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Can dogs eat tomatoes?

Are tomatoes toxic to dogs: A misunderstanding in canine nutrition

There are numerous myths surrounding what the canine diet should or should not include, which is why finding the answer to 'can dogs eat tomatoes?' is not as easy as you'd expect.

In the realm of veterinary medicine, many recommendations appear to be handed down through generations of practitioners and accepted without question. One such belief is the potential toxicity of tomatoes in dogs.

I did a lot of digging on this topic, and there doesn’t appear to be any proof that tomatoes are poisonous to dogs.

But are tomatoes a good addition to your dog's diet? In this article, I'll share with you everything I've found about feeding tomatoes to your dog, their health benefits and potential risks.

Are tomatoes good for dogs?

My curiosity was piqued by a fascinating encounter with Bobi, the oldest dog in the world, who had, surprisingly, been eating tomato sauce nearly every day of his long, healthy life!

This contradicts the decades-old advice given by veterinarians, including myself. Instead, I wondered, have we overstated the danger of tomatoes? Are ripe, cooked tomatoes safe for our canine friends?

Historically, our caution towards tomatoes stems from solanine, a glycoalkaloid found primarily in the green parts of the tomato plant, including unripe tomatoes, leaves, and stems. Solanine, in substantial amounts, is indeed toxic to dogs. However, the concentration significantly drops as the tomato ripens and is negligible in red, mature fruits.

This leads me to wonder — perhaps the danger is not with tomatoes per se, but rather with their unripe fruit, stems, and leaves. Bobi was one of several dogs that have done fine on tomatoes. Leonel, Bobi's dad, has given tomatoes to his other dogs, some of whom lived for more than twenty years!

After all these observations and the lack of empirical evidence against feeding ripe, particularly cooked tomatoes to dogs, I've decided not to avoid them when feeding my dog Pax.

Can dogs eat tomatoes?

Yes, they can, but the choice of feeding your dog tomatoes should be based on individual discretion and understanding. Given current knowledge, I cannot outright recommend tomatoes for everyone else's dogs.

Still, it may be time to reevaluate and update our advice on tomatoes for dogs. I take this as a reminder that we, veterinarians, must constantly scrutinize our recommendations to ensure we’re providing the most accurate and beneficial advice to dog parents, no matter how established some opinions are.

I invite you to read our comprehensive guide on safe fruits for dogs to find out what healthy treats you can add to your dog's diet.

Nutritional benefits of tomatoes for dogs

Tomatoes are nutrient-dense fruit high in vitamins C and A, crucial for immune function, vision health, and skin and hair integrity. They also provide a good amount of potassium, which supports heart health and maintains blood pressure levels.

Moreover, tomatoes are well known for their high lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant associated with a lower risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Lycopene is also known for its potential skin-protective properties against UV damage.

Additionally, the folic acid in tomatoes makes them a beneficial dietary choice for pregnant individuals, as it is crucial for preventing neural tube defects in infants. Their vitamin C content aids in iron absorption, which can help prevent anemia. 

In short, tomatoes are a versatile and tasty ingredient and a nutritional powerhouse offering a wide range of health benefits for dogs.

Interesting tomato facts most people don't know

The tomato has a fascinating history and cultural significance. Here are a few curiosities about tomatoes:

  1. Origin - The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. It was first used as food by the Aztecs and other Native American peoples in southern Mexico.
  1. European Introduction - Spanish explorers brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century. Initially, they were grown as ornamental plants and were believed to be poisonous due to their resemblance to the deadly nightshade plant.
  1. The Poisonous Myth - Many Europeans feared tomatoes for a long time because they were thought to be poisonous. This was because tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, which includes several poisonous species. Tomatoes are indeed toxic if you eat the leaves and stems, but the fruit is perfectly safe for consumption.
  1. The Pizza Connection - Tomatoes gained widespread acceptance in Europe in the late 18th century. In Italy, poor people began using tomatoes in tarts and pies, eventually leading to the invention of pizza.
  1. Botanical Confusion - Is tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit because they form from a flower and contain seeds. However, culinary contexts often treat them as vegetables because of their savoury flavour.
  1. Variety - There are about 10,000 varieties of tomatoes worldwide, varying in size, shape, and colour. They range from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes and from round to pear-shaped. In addition, they can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or even black.
  1. The Tomato Festival - In Spain, the town of Buñol hosts an annual festival called La Tomatina. Thousands of participants throw ripe tomatoes at each other in a massive tomato fight. This peculiar event has been held since 1945 and is a significant tourist attraction.
  1. The Great Tomato Debate - In the USA, a case reached the Supreme Court in 1893 to decide whether tomatoes were a fruit or vegetable. The court ruled that for trade purposes, tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable since they were typically served with dinner and not dessert. However, the ruling was about prices, as vegetables were subject to import duties, whereas fruits weren’t. 

    Can dogs eat tomatoes - FAQ

    • Can dogs eat raw tomatoes?

    Yes, but only ripe, red tomatoes that have been thoroughly washed. If you want to feed your dog tomatoes, avoid green or unripe tomatoes as these are high in solanine, a natural chemical that is toxic to dogs.

    • How much tomato is safe for dogs?

    Tomatoes should be fed in moderation, as a treat. You can start by giving your dog one or two slices to see how they react.

    • Can dogs eat cherry tomatoes?

    Yes, as with regular tomatoes, make sure they're ripe first and feed in moderation.

    • Are tomatoes poisonous for dogs?

    No, ripe tomatoes are safe for dogs as an occasional treat. Make sure to remove the stems and leaves and avoid green tomatoes as these contain solanine and tomatine that are toxic to dogs.

    • Can dogs have tomato juice?

    Yes, if the juice is homemade and made from ripe tomatoes. Avoid feeding your dog store bought tomato juice as it can contain preservatives, additives and seasonings that are bad for dogs.

     

    About the author

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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