negative impact on your dog's health.
The good news is that tomatoes are definitely not the worst food your dog can eat. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, tomatoes are barely poisonous and are generally pretty safe to feed dogs.
While the general consensus is yes, you can feed your dog tomatoes, dog parents should know how to do so safely. Let's take a look at the various risks associated with feeding your dog this human food.
When It Comes to Tomato Safety, Color Is Key
Tomatoes contain solanine and alpha tomatine, two poisonous compounds which are also present in nightshade plants like green potatoes and eggplant. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family of vegetables (also known as Solanaceae). They contain the most solanine in the green parts of the tomato plant: the stems, vines, and leaves.
The tomato itself contains high levels of solanine when it’s young and green. The concentration of solanine rapidly decreases as the tomato ripens. This makes it safe for dogs to eat ripe tomatoes but never green tomatoes.
You might be wondering, "Why would I feed my dog an unripe tomato?" Dog parents with a green thumb may want to keep an eye on their garden before their dog gets into trouble. Some people find that maintaining a tomato plant can be problematic, and not just because squirrels get to it — dogs who look for a snack in the yard might go for it as well. Worst of all, they could eat the poisonous green parts.
If you choose to feed your dog a tomato, make sure it’s rinsed well, especially if it’s not organic. (Non-organic produce is sprayed with pesticides.) As an extra safety measure, you can peel the skin off the tomato too.
When it comes to tomatoes, a general rule of thumb is that green does not mean go. (Leafy greens like lettuce, on the other hand, are safe.) Always wait for a tomato plant to mature to a ripe red shade.
Nutritional Value of Tomatoes
If you do give your dog a tomato here and there, it's nice to know how they are benefitting from eating one. Tomatoes are very nutrient-rich fruits, good for both dogs and humans. But as with all dog treats, give it to them sparingly.
Sometimes dog foods list “tomato pomace” as a minor ingredient. Tomato pomace is the skin, pulp, and crushed-up seeds of raw tomatoes and is safe for dogs to eat. It’s used in dog food because it is high in soluble fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which promotes strong bones and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. They’re also packed with multiple antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A, and vitamin C. Vitamin A is great for their vision too. Tomatoes are high in beta-carotene, which prevents metabolic syndrome, and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
What About Tomato Sauce and Ketchup?
Skip the tomato sauce, especially pasta sauce. Not because of the tomatoes, but because sauces contain all kinds of other ingredients could be detrimental to your dog's health. Most red sauces (tomato soup included) contain several other ingredients that are bad news for your dog, such as onions, chives, and garlic in large doses.
As far as ketchup goes, keep things simple. Plain is the way to go, as spicy flavors like jalapeño or sriracha are not good for your dog. Though plain ketchup is generally safe, it has no nutritional value, so don't go out of your way to give it to Fido. But if they happen to score a bite of your hot dog, so be it.
It’s vital to read the ingredient list on the ketchup bottle. All ketchups contain a lot of sugar, but some of them also have xylitol, a sugar substitute that’s absolutely lethal to your pet. When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. If not treated as soon as possible, xylitol poisoning can be fatal.
Symptoms of Tomatine Poisoning
When an animal is poisoned by a plant from the nightshade family they get gastro-intestinal irritation, or irritation of the lining of the stomach. If dogs eat large quantities of the green parts of the tomato plant, common signs of toxicity to watch for are:
- Confusion and loss of coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Hypersalivation (lots of drooling)
Luckily, your dog will not show these toxicity symptoms unless they have ingested a large amount of the green parts that contain a higher concentration of tomatine. Remember: Green does not mean go.
Keep in mind that some dogs could also have an allergy to ripe tomatoes. Dogs who are allergic to tomatoes typically develop digestive problems like gas and diarrhea. They could also get itchy rashes. If you suspect your dog has a tomato allergy, stop feeding them tomatoes and see if the symptoms subside.
Sometimes dogs eat things they shouldn't. If your pooch got into an unripe tomato plant, take them to the vet immediately.
Treatment of Tomato Poisoning in Dogs
Should your dog experience the aforementioned symptoms related to tomato poisoning, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
One of treatments veterinarians may recommend for poisoning (especially if your dog is vomiting and experiencing diarrhea) is fluid therapy. In fluid therapy, electrolytes and fluids are pumped into your dog’s body to treat the dehydration associated with poisoning, and to help the body flush the toxins out. Fluid therapy can be administered either through the veins, under the skin, or through the abdominal wall, depending on the needs of your pet.
Another treatment includes gastric lavage (also known as "pumping the stomach"). Gastric lavage involves placing a tube through the stomach to flush out toxins when inducing vomiting is not possible. In very serious cases such as a dog having difficulty breathing, the vet will create an emergency airway to prevent asphyxiation.
Avoid the risk when it comes to tomatoes and start with prevention. Do you have a tomato plant? If so, restrict your dog’s access to it. If you keep a tomato plant inside your home, make sure it’s in a pot off of the ground and out of their reach. If you’re growing a tomato plant in your yard, fence it off. Taking precautionary measures is the best way to avoid a trip to the emergency vet.
Can Dogs Have Tomatoes? Yes and No
Dogs eat all kinds of crazy things (even when they aren't edible). Ultimately, yes, dogs can eat tomatoes. But if — and only if — they are red tomatoes. Whether they want you to share those cherry tomatoes you’re snacking on or a piece of that Brandywine tomato you're slicing falls off the counter and onto the floor, the fruit has got to be red.
Red tomatoes can be an occasional treat, but you should avoid any potential GI upset by feeding your pup tomatoes in moderation. Remember: If you suspect your pet may have ingested a potentially toxic substance, call Animal Poison Control, the Pet Poison Helpline, or your veterinarian as soon as possible.