Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes? Healthy or Harmful?
Tomatoes can support a dog’s immune system, coat, vision and allergies. They can even help protect dogs from sunburn. However, dogs that are sensitive to lectin may find tomatoes too hard on digestion, acid reflux, allergies, inflammation and even autoimmune conditions. Tomatoes should be organic, ripe and skin-free.
During tomato season (or anytime during the year), our dog dances for joy when he gets a nibble of a ripe, organic tomato in his food dish! Sometimes we level up on the fun by playing a game of “catch” with cherry tomatoes!
If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have a dog that eats what he instinctively knows is good for him, but pet parents still need to know what their dogs should and shouldn’t consume.
Tomatoes have many health benefits – but they may not be right for every dog. There’s a good reason that there is a lot of controversy when it comes to deciding whether or not to give tomatoes to your dog. Let’s start with the benefits.
There’s a good reason that there is a lot of controversy about giving dogs tomatoes. Organic, ripened tomatoes are generally fine – unless your dog has a lectin allergy.
Are Tomatoes Good for Dogs?
Tomatoes contain several vitamins and substances that contribute to a dog’s excellent health. Tomatoes’ primary nutrients include lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which helps to give tomatoes their red colour, and protects against reddened skin associated with sunburn. Dogs do get sunburned, so starting to give organic, ripened tomatoes 3 months before the summer sun can give your dog a bit of protection from burns! For best absorption, add a little healthy oil like olive or coconut oil, and choose organic, vine-ripened tomatoes without skin.
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid in tomatoes that converts to vitamin A, giving dogs a glossy healthy coat, a strong immune system, good vision and protection against cancer.
Most people know that Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair tissue, supports the immune system and can reduce allergy symptoms. Although dogs produce their own Vitamin C, those with allergies benefit from an additional food source high in this antioxidant. As a dog ages, he relies more on food sources rich in Vitamin C, as he becomes less efficient at producing his own.
If your dog suffers from allergies, increase Vitamin C-rich foods, plus try this homemade dog cookie recipe with healing herbs designed to lessen allergy symptoms.
Tomatoes have both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre helps to feed the healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut – which is where most of his immune system is located. The other type of fibre tomatoes have is insoluble fibre, which we are pretty familiar with – this is the stuff that gives stool bulk and moves toxins out of the body.
So far, tomatoes sound like a powerhouse of nutrition for our dogs! However, there are a few things we need to be cautious about, before bringing home a basket of vine-ripened tomatoes.
Are Tomatoes Harmful for Dogs?
For the majority of dogs, nibbling on a fresh or cooked tomato is perfectly fine. Note: if you’re cooking tomatoes in a pasta sauce, ensure your dog only gets pure tomato with a little olive oil. However, for some dogs, a substance in tomatoes called lectin can promote or aggravate underlying health conditions.
Most foods contain a substance called lectin, a protein that attaches to carbohydrates, causing them to clump together. There are several types of lectins though, and some foods contain much more lectin than others. Lectin can also be decreased through cooking. So this is where the lectin debate can become a little confusing.
Tomatoes are considered a nightshade vegetable – along with bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes and goji berries. And yes, nightshades contain high amounts of lectin, but so do many other foods.
Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, soybeans), grains (especially wheat), and commercial dairy milk contain lectin. Even “grain-free” processed dog kibble is filled with lectin-containing starch. So the key is to balance the benefits and less desirable effects of all foods that your dog eats – including foods that contain lectin.
Benefits and Downsides of Lectin
Lectin has several benefits such as:
- acting like a natural insecticide and fungicide
- protecting cells from free radical damage
- adding fibre and bulk to stool
- feeding helpful gut bacteria
- keeping blood sugar stable by slowing digestion of carbohydrates
- regulating body fat
- helping to destroy cancer cells
However, for some people and pets (or in high amounts), lectins can have some less desirable effects:
- disrupting digestive enzymes, potentially leading to deficiencies in minerals (zinc, iron, calcium and phosphorous) and leaky gut
- causing bloating, diarrhea and nausea
- contributing to inflammation
- shifting hormones into imbalances
- attaching to bacteria and viruses, making dogs more prone to infections
This means, feeding your dog large amounts of lectins can potentially contribute to gut problems and lead to:
- food sensitivities
- yeast infections
- digestive issues
- thyroid problems
- autoimmune disorders
If your dog has any of the above conditions, it’s best to limit foods that are high in lectins. Consider shifting to a completely whole foods, natural raw diet with no processed, starchy kibble.
Can you see what the tomato debate is about now? Breathe – we’ve got your covered. Simply remember that all foods are a sum of their many parts – vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals – so offering your dog a wide variety of fresh, whole foods is essential.
Unless your dog is lectin-intolerant, feeding ripe, organic tomatoes in small amounts is fine. Just remove the skin and all leaves and stems first.
All foods are a sum of their many parts.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Can Eat Lectin?
After eating tomatoes, watch your dog. If he shows any of the following signs, he may be sensitive to lectin. In this case, check all labels on his food for high lectin ingredients, and avoid whenever possible:
- itchy skin, hives
- acid reflux
- difficulty breathing
What Kinds of Tomatoes are Best for Dogs?
As long as tomatoes are fresh or cooked, without stems and leaves, and fully ripe, the type doesn’t matter. Tomatoes should always be organic though, to avoid harmful pesticides. Organic foods (including organic dry dog food) contain 95% less pesticides than non-organic foods – and avoiding pesticides gives us vital protection from chronic diseases like cancer and autoimmune illnesses. Being organic also ensures tomatoes are not genetically modified to contain more potentially harmful lectins engineered to keep fungus and pests in check.
Ensure Tomatoes are Ripe
Unripe, green tomatoes and their leaves and stems contain an alkaloid called tomatine that is toxic to dogs. Never give a dog green tomatoes, stems or leaves. Tomatine poisoning can cause symptoms including:
- trouble walking or standing
- nausea or vomiting
Studies also show that naturally ripened tomatoes (not ones sprayed with synthetic ethylene gas) have higher amounts of nutrients, and this is a good thing!
Never give a dog a green, unripened tomato, stems or leaves
A large amount of lectin is in the skin and seeds of the tomato. Peel the skin and remove seeds from tomatoes before feeding. This removes most of the potentially harmful lectin proteins.
Add Lectin-Neutralizing Foods
Some nutrients will neutralize lectin, allowing you to give your dog the benefits of tomatoes while limiting potential undesirable effects. One of these nutrients is glucosamine. Foods with lots of cartilage (like pig’s feet, beef knuckle bones and bone broth) bind to lectin, so feeding your dog healthy bone broth along with tomatoes give him all the benefits while limiting potential issues associated with lectin. And, if your dog has any type of joint problems including arthritis, bone broth is a must-make nutrient powerhouse!
We love this bone broth recipe – add some organic tomatoes at the end of the cooking cycle for a super healthy boost!
Can Dogs Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
Cherry or grape tomatoes make a fun treat for dogs – just remove all stems and leaves first, as those are toxic. Choose ripe organic tomatoes. Although it’s preferable to remove the skin to minimize lectin, it’s not essential.
Can Dogs Eat Sun Dried Tomatoes?
It’s preferable to feed your dog fresh or cooked organic, vine-ripened tomatoes rather than sun-dried ones. However, small amounts are generally safe. Choose sun-dried tomatoes that are plain, organic and preservative-free and cut up into small pieces to prevent choking. Avoid giving your dog sun-dried tomatoes soaked in oil, preservatives, salt and other spices. Fat can cause digestive upset or contribute to excess calories, and salt and preservatives can lead to dehydration and toxic overload.
Can Dogs Eat Tomato Soup?
Dogs should not eat tomato soup due to common unhealthy additives such as salt, sugar and onions. Popular tomato soup brands also add high fructose corn syrup and wheat – two ingredients dogs should not consume. If you want to share a little bowl of tomato “soup” with your favourite fur soul, simmer some plain organic tomatoes with homemade bone broth. Add a bit of olive oil for a healthy soup your dog (and you!) can safely enjoy.
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes? The Bottom Line
For healthy dogs who are not sensitive to lectins, there are several health benefits (and pure joy) in offering organic, vine-ripened, peeled tomatoes. To reduce lectins, gently cook tomatoes in bone broth to boost the healing benefits and give your beautiful Fur Soul a long, healthy life.
Be kind to all living beings. Respect the earth we share.