The short answer is... Maybe. It depends. The long answer, however, requires a little insight into the tiny world of the tomato.
So if you're looking to share your juicy tomatoes with your four legged friend then read on, and ensure that you know when tomatoes are safe to feed your dog.
Can Your Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
General consensus shows that care must be taken when you feed your dog tomatoes. Tomatoes can be safe for dogs, but only in certain circumstances and in moderation. Typically, tomatoes contain chemicals that are unhealthy for dogs, and dog parents should ensure that they are safe before eating. If dogs ingest these chemicals at certain concentrations they can cause poisoning.
What is it About Tomatoes?
The key chemical found in tomatoes that can pose problems for your dog is Tomatine. Tomatine is a potentially toxic substance when ingested in certain quantities or concentrations, and as it is found naturally in the tomato and tomato plants. As such great care should be taken when letting your dogs eat tomatoes. In fact, tomatine has been known to poison humans too!
The humble tomato is part of the nightshade family, a grouping of plants, fruits and vegetables from the family Solanaceae. You may know the flower deadly nightshade, or Belladonna which is famous for being toxic to humans, but plenty of human foods fall into the same family as well. Tomatoes, potatoes and peppers are just some of the list of foods from this family.
Besides from the potentially toxic chemicals, care should be taken when you feed your dog any new foods, as dogs, like humans, can have hidden allergies which can cause an allergic reaction. It is a dog owners responsibility to ensure that they are only feeding their dogs safe foods!
Tomatine - A Dogs Enemy!
Tomatine is the tomato plants natural defense against insects, acting as a natural insecticide, and is found in large amounts on unripe tomatoes and green tomatoes, these areas contain huge amounts of tomatine and should be avoided. As such, you should never let your dog eat unripe tomatoes. Green tomatoes are not good for dogs and if your dog eats green tomatoes you should keep a keen eye out as they may suffer from tomatine poisoning. Green does NOT mean go in the tomato world.
However, as a tomato ripens, the levels of tomatine contained within will drop dramatically. This is why it is generally considered safe to include ripe tomatoes in your dog's diet - only in moderation of course. Ripe tomato can be a healthy treat for your dog, as long as you keep the portion sizes small, and feed with caution.
Alongside the tomato itself, tomatine is also found within tomato plants. In fact, most of the tomatine is found throughout other parts of the tomato plant, inside the roots, vines, stems and leaves, making these parts even more toxic than green tomatoes themselves. This means that tomato plants themselves are not dog safe, and will make your dog sick if ingested. The tomato leaves and other green parts of the tomato plant contain extremely high concentrations of tomatine.
Why Might Your Dog Eat Tomatoes?
Even if you are extremely vigilant about the foods that your dogs eat, your dog may still snuffle out some tomatoes or other plants that can make them ill.
Sometimes your shopping delivery can contain green tomato, or your dog may even accidentally eat a few unripened tomatoes, or even ripe tomatoes in too much quantities that you have been keeping in the cupboards or the fridge!
Note to Gardeners
If you are a gardener with allotments or a tomato garden, your tomato plant should be considered particularly dangerous to your dog's health. Whether your plant contains ripe or unripe tomatoes, Your dog may be tempted to take a bite of the juicy hanging fruits - and even if these are ripe red tomatoes this can be dangerous as they may take some of the other green parts of the plant with them. The very parts that contain high concentrations of tomatine.
Nutritional Benefits of Ripe Tomatoes
Dogs can eat an occasional treat, and this can sometimes consist of red tomatoes, providing they're ripe. If you want to feed your dog either raw tomatoes or cooked tomatoes, there are some nutritional benefits to this.
Health Benefits of Tomatoes Include:
Lycopene - May reduce the risk of heart disease and promote strong bones.
Vitamin C - Helps with vision.
Vitamin A - Good for dogs skin.
Beta Carotene - Can improve cognition
Potassium - Helps to regulate blood pressure.
Tomato pomace is an ingredient that is common to find in pet food, and can be listed as a minor ingredient. This is the skin, seeds and pulp of raw tomatoes that has been crushed up and is totally safe to eat. This ingredient is used as it is high in soluble fiber and promotes both healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Signs of Tomato Poisoning in Dogs
It is important for dog parents to know the signs of tomatine poisoning in dogs, so that you know when to take action if your dogs eat tomatoes. Toxicity symptoms usually centre around gastrointestinal upset and stomach upset, most dogs will experience some form of this.
So if your furry friend manages to sneak some tomatoes in then look out for the following:
Weakness or lethargy
Loss of appetite
Tremors or seizures
If you Suspect Your Dog Has Been Poisoned
If you witness any of these symptoms in your dog, or you even suspect that your furry friend has ingested tomatoes in any form, then its time to call your emergency vet immediately. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your pooch treat them appropriately, especially as these symptoms can also be signs of other serious health conditions.
If your dog experiences difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, hives, swelling, gas, diarrhea or other symptoms of allergies this could mean your dog is having an allergic reaction which could lead to anaphylaxis. Again, this is an urgent condition which will require immediate and emergency veterinary attention.
Other Foods Containing Tomatoes
Can dogs eat tomato sauce? No. Its always best to avoid pasta sauce, as tomato sauces and even tomato soup can contain a host of ingredients that can be detrimental to the health of your dog. Onions, chives and even garlic can be unsafe to feed your dog so you should avoid giving your dogs anything from your plate on Italian night!
In terms of tomato sauce, or ketchup, it is generally safe for your dog to eat. It is however usually lacking any nutritional content, and also usually contains added sugars, so you should avoid going out of your way to include this in your dog foods.
Important Note Regarding Xylitol
It's important to note that you must always ensure to read the ingredient labels, as sauces (especially ketchup) can contain Xylitol, which is a sugar substitute. Xylitol is extremely toxic and poisonings should be treated as soon as possible otherwise they can be fatal.
If you want to feed tomatoes to your dog, or include them as part of your dog food, you must always ensure that they are fully ripe tomatoes. Remember, green is not go when it comes to tomatoes, whether a ripe tomato or fresh tomatoes - moderation is key and caution should always be taken.
Feeding your dogs raw tomatoes or cooked tomatoes occasionally can be good for dogs, especially as dogs love treats! As with all treats, you should feed sparingly, and ensure that you follow the guidance, do your research and listen to the advice of your vets.