There's nothing like the taste of a ripe, juicy tomato with all that summertime flavor. If you're a fan of the fleshy fruit, yes tomatoes are technically a fruit, or you're growing tomato plants in your garden this spring, there are a few things to know when it comes to letting your dog have a taste.
"Tomatoes in moderation are not toxic for dogs," says Dr. Joanna Woodnutt a veterinarian at BreedAdvisor, a breed guide project on the care and ownership of dogs. While tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, they produce tomatine instead of solanine. This makes them much less toxic than other plants in this family (looking at you Nightshade, Black Nightshade, European Bittersweet, and Climbing Nightshade!).
"Tomatine is only toxic in very high concentrations, and ripe tomatoes contain hardly any of this compound," says Dr. Woodnutt. Tomatoes are not generally considered toxic to dogs, but there are some things to keep in mind.
Avoid Tomato Plants and Unripe Tomatoes
Tomato plants (the stems, roots, and leaves) contain significantly more tomatine than the fruit, so if your dog eats any of the plants you're growing, they're at a much greater risk of poisoning.
Likewise, unripe tomatoes also contain more tomatine than ripe ones—though still a small amount. "In reality, most dogs would have to eat a lot of unripe tomatoes and plants (think consuming your entire tomato garden) to suffer from tomatine poisoning. They'd likely suffer stomach upset from eating so much fiber and natural sugars long before they reached a high enough dose to become poisoned," says Dr. Woodnutt.
Still, it's best to keep your dog and tomato plants separated if you suspect he could munch on them when no one's watching.
Signs of Tomato Poisoning in Dogs
Tomato poisoning symptoms, only likely to occur in dogs that eat the whole plant, many plants, or unripe fruit, include:
Lack of coordination
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Unripe Tomatoes or Tomato Plants
"Unless you have a very small dog (15 lbs. or smaller), it's unlikely that even several unripe tomatoes or a couple of leaves will cause a problem," says Dr. Woodnutt. If you do find your dog eating tomato plants or unripe tomatoes, you should make sure they cannot eat anymore by creating a barrier to keep plants off-limits.
Dr. Woodnutt says, if your dog is very young, very old, or very small, it's worth calling your vet for their advice. Otherwise, it's usually safe to simply observe your dog for 48 hours and call your vet if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Tomatoes?
Cooked tomatoes or sauces made from tomatoes may be safe for your dog to eat, but you should make sure that they haven't been cooked with other toxins. Avoid garlic and onion, which are commonly added to sauces, or cooked foods seasoned with spices, like salt and pepper, which could give your pup an upset stomach.
A Few Other Things to Consider
If your dog is around garden tomatoes or you give him a bite of a ripe tomato, make sure they don't have fertilizer or pesticides on them. This could make the tomatoes more dangerous and make your dog sick.
And of course, remember that while fully ripe tomatoes are safe for your dog to eat, they should only be given as an occasional treat and are not a substitute for a properly balanced diet.
As always, consult your veterinarian before adding any new foods to your dog's diet.