Dogs are curious and helpful creatures, but sometimes their ideas of being helpful are not the same as our own. For example, if your dog decided to help you finish your sandwich which happened to have a big slice of tomato on it. The sandwich is gone, the dog is happy, but now you are worried about the tomato and whether or not it is safe for your dog.
Tomatoes are in the nightshade family. Generally, these plants are very toxic to most animals, including humans, and should be avoided at all costs. Plants in the nightshade family contain a chemical called “solanine” or, in the case of tomatoes, “tomatine”. This chemical can cause shortness of breath, slow heart rate, seizures, and other serious medical issues in dogs.
However, both solanine and tomatine are concentrated in the leaves, stems, and unripe fruit of the tomato plant. If you feed your dog a fully ripe, bright red tomato, there will not be enough solanine or tomatine present to cause a toxic reaction.
Can dogs eat tomatoes? Yes, and no. If the tomato is fully ripe, bright red, and looks plump and fresh, it is okay to offer a piece to your dog. If the tomato is green or pale, not fully ripe, or is starting to age and get wilted, do not offer it to your dog. Avoid the leaves, stems and roots of the tomato plant entirely as these are toxic.
Having said that, most vets agree that it is best to avoid feeding your dog table scraps in general. And while a perfectly ripe tomato is safe to offer your dog in moderation, some dogs do show reactions to the high levels of acidity in the vegetable. When in doubt, it might be best to avoid tomatoes entirely.
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
When referring to the fully ripe, bright red fruit of the actual tomato plant, yes dogs can eat them. However, tomatoes are very acidic which can cause stomach upset in dogs if fed too often. Moderation is key, and very small bite-size pieces are perfectly fine for your dog to enjoy as a snack or training treat.
When it comes to the unripe tomatoes or parts of the tomato plant itself, no dogs cannot eat them. The unripe fruit, leaves, stems and roots all contain extremely high concentrations of solanine or tomatine which is toxic to dogs.
If your dog has gotten into the garden and may have ingested some of the green leafy parts of the plant, or an unripe and green tomato, it might be time to call your vet. Monitor your dog for potential signs of solanine or tomatine poisoning. These signs can include:
- Vomiting or upset stomach
- Slow heart rate
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
While these are very serious symptoms, they are also rare. A dog would have to ingest a fair amount of the plant or unripe tomatoes before signs of poisoning will start to show. Smaller dogs and puppies will show signs before larger breeds.
How Should You Prepare Tomatoes For Dogs?
If you have some fully ripe, bright red and plump tomatoes, there are a few ways you can offer it to your dog as a snack. The first step is to ensure the tomato is washed free of any pesticide or herbicide that may have been used during the growing process.
After that, you can chop the fresh tomato into small chunks or strips to offer to your dog. You can feed these little pieces by hand, or add them to your dog’s food bowl as a special little garnish. The seeds and jelly-like parts of the inside of a tomato are safe for your dog to eat as well.
Tomato puree or tomato sauce made from fresh or cooked tomatoes is another way to offer this food to your dog. However, make sure you know what ingredients are in the tomato sauce first. Sauces with onions or garlic should be avoided, and excess spices or salt can give your dog an upset stomach.
Canned tomatoes are generally safe as long as the tomato is ripe and does not have any excess salt brine or other preservatives. Look for fully organic canned tomatoes with no preservatives if you want to go this route.
Cooked tomatoes are just as safe as their fresh counterparts, so tomato pomace is a very common option when you want to increase the fibre intake for your dog. Since tomato pomace includes all parts of the cooked tomato, your dog will be getting a full range of benefits from this food.
Is Tomato Good For Dogs?
While we know the unripe fruit and any parts of the plant itself are not safe for your dog, let’s focus on the health benefits of the ripened fruit. Tomatoes are an excellent source of potassium, antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.
You’ll find vitamins A, C and K in tomatoes which are great for improving skin and coat health, bone development, and blood coagulation properties. Other health benefits include better cardiovascular health, improved muscle development, and improved eyesight.
If your dog has issues getting enough fibre in his normal diet, adding tomato pomace as a supplement can be beneficial. The pomace form has an incredibly high amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre which can be great for dogs that have some digestive or gastrointestinal issues.
The Bottom Line
Unripe tomatoes or any part of the plant itself are not safe for dogs.
Ripe tomatoes, both fresh and cooked, are safe for dogs.
If your dog got into the garden and ate an unripe tomato or any part of the plant, monitor him closely for signs of solanine or tomatine poisoning. Signs may include vomiting, loss of coordination, heart rate changes, or seizures. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any signs, even if they are mild.
If your dog shows an interest in fully ripe tomatoes, you can offer small pieces of the fresh tomato as a snack or occasional treat. Cooked fully ripe tomatoes are a safe treat as well, though be aware that tomato sauces can have other ingredients that should be avoided such as garlic or onions.