Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?

Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes

When it comes to whether your dog can share your food the answer is usually straightforward … it’s either yes or no. But it isn’t that simple with tomatoes. 

Ripe tomatoes fed as a treat can be great for your dog … they’re full of antioxidants and fiber your dog needs. But green tomatoes (along with tomato stems and leaves) are a whole different story. If your dog gets his paws on these, they could poison him. 

So today I’ll talk about how to feed tomatoes to your dog and what to do if he accidentally eats any green parts. 

But first, let’s talk about why tomatoes are good for your dog. 

Tomatoes Are Full Of Antioxidants

Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade vegetable family along with …

  • Potatoes 
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant

Ripe tomatoes are safe for dogs to eat and are full of beneficial antioxidants. Your dog needs antioxidants to keep free radicals in check and prevent oxidative stress. 

You see, your dog’s body contains damaged cells called free radicals. To try and make themselves whole again, they attack healthy cells. This causes healthy cells to become damaged, which creates even more free radicals. If the number of free radicals gets out of control, your dog will experience oxidative stress. And that could lead to premature aging, cancer and other diseases. 

Free radicals are a natural byproduct of everyday function within your dog’s body. They’re also a result of …

Your dog has natural defense systems that produce antioxidants internally. But sometimes he needs an extra boost of antioxidants to help get the free radicals under control. That’s where dietary antioxidants come in.

Today I want to talk to you about 3 of the most important ones. 

1. Beta-Carotene 

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid – a plant pigment found in most fruits and veggies. It’s also an antioxidant that fights free radicals. But that isn’t all it can do. Beta-carotene helps with ….

  • Vision health 
  • Immune system function 
  • Cognitive function 
  • Sun protection 
  • Cancer prevention 

Beta-carotene is also provitamin A. That means it converts to vitamin A in your dog’s body. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, coats, muscles and nerves. 

2. Lycopene 

Lycopene is also a carotenoid. It’s responsible for the pink and red color of tomatoes and other produce, like watermelon. As a general rule … the redder the tomato, the higher the concentration of lycopene.

In a human study, participants who ate tomato products were less sensitive to the sun’s rays after 10 to 12 weeks. This means it may be an effective way to help protect your dog from sunburn. Especially when used in combination with other preventative measures. 

Lycopene from tomatoes can also reduce systolic blood pressure. (Systolic is the top number in blood pressure measurements.) This may make it helpful for dogs who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). 

Studies also link a higher risk of heart attack and stroke to low levels of lycopene. Further experiments show lycopene supplementation can help reduce the risk of strokes

RELATED: 4 reasons your dog may need sunscreen …

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the last antioxidant I want to talk about. Vitamin C not only helps prevent oxidative stress and chronic illness, it’s also needed to …

  • Grow and repair tissue 
  • Boost the immune system to fight off infection 
  • Help the adrenal gland function properly 
  • Form calcium and iron 
  • Reduce allergy symptoms 

Unlike humans, dogs can produce their own vitamin C but sometimes they need a bit extra added to their food. If your dog suffers from allergies or you think he needs an antioxidant or immune boost, vitamin C is a good choice. 

You also want to supplement vitamin C rich foods if your dog is over the age of 7. This is because dogs have trouble producing vitamin C as they get older. 

Finally, your dog should get more vitamin C during times of stress. Your dog needs vitamin C to produce anti-stress hormones. So when your dog is physically or mentally stressed, he may not have enough of this important nutrient left for other important functions. Common sources of stress for your dog include: 

  • High-intensity exercise 
  • New places 
  • Traveling 
  • Vaccines 
  • Medication 
  • New routines 
  • Moving 

If your dog is experiencing any of these, consider a vitamin C boost using whole foods like tomatoes. While you can get your dog a vitamin C supplement, these are synthetic vitamins. Your dog’s body won’t absorb them as well as natural vitamins from whole foods. 

RELATED: Learn more about why your dog needs vitamin C …

Tomatoes Are Full Of Fiber

Fruits and vegetables are full of healthy fibers your dog needs. There are two main types of fiber … soluble and insoluble. 

Soluble fiber is prebiotic, which means that it travels to the colon where it feeds the bacteria living there. This helps maintain a healthy microbiome and improves your dog’s immune system. After all, nearly 90% of his immune system is in his gut. 

The second type of fiber is insoluble, which accounts for 87% of the fiber in tomatoes. It’s not prebiotic but it does help regulate bowel movements by adding bulk to your dog’s stool. It also helps renew and strengthen the cells that line your dog’s gut. This is an important step in preventing diseases like leaky gut. 

RELATED: How your dog’s gut controls his health …

Stems, Leaves And Green Tomatoes Are Toxic 

A nice ripe red tomato can be very good for your dog. But anything green could make him very sick because of a substance called tomatine

Tomatine is in the stem and leaves, as well as green tomatoes that haven’t ripened yet. Tomatine is an alkaloid (naturally occurring compound) … and it’s very toxic to dogs. 

Signs Of Tomatine Poisoning
  • Digestive upset 
  • Ataxia
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Weakness 
  • Tremors 
  • Seizures 

Tomatine is also sometimes mistaken for solanine, another alkaloid that is toxic to dogs. Higher concentrations of solanine are found in potatoes and other nightshades, but tomatoes contain it as well. Solanine toxicity is rare in dogs because of the amount of greens they would have to eat but you should be aware of the symptoms …

Signs Of Solanine Toxicity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Confusion

Some people also believe solanine can aggravate arthritis, but this has not been proven by any studies to date

If you know your dog has eaten the stem, leaves or a green tomato, contact your holistic vet. 

How To Prevent Tomatine Poisoning 

The best way to prevent tomatine poisoning is to make sure your dog can’t get hold of any …

  • Stems
  • Leaves 
  • Green tomatoes

The safest place to store your tomatoes (especially if they have leaves and stems) is in the fridge. But not everyone likes to refrigerate their tomatoes as it can change the taste and texture.

If you prefer to leave them at room temperature, you’ll want to take some extra precautions … even if they’re ripe. While ripe tomatoes aren’t dangerous for your dog, they may still have leaves and stems, which are toxic to your dog. 

The first thing you want to do is remove as much of the stems and leaves as possible. That way if your dog does manage to get the tomato, there’s a lower chance of poisoning. Dispose of the leaves and stems in a dog proof garbage can or compost bin. If your dog can get into your garbage or compost, consider storing it in a closet or cupboard. 

If there are still any stems or leaves (or the tomato is green), find somewhere to put them out of your dog’s reach. 

If you grow your own tomato plants … be sure to plant them where your dog can’t get to them … or fence them off. You should keep indoor plants in a room you can close off or high up and out of your dog’s reach. 

How To Feed Tomatoes To Your Dog 

Tomatoes are best served raw to maximize their benefits. When shopping for tomatoes, always buy organic and try to buy local

Tomatoes produce natural ethylene gas as they ripen. The problem is many tomatoes get picked before they’re ripe to extend their shelf life. To help make them red before selling, they’ll get sprayed with synthetic ethylene gas.

The problem is picking tomatoes while they are green and treating them with ethylene gas can alter the flavor and texture. Studies also show that vine-ripened tomatoes have more nutrients than those ripened with synthetic ethylene gas.

Most local farmers don’t use the same practice, and instead let the tomato ripen naturally. This means their tomatoes are free of synthetic ethylene gas and more nutritious.

Once you have your tomatoes and are ready to share them with your dog, you want to remove the skin and seeds. While there’s more lycopene in the skin, the skin (and seeds) also contain lectins that can be harmful to your dog. 

RELATED: Why your dog shouldn’t have lectins …

And remember … make sure the tomato is ripe and red before you serve it and remove the stems and leaves. You’ll also want to serve tomato with a source of healthy fats when possible. Fat will help your dog absorb the lycopene. 

Dogs That Shouldn’t Have Tomatoes 

Ripe tomatoes are safe for most dogs, though some dogs may have allergies. If you see allergy symptoms soon after giving your dog tomato then you will want to put it on the no list. Allergy symptoms include: 

  • Itchy skin
  • Hives 
  • Swelling 
  • Difficulty breathing 

You also don’t want to feed tomatoes to dogs who have acid reflux. Tomatoes may aggravate these conditions. 

Tomato Based Products

If you want to give your dog tomatoes it is best to stick with fresh ones. Tomato based products may have additives that your dog doesn’t need. Some may even be dangerous for him. 

Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes? 

Tomatoes are full of antioxidants and fiber that can benefit your dog. But always make sure you have removed the leaves and stem and that the tomato is ripe before feeding it. Otherwise your dog could get tomatine poisoning. 

If your dog does manage to eat a green tomato or the leaves and stems, watch for signs of poisoning. Give your vet a call at the first sign of any symptom. 

Out of tomatoes but want to give your dog a healthy dose of antioxidants? Try these nutritious fruits and veggies instead … 

References

Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefitsNutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1417-35. 

Karppi J, Laukkanen JA, Sivenius J, Ronkainen K, Kurl S. Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men: a population-based follow-up studyNeurology. 2012 Oct 9;79(15):1540-7. 

Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, Cooper DA, Eldridge AL, Schwartz SJ, White WS. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detectionAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004 Aug;80(2):396-403. 

Riso P, Visioli F, Grande S, Guarnieri S, Gardana C, Simonetti P, Porrini M. Effect of a tomato-based drink on markers of inflammation, immunomodulation, and oxidative stress. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2006 Apr 5;54(7):2563-6.

Basu A, Imrhan V. Tomatoes versus lycopene in oxidative stress and carcinogenesis: conclusions from clinical trialsEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007 Mar;61(3):295-303. 

Sato R, Helzlsouer KJ, Alberg AJ, Hoffman SC, Norkus EP, Comstock GW. Prospective study of carotenoids, tocopherols, and retinoid concentrations and the risk of breast cancerCancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2002 May;11(5):451-7. 

Aune D, Chan DS, Vieira AR, Navarro Rosenblatt DA, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, Norat T. Dietary compared with blood concentrations of carotenoids and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studiesAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 Aug;96(2):356-73.

Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, Tronnier H, Sies H. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotectionPhotochemical and Photobiological Sciences. 2006 Feb;5(2):238-42. 

Chen J, Song Y, Zhang L. Lycopene/tomato consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studiesJournal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo). 2013;59(3):213-23. 

Holzapfel NP, Holzapfel BM, Champ S, Feldthusen J, Clements J, Hutmacher DW. The potential role of lycopene for the prevention and therapy of prostate cancer: from molecular mechanisms to clinical evidenceInternational Journal of Molecular Science. 2013 Jul 12;14(7):14620-46. 

Lin PH, Aronson W, Freedland SJ. Nutrition, dietary interventions and prostate cancer: the latest evidenceBMC Medicine. 2015 Jan 8;13:3. 

Viuda-Martos M, Sanchez-Zapata E, Sayas-Barberá E, Sendra E, Pérez-Álvarez JA, Fernández-López J. Tomato and tomato byproducts. Human health benefits of lycopene and its application to meat products: a reviewCritical Reviews in Food, Science and Nutrition. 2014;54(8):1032-49. 

Karppi J, Laukkanen JA, Mäkikallio TH, Kurl S. Low serum lycopene and β-carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in menEuropean Journal of Public Health. 2012 Dec;22(6):835-40. 

Shin M, Umezewa C, Shin T. Antimicrobial compounds in plantsFood Science. 2014;920-9.

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