Gherkins and pickles are a real love/hate food, and while some of us will happily crunch these vinegary cucumber slices in a sandwich, plenty of people pick them off their burger without fail.
If you’re guilty of flicking the gherkins off your cheeseburger, you might wonder if your pooch can eat them to save them from going to waste. (What? We’ve all used the doggy garbage disposal!)
So can dogs eat gherkins, or is this salty snack one human food we shouldn’t let our loveable mutt munch?
Technically, your dog can eat gherkins, but there are a few caveats about feeding this savoury snack to Fido and ulti-mutt-ly the safest thing to do is still to avoid feeding gherkins to your dog.
Gherkins are considered non-toxic to pets, including your pooch, and although it isn’t going to poison your pup it isn’t the most appetising or healthy snack for your furry friend. If your pup hoovers up a gherkin you dropped on the floor, they should be okay.
However, these tiny pickles are brined in vinegar and dogs generally don’t like the taste of this acidic liquid. Granted, plenty of pups will eat anything and don’t have the most discerning personal taste! Most dogs will get a lick of gherkin and spit it right back out.
If they don’t spit it out, your dog will eat a surprising amount of sugar and salt in their pickled treat. These ingredients should always be moderated in your dog’s diet to prevent potential illness. Plus, some pooches with underlying health issues like diabetes or heart disease need to limit the amount of sugar or sodium in their diet to help manage their conditions and keep them healthy. (Which means no gherkins!)
There’s also the potential that the gherkins you eat are flavoured with ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like garlic, so it’s always best to check the label for any nasties. If you’re ever unsure about what’s in a food, it’s always safest to avoid feeding it to your dog.
Pickles and gherkins are essentially the same thing because they’re both a kind of pickled cucumber. Here in the UK, we tend to call them gherkins whilst on the other side of the Atlantic, they’re pickles. Plus, gherkins are usually smaller and a little bit sweeter.
Just like with gherkins, dogs can eat pickles because they are non-toxic but they aren’t the healthiest or tastiest treat for your pooch because the nutritional value is low, and most dog’s don’t usually like the vinegary taste.
Pickles also have the same cautionary notes as gherkins. You will need to check that there are no toxic ingredients in the jar and minimise how many pickles your dog eats to make sure they aren’t overeating sugar and salt.
Generally though, pickles are safe if your dog happens to munch one. As always if they eat a pickle or any new food and show any signs of illness, you must contact your vet for advice.
I wouldn’t advise it! Pickle juice isn’t appetising for your furry friend because it’s basically just salt and vinegar. The juice would have soaked up any salt, sugar, and other additives that were on your gherkins which your dog should only be consuming in moderation.
Plus, pickle juice can still have chunks and traces of ingredients floating around inside it that your dog shouldn’t eat, like garlic or mustard seeds.
Gherkins aren’t the worst food in the world because they aren’t particularly high in calories or fat. But there are plenty of problems with feeding gherkins and pickles to your pup.
One problem your furry friend will have with gherkins is that they are packed full of sodium. A little bit of sodium is good for your dog, and they do need it in their diet. However, if they munch too many salty foods they’ll be at risk of becoming dehydrated and potentially suffering from sodium poisoning.
Eating a lot of salty foods in one sitting, like gherkins, can also irritate your dog’s gut and cause gastrointestinal problems like excess flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhoea. That means if you are going to give your dog a gherkin, make sure they only crunch one or two depending on their size.
As a rule of thumb, a medium dog shouldn’t eat more than 0.1g of salt per day, and their dog food will already contain enough sodium for them to stay healthy. That’s why it’s generally advised that you don’t feed your pooch any salty snacks and treats. And since a single gherkin can contain around 0.09g of salt, that means just one gherkin can use up almost all your dog’s RDA of salt!
It might be hard to believe, but gherkins actually contain more sugar than salt. Sugar is another ingredient that needs to be moderated in your doggy’s diet to keep them healthy because too much can cause tooth decay, weight gain, or diabetes.
The other thing about gherkins that leaves a sour taste in the mouth is the fact that they are often flavoured with ingredients that are toxic to dogs. There could be mustard seeds floating in the brine, or onion and garlic in the mix to pack some tangy flavour. Sadly, all these ingredients that we humans find tasty are actually considered toxic to our hounds.
Although the amount of these ingredients in gherkins shouldn’t be enough to dangerously poison your pooch, the safest thing to do is to avoid feeding your dog gherkins if they contain anything harmful.
Other ingredients to watch out for include chillies and other spices. Spicy gherkins flavoured with chillies aren’t poisonous, but they are likely to upset your dog’s stomach and cause irritation in their mouth.
There could also be non-descript “flavourings” in your jar of pickles, which isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to keep an eye out for any ingredients that could make your pooch sick. As always, if you’re not exactly sure what’s in your food, don’t feed it to Fido!
No, gherkins are not poisonous to dogs. However, they are sometimes brined and flavoured with ingredients that are considered toxic to dogs, such as mustard seeds, onion, and garlic.
If you’re going to give your pooch a gherkin to crunch, make sure it’s one that hasn’t been pickled or flavoured with any ingredients that are considered harmful to dogs. Or if you want to be extra safe, just don’t feed your dog gherkins and instead offer them a nice juicy slice of fresh cucumber.
Yes, technically dogs can have gherkins because they shouldn’t cause your dog any immediate harm if they eat one or two, and some dogs do seem to enjoy the tangy taste of these tiny pickles.
Gherkins themselves aren’t considered poisonous to pups, but some kinds of gherkins or pickles can contain trace amounts of ingredients that are toxic to dogs, so it’s best to avoid feeding these to your pooch. Generally, the safest thing to do is to avoid feeding Fido gherkins or pickles, especially if you’re not certain what’s in the jar.
Gherkins aren’t very nutritious and eating too many can make your dog sick. Not to mention, the vinegar they’re soaked in usually puts a lot of dogs off!
There are definitely healthier and tastier treats you could be offering your fur baby instead of gherkins, but it isn’t the end of the world if you let them have a little taste as a one-off “treat”, although whether or not your dog considers it a treat or torture will depend on their personal taste!
Instead of feeding your dog this tangy "treat", why don't you give your dog a complete, wholesome and delicious diet like Pure instead, along with a few of our Pure treats. Your dog will be your BFF for life if you do!
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.