As more and more of us try and get ever more vitamins and goodness into our diets, the rise of healthy eating is something affecting every member of our families – and that often includes our pets as well.
Yet dogs have developed very different ways of processing the nutrition in what they eat when compared to their human masters, so it’s often best to question what is and isn’t okay for dogs to eat.
With that in mind, can dogs eat lemons? Not really – read on to find out why.
Are lemons good for dogs?
Unfortunately, lemons are not altogether recommended for dogs to eat, due to their citric acid content and a few other factors that we will delve into shortly.
This is despite the fact that many of these same ingredients and components of lemons do we human beings the power of good.
Dogs can safely eat a small amount of lemon, insofar as their digestive systems are capable of processing it, and there is no immediate toxic danger to them that puts their lives at risk.
And of course, the sourness of the fruit means that dogs eating lemons often prove pretty comical to watch.
However, it’s not worth putting your dog in harm’s way like this for the sake of a few chuckles, and we certainly don’t enjoy the idea of putting our pets through any measure of discomfort.
If you’re keen to see the vitamin content of decent fruit and vegetables get into your dog’s diet, there are safer and more flavorsome ways that your pet can enjoy – think slices of apple every so often, or the odd slice of cucumber to refresh your pooch on a hot day.
The reason why a dog might nonetheless try to beg for slices of lemon when you’re eating them, or happily try and grab a piece of the fruit that has fallen from the kitchen table to the floor, is simply because dogs place their faith in us unconditionally.
If your dog sees you eating something, the chances are that he or she trusts and loves you enough to want to enjoy it with you as well.
It’s perhaps a touch of classic pack mentality as much as it is family values. But unfortunately, our dogs are not as good as we are at distinguishing what foods they should or should not eat.
Despite this, experts and vets, as well as those who have studied canine nutrition, tend to agree that if dogs had not been domesticated by humankind, they’d not elect to eat lemons growing in the wild by themselves. With that in mind, there’s little reason to introduce lemons to your dog’s diet.
Dangers of lemons for dogs
It’s more than just a sour, bitter and generally unappealing flavor found in these fruits that shows us why dogs mustn’t eat lemons.
Many of the biggest problems come from the high amount of citric acid that lemons especially are home to – among the highest of all the citrus fruits, as you no doubt already know.
Citric acid is quite a big deal for dogs, and not just for the bitterness and harshness it sometimes promises those who consume it.
The digestive system of dogs is much more sensitive than we often give it credit for – especially since dogs always seem so eager to gulp down whatever we hand them.
However, make no mistake when you take in the advice that citric acid is dangerous for dogs.
Due to just how much of it is found in lemons, there’s a risk of severe toxic nastiness afflicting your pet – and these can create further complications over time that can put your pooch in real danger of some pretty severe stuff.
For example, citrus toxicity in dogs – as experienced in lemons – is triggered by a component within it called psoralens.
This stuff can create some horrid problems for your dog’s health, such as liver issues, outright liver failure, and even neurological distress.
For this reason, fruits with citric acid in, including lemons, are regarded as toxic to canines altogether.
Unfortunately, there is no escape from either citric acid or psoralens toxicity for dogs anywhere in the makeup of lemons or the plants they grow on.
In fact, the pith, seeds, and skins of the lemon have the highest concentration of this nasty stuff and are the areas of the lemon fruit to avoid most of all in letting dogs eat them.
This does not mean that lemon juice is safe though – dogs mustn’t drink lemon juice.
Although the psoralens content is far lower, the sheer amount of citric acid in lemon juice is still far and beyond what dogs should be allowed to drink.
That’s before you consider the sugar content – whether there’s added sugar or not in that lemon juice, it’s going to be too much for a dog to enjoy long term without risk of weight gain, diabetes, and tooth decay.
What happens if your dog eats a lemon
Many of the dangers of dogs eating lemons discussed here will do their worst damage if your pet is eating them long term – gnawing at lemons on a tree in a local orchard, for instance, or being fed them daily by someone well-meaning, but not wise to what dogs cannot eat.
However, there are still more immediate concerns regarding what happens if your dog eats lemons that are important to keep in mind.
While dogs won’t seek out the flavor that lemons provide on their own most of the time, our pets are nothing if not unpredictable.
The most short term affliction your dog will suffer when eating a lemon is gastrointestinal difficulties or a severely upset stomach.
The digestive systems of your pooch were not designed to handle a lot of plant-based nutrition overall, and certainly do not find any joy in dealing with lemons, lemon juices and those all too harsh citric acids.
Your dog will likely become irritable and lethargic after eating a lemon, prone to try and lounge around and let the feeling pass.
He or she might not get off too luckily though, and you may well find that your pooch suffers from diarrhea, or even vomits the offending lemons back up not long after eating them.
Keep some soothing water for your dog, and also keep in mind that pets with different degrees of sensitivity of the stomach may react to different portion sizes of lemons eaten in different ways.
What to do if your dog eats a lemon
Even the most well behaved of canines can get into the cheeky behavior of finding ways to treats they know, deep down, they’re not supposed to have.
That includes lemons – even if your pup has no inclination ordinarily to eat these fruits, the fact that he or she has seen you and your family enjoying them may cause him or her to see them as a fair game.
As touched on above, if your dog has eaten just a few slices of lemon or no more than a whole one, he or she is not in any immediate danger unless they have a very sensitive stomach.
Smaller dogs are likewise more likely to suffer by eating comparatively less lemon than a larger or more robust breed of dog.
The most likely thing to expect here is stomach upset, so be ready to comfort your dog through a difficult time.
Be ready for them to throw up too, as it’s likely their body will do its best to purge itself of the lemon as soon as it can.
However, if more severe symptoms occur – or your dog has eaten a lot of lemons, or consumed many over a long period of time – be ready to visit your vet.
Those symptoms include dizziness, long term stomach upset, spasms and fits, or even fainting.
You should especially contact your vet immediately if your dog begins showing sores or rashes on the skin, or if he or she begins drooling uncontrollably with no real reason to do so.
There is also a horrible risk of liver failure in dogs who eat lots of lemons or allow the nastiness in them to build up within the long term.
While it’s admirable to want to give your dogs lots of goodness and nutrition to eat, seeking that in lemons and other fruits high in citric acid is unfortunately not the way to go.
There’s a high risk of toxicity to dogs from eating lemons, as much as lemon juice, lemon rinds and especially lemon seeds, that makes it far riskier than rewarding to hand them over to your pet.
Those high levels of vitamins you might be looking to introduce into your pet’s diet are better sought elsewhere, and there are luckily lots of other options open to you with nowhere near as much risk to your dog’s well being.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.