Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
Written by: Alicia Boemi, Dogly Wellness Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
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 belong to 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 the tomato can have very unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. Dog owners need to make sure to fully understand how to feed their dog a tomato safely for optimal digestion and overall health. We’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding tomatoes to dogs in this article.
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 such a toxic reaction to solanine unless it is fed 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 found in the ripe tomato but it is such a low amount that when fed to dogs in a small amount, a ripe tomato 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 poisoning 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 in them that are a no-no for dogs with kidney problems. Dogs with arthritis should be careful with consuming tomatoes as foods from the nightshade family have been shown to exacerbate symptoms of arthritis.
Overall, it is best to avoid the green parts of the tomato plant (leaves and stems) as they are bad for dogs. Avoid green tomatoes and unripe tomatoes - stick to red tomatoes. Tomato sauce is also something to avoid feeding your pooch as it is not suited for dogs to consume with the extra additives and preservatives it contains. Plain tomato paste can be fed in very small quantities and can be beneficial for certain health conditions that warrant the addition of extra lycopene in the diet which we’ll discuss more below. The key to feeding tomatoes or tomato paste to dogs is to feed it in a very small amount.
What are the Health Benefits of Tomatoes for Dogs?
Your dog’s health can benefit from a small amount of tomato in various ways due to the high amount of lycopene, beta carotene and Vitamin C present in this fruit. Tomatoes are also low in calories and high in fiber which can aid in digestion. Tomatoes are also rich in minerals such as folate and potassium which are both beneficial for maintaining healthy muscles.
Lycopene: is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to fight cancer cells, aid in skin and coat health and promotes eye health. Tomatoes and tomato paste are high in lycopene which is one of the main benefits to feeding this fruit to dogs!
Beta Carotene: is that red-orange pigment that makes a ripe tomato so colorfully known. Beta carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A and also packs a powerful punch when it comes to aiding in eye health and healthy 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 to 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 and we cover the main questions you might have about feeding tomatoes to your dog!
What type of tomato can I feed my dog?
You can feed any variety of fresh 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 mashing up one cherry tomato to add alongside a balanced dog food for a fresh boost of fruit. Something to always 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 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 present 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; it’s best to remember that 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.
What about feeding tomato paste?
Plain tomato paste is an easy alternative to adding the nutrients of a tomato to your dog’s food. Make sure it is plain tomato paste and start with a very small quantity. There is a lot of lycopene and beta carotene in the tomato paste so it’s very beneficial from an antioxidant standpoint.
In closing, tomatoes can be a powerful source of nutrients and antioxidants for dogs as long as they are fed properly. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian or canine nutritionist for more information!For more wellness advice, join my Community on Dogly where you can ask questions and get 24/7 access to me and other certified experts across nutrition, training & behavior, and wellness to give you and your dog your best life together.