Reevaluating tomatoes and dogs:
A potential misunderstanding in canine nutrition
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, and there doesn’t appear to be any confirmation that tomatoes are bad for dogs.
Is it possible that claims of tomatoes being toxic for dogs are completely groundless?
My curiosity was piqued by a fascinating encounter with Bobi, the oldest dog in the world, who has, 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 is 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 have decided not to avoid them when feeding my dog. However, given current knowledge, I cannot outright recommend tomatoes for everyone else's pets. The choice should be based on individual discretion and understanding.
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 for pet owners, no matter how established some opinions are.
Nutritional benefits of tomatoes:
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.
Interesting Tomato Facts:
The tomato has a fascinating history and cultural significance. Here are a few curiosities about tomatoes:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Botanical Confusion - Is it 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 tariffs, as vegetables were subject to import duties, whereas fruits weren’t.