Dogs have been our companions for anywhere from 20,000–40,000 years. It only makes sense that we would share our food with them. However, when it comes to the safety of tomatoes, there’s no clear-cut answer. Can dogs eat tomatoes or not? The short answer is that it depends.
Let’s do a deep dive to get to the heart of this matter. We’ll consider the question from several viewpoints, including nutritional value and toxicity.
Nutritional Value of Tomatoes and Your Pet
The gold standard for determining a food’s value is through a comparison with its nutrient content and the needs of your pup. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC) have evidence-based guidelines for nutrients that provide an excellent starting point.
Tomatoes contain over 90 percent water, which isn’t a stretch given their consistency. So far, so good. A 100-gram serving only has 18 calories, so it isn’t a significant factor when it comes to weight gain. If you look at the macronutrients, there are only 3.89 grams of carbohydrates, 0.88 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of fat. There are no red flags here.
By comparison, adult dogs need 20 grams of protein and 13.8 grams of fat, with no specific requirement for carbs. That tomato isn’t adding a lot of nutritional value to your pup’s diet from this perspective. Let’s look at the vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and Minerals
Some interesting facts come to light here. Tomatoes are high in several essential nutrients, including potassium (237 milligrams), folate (15 milligrams), and beta carotene (449 micrograms). They also have good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, and phosphorus. All are within the requirements for dogs, so they provide some value toward a healthy diet.
It’s also worth mentioning the lycopene content of tomatoes. Preliminary evidence in animal models suggests they may offer some health benefits and protection against some types of cancer. However, it’s too early to say whether the research is definitive because there is also data to the contrary.
Overall, tomatoes appear to have some nutritional value but not enough to provide a significant source of any vitamin or mineral. That may explain why you often will see it as an ingredient in some commercial pet foods. The diet of dogs, after all, has evolved with its domestication by humans.
Toxicity of Tomatoes
Here is where it gets complicated and explains why we said that the safety of giving your dog tomatoes depends.
Tomatoes are part of the Nightshade family of plants. It includes other familiar foods, such as peppers and potatoes. You’ve likely heard that green potatoes are toxic. The reason is the presence of a chemical called solanine that is also in tomatoes. It’s a nerve toxin that plants in this family produce to ward against insects.
However, the poison, as they say, is in the dose. You’d have to eat a lot of green tomatoes to get sick. Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem with tomatoes. There is another chemical called tomatine that is equally as worrisome. It can cause irritation and disrupt liver function. Again, it depends on how much your pooch eats. Signs he’s eaten too much include:
- GI distress
There is another caveat to this discussion. Ripe, red tomatoes don’t pose the same risks to your dogs. It is the green ones that are the issue. However, the rest of the plant is off-limits, too, since these toxins are in greater concentration in the green parts.
Feeding Your Dog People Foods
We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the bigger question. Is feeding your dog some foods that you eat all right? We recommend that you don’t make it a routine part of your pet’s diet for several reasons. First, just because you can eat it doesn’t mean he can, too. Think of things like macadamia nuts, grapes, and chocolate. All are highly toxic.
Second, the best way to ensure that your pooch is getting proper nutrition is to stick with a commercial diet that meets his needs. You should not feed him treats—like food scraps—any more than 10% of his daily intake. Besides, do you really want to start this habit with your pooch? You may find that your pup likes your food better and may eat less of his own.
Final Thoughts About Tomatoes
As we discussed, the main concerns about feeding your dog tomatoes are ripeness and quantity. As an occasional treat, it probably won’t hurt your pooch as long as you stick with the red ones. If you have tomato plants in your garden, we suggest putting a fence or other barrier around them to keep your pet—and the deer—away from them, especially if you have a puppy.
We also recommend considering the option of giving your pet people food carefully. You may end up with a mooch at the dinner table.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay