If you’re asking yourself, "Can dogs eat tomatoes?," the answer is yes. You can feed a dog tomatoes, provided you do it in the right way. Red ripe tomatoes can be a great human food to share with your dog, as long as you take the proper precautions when feeding this fruit.
Even though tomatoes are a fruit, they're part of the nightshade family of vegetables along with eggplant, tomatillo, white potato, and red bell peppers. The nightshade family comes with a set of precautions for dogs as parts of the tomato can have very unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. Dog owners need to make sure to understand how to safely feed their dog a tomato for optimal digestion and overall health.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding tomatoes to dogs, including the dangers this fruit presents, the health benefits it offers, and how to make sure your dog eats tomatoes safely.
Are Tomatoes Safe for Dogs?
The nightshade family contains a compound called solanine, which is a very toxic substance to horses, goats and other animals. Fortunately, dogs do not experience a toxic reaction to solanine unless you feed it to them in large quantities. Solanine is mainly found in the green parts of the tomato plant, such as the stem and leaves. There is some solanine in the ripe tomato but it’s such a low amount that when dogs eat ripe tomatoes in small amounts, this fruit is generally safe.
When the stem or leaves are fed in large amounts to dogs, tomato poisoning, known as tomatine poisoning, can occur. Symptoms of tomatine toxicity include muscle weakness, allergic reaction, drooling, difficulty breathing, and loss of coordination. You’ll want to get in touch with your DVM as soon as possible if your dog consumes any green parts of the tomato and has these symptoms.
It’s also best for dogs with kidney issues or arthritis to avoid tomatoes. Tomatoes do have oxalates (an organic acid found in plants), which are a no-no for dogs with kidney problems. Dogs with arthritis should avoid consuming tomatoes, as foods from the nightshade family have been shown to exacerbate symptoms of arthritis.
Overall, it’s best to avoid the green parts of the tomato plant (the leaves and stems) as they are bad for dogs. Also, avoid green tomatoes and unripe tomatoes — stick to red tomatoes. Tomato sauce is another thing to avoid feeding your pooch because it contains extra additives and preservatives. The same goes for ketchup — there's too much sugar, additives, and preservatives for it to be a good addition to your dog's diet.
You can feed your dog plain tomato paste in small quantities, and it can be beneficial for certain health conditions that warrant extra lycopene in the diet, which we’ll discuss below. The key to feeding tomatoes or tomato paste to dogs is to feed it in small amounts.
What Are the Health Benefits of Tomatoes for Dogs?
Due to the high amount of lycopene, beta carotene, and Vitamin C present in tomatoes, your dog’s health can benefit from them in various ways. Tomatoes are also low in calories and high in fiber, which can aid in digestion. And tomatoes are rich in minerals, such as folate and potassium, which are both beneficial for maintaining healthy muscles. Here’s a closer look at some of the beneficial compounds in tomatoes:
- Lycopene: is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to fight cancer cells, aid in skin and coat health, and promote eye health. Tomatoes and tomato paste are high in lycopene, which is one of the main benefits of feeding this fruit to dogs.
- Beta Carotene: is that red-orange pigment that makes a ripe tomato so colorful. The body uses beta carotene to manufacture Vitamin A, and it packs a powerful punch when it comes to aiding in eye health and healthy skin. (Native Pet's all-natural Omega Oil is also great for your pooch's skin!)
- Vitamin C: is another powerful vitamin and antioxidant that can give your dog an immune system boost. While not a requirement for their diet, Vitamin C is a nutrient that dogs with certain cancers and weakened immune systems may benefit from.
Feeding Tomatoes as a Healthy Treat for Dogs
What is the best way to feed tomatoes to your dog as an occasional healthy snack? There are a few ways to do this. We'll cover the main questions you might have about feeding tomatoes to your dog, so you can decide how to feed it to your furry friend.
What Type of Tomato Can I Feed My Dog?
You can feed any variety of fresh red tomatoes to your dog as long as it’s ripe and you are making sure to avoid feeding the green parts of the tomato. Cherry tomatoes are particularly easy to feed a dog. Try adding one mashed cherry tomato to a balanced dog food for a fresh boost of fruit.
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes Right out of the Carton or Bag?
No, it's not a good idea. Something to keep in mind when feeding tomatoes to your dog (or eating them yourself) is that tomatoes usually make the “Dirty Dozen” list, which means that pesticides are often found on their skin. Make sure to buy organic or get your tomatoes from a trusted source and wash the tomato thoroughly before feeding it.
Should I Cook the Tomato?
You can lightly cook the tomato on the stovetop in a pan, which can make the fruit easier to digest for dogs. Cooking the tomato lightly also increases the amount of lycopene available so your dog can gain more of those health benefits.
How Many Tomatoes Should I Feed My Dog?
There is no exact measurement for how many tomatoes to feed a dog, but feeding a small quantity is best. Take into account your dog’s size, but even a large dog should not be fed a large quantity of tomatoes. As with any new food you feed your dog, be sure to start slow and see how your dog reacts before feeding any more. Give Fido one or two bites at first, then add a few more bites if desired. Going beyond that simply isn't worth the risk of an upset stomach.
What About Feeding Tomato Paste?
Plain tomato paste is an easy alternative for adding the nutrients of tomato to your dog’s food. Make sure it is plain tomato paste — look for phrasing like “no additives” and “no salt added” on the label — and start with a very small quantity (a teaspoon or so at first). There is a lot of lycopene and beta carotene in tomato paste, so it’s very beneficial from an antioxidant standpoint.
So, Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
Can dogs eat tomatoes safely? Like some other fruits, tomatoes can be a powerful source of nutrients and antioxidants for dogs, as long as they are fed properly. Never give your dog any green parts of the tomato (the stem or leaves), and stick to a few bites of the flesh of ripe, red tomatoes. A small bit of tomato paste is fine but always avoid tomato sauce and ketchup.When in doubt, consult your veterinarian or canine nutritionist for more information. And don't forget to visit the Native Pet blog for more insights into your dog's nutritional needs.