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Can Dogs Have Lemon? What to Know About This Citrus Fruit

Lemon is a tasty garnish for humans, but can dogs have lemons? Find out why this sour citrus fruit isn't good for your pooch and what symptoms it might cause.

Can dogs have lemon: dog looking at a lemon tree

Lemon is a tasty garnish for humans, but can dogs have lemons? Find out why this sour citrus fruit isn't good for your pooch and what symptoms it might cause.

by: Lori Wells, Certified Pet Nutrition Counselor

Lemons are common in many households and are used for everything from marinating meats to garnishing water glasses. They're among the most popular citrus fruits, but can dogs have lemons? The answer is more complicated than you might expect.

This bright yellow fruit is the subject of much conflicting and confusing information regarding whether they can or should be fed to dogs, if they are toxic or good for dogs, and what nutritional value they may or may not offer. While they may not be a necessary component of a well-rounded dog diet, there are some health benefits this citrus fruit may offer when fed in moderation.

In this article, we'll explain how you can integrate lemon juice into your dog's diet. We do not recommend feeding your dog lemon rinds, roots, seeds, or leaves.

Can dogs have lemon: white dog running outside

The Nutritional Profile of Lemons

Citrus fruits, which include lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits, are naturally high in antioxidants like vitamin C. Dogs can synthesize vitamin C in their liver, but obtaining it from their diet can support healthy immune function. Research has shown that vitamin C may help wound healing and is essential for healthy connective tissue and joints.

Other nutrients that make lemons a healthy addition to a diet are folate and potassium. Animals require folate for good metabolic health, such as DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. Potassium is an important electrolyte needed for proper functioning of muscles and nerves.

There are several phytonutrients found in lemons that could also benefit your dog's health. One is known as citric acid, which gives the lemon its sour taste. Citric acids can help control bacterial infections and normalize the acid level in urine. Phytosterols are also found in lemons. These plant sterols are heart-friendly. Another antioxidant, a flavonoid known as hesperidin, is also found in lemons, and it is known to help control heart disease, blood vessel disorders, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Are Lemons Bad for Dogs?

Lemons contain compounds called psoralen, linalool, and limonene, which may be toxic for mammals when consumed in large amounts. Excessive consumption of these compounds can lead to adverse effects on their digestive system, like upset stomach, constipation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, or rashes in many species.

If your dog eats lemon without your permission, keep an eye on them to monitor for any of the aforementioned symptoms. When in doubt, seek veterinary care immediately to make sure your dog is safe.

We recommend buying organic lemons and cleaning them with baking soda and water to help remove any bacteria or pesticides on the lemon before cutting and squeezing it. Use fresh juice and avoid the store-bought bottled kind, which has lost most nutrient concentrations.  

Can dogs have lemon: dog sniffing a lemon rind

Can Dogs Have Lemonade?

The health benefits of a small amount of lemon juice differ significantly from store-bought lemon-flavored drinks. Most lemon products or lemon-flavored drinks, like lemonade, are made with a very high dose of processed sugar, which isn't healthy or recommended for dogs. Processed lemon drinks can also contain food colorings, preservatives, sugar, xylitol, or other additives that aren't healthy for dogs to ingest.

Close up shot of a dog's face

How to Safely Introduce Lemons into Your Dog's Diet

We recommend offering your dog ¼ tsp per 20lbs of body weight of lemon juice, divided between your dog's meals. Add a small amount to one part of your dog's food to ensure your dog enjoys this healthy addition. This will allow you to see if your dog enjoys eating lemon juice. If your dog instead tries to avoid that portion of food, leave it out of their diet and try adding it to a homemade treat!

It is also crucial to never put lemon juice in your dog's water (even at the correct dosage recommended). If a dog avoids their water, this can lead to dehydration, which can lead to life-threatening health concerns.

Alternative Fruits and Treats for Dogs

So many healthy fruits and other tasty treats can be given to your dog if they don't like lemon juice. Add blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries to your dog's diet for similar health benefits to those found in lemon juice. It is also okay to try finding a yummy treat with lemon juice as an ingredient or natural preservative.  

Is it Safe to use Lemon Juice Topically?

Like lemons and lemon essential oil, Citrus juice can be used as an all-natural topical deterrent to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 cup of clean filtered water. Dip a clean cloth into the well-mixed solution and gently rub the solution onto your dog's top coat.

Another option is to use an organic lemon essential oil with a carrier oil, like olive oil. Mix 1 drop of lemon essential oil with 1 tablespoon carrier oil and gently rub it along your dog's top coat.

Avoid rubbing either of these two options directly onto the dog's skin. Also, avoid the face and eyes. We recommend testing either option by applying a small amount to a quarter-sized area of your dog's top coat. If your dog doesn't seem bothered, you can try the all-natural flea, tick, and mosquito deterrent. If your dog develops a rash or feels uncomfortable, immediately wipe it off with soap and water.

Finally, pet parents can add essential oil or citrus juice to a doggy bandana that can be removed easily after spending time outdoors.

Using Lemon Juice as a Dog-Safe Cleaning Solution

Lemon juice can be used with white vinegar and baking soda to create an all-natural cleaning solution for your home. Clean your counters, bathroom, sinks, floors, windows, and more using this solution. This allows pet owners to move away from store-bought cleaning agents with more toxic ingredients, thus lowering health concerns for the whole family. 

In Conclusion

The health benefits of lemons, used as part of a dog's diet or externally through topical pesticide deterrents or as a natural cleaning tool, are exciting. This little citrus fruit packs a health benefit punch that pet owners can use with their dogs and in their homes. Knowing how to use it safely and effectively is the best tool a pet owner can have to decide what their dog needs to be healthy and happy.

As with any new food-based tool, check with your holistic vet or pet nutrition counselor to see if they have additional thoughts or recommendations for you regarding lemon juice.

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