Every summer when I was a kid, my dad planted cherry tomatoes. They grew so tall that they would tower over me. I loved going outside and picking a fresh bowlful, giving them a quick rinse, and then quickly gobbling them up like they were candy! Yummmm — I’m drooling just thinking about them! If you’re a tomato-lover like I am then you may question: Can dogs eat tomatoes too?
Short answer: Yes and no. Let me explain!
Tomatoes and Dogs: What Pet Parents Need To Know
Before we dive into the many nutrients packed inside, let’s take a closer look at why tomatoes are an on-the-fence food for Fido.
Tomatoes, while often referred to as a vegetable in the culinary world, are technically a fruit. And, taking things one step further, this popular fruit belongs to the nightshade family. Like other nightshades, tomatoes contain a substance called Solanine, which is harmful to dogs in large quantities.
But here’s the thing: Solanine is mostly found in the green parts of a tomato. So, that would be the stems, leaves, and unripened green tomatoes.
As they ripen and morph from green into a beautiful red, the amount of solanine reduces. That’s why experts say red, ripe tomatoes are generally considered safe for dogs in moderate amounts. Just avoid the green stems and leaves!
If you’re a plant mom and have a tomato garden, consider fencing off the plants so your pup can’t get to them.
Solanine Poisoning In Dogs
Let me start this section by saying solanine poisoning is rare in dogs. But, if your dog has consumed raw tomatoes — or large amounts of tomato stems and leaves — then keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Upset tummy
- Cardiac effects
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
Again, this is very rare! But, if you do notice any symptoms, call your veterinarian. You may need to see an emergency vet immediately.
If your pup is curious about tomatoes and seems to enjoy them, offering a bite or two as an occasional treat is totally fine. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 small, raw, whole tomato (2-2/5” dia) (91 g) is packed with:
- Water – 89 g
- Calories – 16.4
- Protein – 0.8
- Total Fat – 0.18
- Carbs – 3.54 g
- Fiber – 1.09 g
- Total Sugar – 2.39 g
- Calcium – 9.1 mg
- Iron – 0.24 mg
- Magnesium – 10 mg
- Phosphorus – 21.8 mg
- Potassium – 216 mg
- Sodium – 4.55 mg
- Zinc – 0.15 mg
- Folate – 13.6 µg
- Choline – 6.1 mg
- Lycopene – 2340 µg
- Lutein + zeaxanthin – 112 µg
- Beta Carotene – 409 µg
- Vitamin A – 38.2 µg
- Vitamin C – 12.5
- Vitamin E – 0.491 mg
- Vitamin K – 7.19 µg
Health Benefits of Tomatoes
In general, tomatoes should only be an occasional treat, in moderate amounts. So, don’t rely on tomatoes for their health benefits. But, the many nutrients inside are linked to the following:
- A Hydrating Bite – Tomatoes are 95% water, making them a hydrating bite.
- Supports a Strong Immune System – Tomatoes are very rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants that help support a strong immune system
- Great Addition To An Anti-Cancer Diet – Tomatoes contain something called lycopene, an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Along with giving tomatoes their gorgeous red color, researchers have studied lycopene for anti-cancer effects. Experts say it may help prevent or slow down the progression of some types of cancer.
- Promotes Heart Health – Along with having anti-cancer benefits, lycopene also reportedly promotes heart health.
- Promotes Eye Health – Eyes need many types of antioxidants to stay healthy. They include lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. All of these nutrients are found in tomatoes!
To quickly recap from earlier: Only feed ripened tomatoes that are free of all green stems and leaves.
Tomatoes make the Dirty Dozen list, which means they’re ranked one of the most pesticide-laden foods on the shelf. So, when feeding them to your dog, opt for organic when possible. Plus, make sure to wash them thoroughly.
Serve them fresh without any seasonings or additives. Additionally, cut them into bite-size pieces to avoid a choking hazard.
As with any new food, introduce it slowly into your dog’s diet to see how he handles it. While rare, tomato allergy is possible. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with your veterinarian.
Get More Doggy Food Facts
This feature is part of a weekly web series called Food Facts Friday. Every Friday, we share foods that are great for our canine companions. Check out other foods highlighted in this series HERE!