It’s natural to want to share everything with our dogs, including treats and snacks. But it’s important to make sure that what we give them is safe and won’t cause any harm.
So … can dogs have lemon?
Citrus fruits like lemons can be good for dogs in small amounts, but they can also be toxic for dogs if fed excessively or incorrectly. As the saying goes, “the poison is in the dose.”
Here’s everything you need to know to decide if your dog can have lemon or not.
Are Lemons Safe For Dogs?
The flesh of lemons is safe for dogs to eat, but not in large quantities. However, most dogs aren’t particularly attracted to the flavors or aromas of citrus fruits. So don’t be surprised if you try to feed your dog lemons, only to find that he isn’t interested. If you do feed your dog lemons, you should also remove the pith and rind.
If your dog doesn’t mind the citrus taste, eating small amounts of lemon is safe for dogs, and can even have several benefits (more on this later). However, feeding too much lemon, or feeding it too often, can be toxic for dogs.
How Much Lemon Is Toxic To Dogs?
Lemon flesh isn’t toxic to dogs as long as you limit it to small quantities. To err on the safe side, try to only feed small amounts of the flesh of the lemon, and stay away from feeding lemon juice. It’s also best to feed lemon or other citrus fruits every once in a while, rather than daily.
Lemon For Dogs | Risks & Symptoms of Overfeeding
However, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and lemons are no exception. Here are some of the more common risks to be aware of if you’re considering feeding your dog lemon.
In larger quantities, the citric acid in lemons can be harmful to your dog and his gut. Too much citric acid can damage the gut lining, and may even cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive problems. Plus, a gut that is too alkaline or too acidic can throw the rest of the body out of whack.
Large amounts of citric acid aren’t just a risk to your dog’s gut … they can also erode teeth enamel. The enamel is the thin, outer layer that protects teeth. If too much tooth enamel is worn down, it can cause progressive loss of the surface of the tooth, which carries its own risks and requires complex dental procedures to fix.
When feeding any new food to your dog, it’s always a good idea to start with small amounts to see if there is any allergic reaction. Lemons can cause allergic reactions for some dogs. Rashes, itchiness, lethargy or other symptoms could be a sign that your dog is allergic to lemons or other citrus fruit.
Many synthetic lemon products and flavorings contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. If you’re going to feed your dog lemon, he should only eat the flesh of the real fruit itself – never any artificial juices, syrups, sweeteners, processed foods, or other products. Muscle tremors aren’t a risk for real lemon, but they are one of the first symptoms you may notice if your dog eats xylitol, which can be found in many commercial lemon products.
Why Lemon is Good for Dogs: 5 Benefits
If you find your dog enjoys lemon, there are some benefits to eating it in small quantities. Here are a few big benefits of lemons for dogs:
- Rich Polyphenol Content
Most of the benefits of lemon for dogs come from polyphenols – compounds that are found naturally in fruits and other plants. Even though dogs can’t digest polyphenols directly, they will travel to his colon, where bacteria break them down into healthy by-products, like short-chain fatty acids. Many scientists believe that polyphenols are one reason why diets rich in fruits and vegetables protect people from cancers, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
- Balances The Gut
Polyphenols feed the friendly bacteria in your dog’s gut. They can also bind to the harmful bacteria in the gut to prevent their growth and help the friendly bacteria thrive. Quercetin, a powerful polyphenol found in lemon, can also stop bacteria like E coli from growing.
- Reduces Oxidative Stress
Free radicals can build up in the body, causing oxidative stress and premature aging. As the name implies, antioxidants can help fight this oxidative stress. And fruits like lemon are very rich in antioxidants like flavonoids and vitamin C. So feeding lemons and other fruits may help protect your dog against stress and environmental toxins.
- Inflammation Support
One of the most common problems in dogs today is chronic inflammation. Inflammation is linked to cancer, heart disease, joint disease, and autoimmune diseases. Polyphenols have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties … so they can be a natural tool to protect against some of the most common inflammatory illnesses (1).
- Anti-Cancer Properties
Finally, polyphenols can fight cancer cells by inhibiting DNA methylation, which is a major driver of cancer. Polyphenols can also control cancer cell growth and division, and reactivate silenced genes in cancer cells to cause their death … a process known as apoptosis.
Here are some other common questions we get from pet-owners about whether lemons are safe for dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Lemon Rinds?
No, dogs should not eat lemon rinds. Lemon rinds are not safe for dogs, because they contain psoralen, a compound that is toxic to dogs. If your dog has eaten a lemon rind, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Can Dogs Have Lemon Juice?
No, dogs should not have lemon juice. Lemon juice is much more concentrated in citric acid compared to the flesh of the lemon. Consuming too much citric acid isn’t safe for dogs, as it can lead to digestive problems and dental erosion.
Can Dogs Have Lemon Chicken?
It’s best to avoid feeding your dog lemon chicken. This is because the chicken was probably flavored using lemon juice, rather than the flesh of the lemon. The high amount of citric acid in lemon juice could be toxic for your dog, especially if consumed in large amounts. If artificial lemon flavoring was used on the chicken, it could also contain xylitol, which is highly toxic and life-threatening for dogs.
Can Dogs Have Lemon Yogurt?
Dogs should not have lemon yogurt. Lemon yogurt is likely flavored using lemon juice, or artificial lemon flavoring, which is toxic for dogs. Flavored yogurts are usually high in sugar, as well. We don’t recommend feeding your dog yogurt in general, because many dogs are also lactose intolerant.
Hussain T, Tan B et al. Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:7432797.