Can dogs eat rhubarb?

Health and Wellbeing

If you’re an avid gardener, chances are that you’re growing a rhubarb plant to add some structure and colour to your vegetable patch that will also provide you with some delicious and healthy home-grown produce.

can dogs eat rhubarb?

Your dog might be snuffling around the flower beds and may even have tried to snack on a bit of rhubarb, or perhaps you’re crunching through a stalk with some sugar and they’re giving you the puppy eyes. Should you be worried if your dog eats some rhubarb plant, and can dogs eat rhubarb safely? Here’s our guide on whether or not this veggie is safe for Fido to scoff.

CAN DOGS EAT RHUBARB?

Ideally, no, a dog shouldn’t eat rhubarb and it is considered mildly toxic to pets. Luckily, the tart and sour taste of rhubarb is pretty repellent to our furry friends and they’ll generally avoid eating it, even if you offer it to them.

Rhubarb leaves and other sections of the plant are not edible and shouldn’t be eaten by humans or hounds. If your dog manages to munch some rhubarb leaves, they can suffer from gastrointestinal illness including stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhoea, as well as other symptoms such as excessive drooling and lethargy.

However, we humans only eat the stems and stalks of rhubarb plants. (We can’t eat the leaves or other parts of the plant, or we’ll get really sick too.) So is the edible stem safer for our furry friends to eat?

Again, not really. Sure, the stems are safer for them to eat than the leaves because they aren’t nearly as toxic. In fact, some dogs might eat a bit of stalk and seem fine, or suffer from mild GI upset.

If your pooch manages to munch some rhubarb, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t show any signs of illness and take them to the vet if they become unwell.

CAN DOGS EAT RAW RHUBARB?

No, dogs shouldn’t eat raw rhubarb. Although it’s an all-natural whole food without any additives, it’s not the healthiest or the most enjoyable snack for your dog. In fact, raw rhubarb is likely to give them gut ache and gastrointestinal upset.

CAN DOGS EAT COOKED RHUBARB?

Although cooking usually makes foods safer and more palatable, it doesn’t make rhubarb any safer for our furry friends. Your dog can not eat cooked rhubarb, because it’s just as likely to make them sick as raw rhubarb.

Plus, we usually cook rhubarb with a ton of sugar to make it more palatable, and refined sugar isn’t good for dogs. If eaten in excess, sugar can cause hyperactivity in the short term, and tooth decay, weight gain, and diabetes in the long term.

We humans often eat rhubarb sprinkled with lemon juice too, and dogs and lemons don’t get along.

Rhubarb is also known for being baked in scrummy pies or crumbles, but the extra sugar and spices in these tasty desserts aren’t good for your pooch.

CAN DOGS EAT RHUBARB YOGHURT?

There isn’t a lot of rhubarb inside a rhubarb yoghurt, so it’s technically safer to eat than a plain, raw stem of the purple veggie. Plus, most dogs love yoghurt as a special treat, or as a lush, lickable Kong filler.

However, rhubarb yoghurts almost always contain concentrated lemon juice, which can cause sickness if a dog eats a lot of it. Again, a little bit probably won’t hurt them, but you shouldn’t feed your dog spoonfuls of this stuff.

Like all yoghurts, there’s quite a lot of sugar inside a rhubarb yog. Sugar isn’t going to poison your pup, but it’s one of those things you need to feed them sparingly. Too much sugar affects dogs similarly to how it affects humans. As mentioned above, a pooch eating too much of the sweet stuff can become hyperactive, overweight, suffer from dental problems, and could develop diabetes.

Since dogs are much smaller than us humans, they require fewer calories and less sugar in their diet. Even though we might think a spoonful of yoghurt isn’t a lot, it still packs a big proportion of your dogs daily calories and sugars, so you must be mindful of portion sizes and save sweet treats as exactly that, treats.

Some yoghurts are sweetened so make sure you check the label for any sweeteners that are used. The sweetener xylitol is highly toxic to dogs so if your yoghurt contains any, or an unnamed sweetener you can’t identify, play it safe and don’t feed it to your pooch.

IS RHUBARB GOOD FOR DOGS?

Although it is a vegetable and it does provide some vitamins and minerals, rhubarb isn’t a particularly nutritious food.

Sure, there’s a decent dose of vitamin K1 and calcium in its stalks, but the calcium is in oxalate form and can’t really be absorbed by your dog’s body. In fact, it can cause more harm than good, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

Vitamin K1 is important to maintain the ability for your dog’s blood to coagulate and clot properly. However, the amounts in rhubarb are really small when compared to other foods like broccoli, kale, and beef liver. Even pork chops and chicken contain more vitamin K per serving compared to rhubarb! (And they’re probably far more appetising for your four-legged friend!)

With rhubarb, there is a risk that your dog will become sick if they eat it. And given the limited nutritional benefits of this vegetable, I’d say it isn’t good for dogs. There’s definitely far healthier and tastier treats out there for them to enjoy!

IS RHUBARB TOXIC TO DOGS?

Rhubarb is considered to have mild to moderate toxicity levels to pets, including dogs and cats. This is because rhubarb contains calcium oxalate crystals which are an irritant to our furry friends. This compound can irritate your dog’s mouth and cause pain and swelling, as well as upsetting the digestive system, kidneys, and bladder.

The oxalate crystals can bind together to form bladder stones or kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones bladder and kidney stones are some of the most commonly found in dogs. Avoiding oxalate-rich foods like rhubarb and spinach in your dog’s diet will help to prevent this painful problem and if your pooch has suffered from kidney or bladder stones in the past, they should be on a special diet to help prevent the problem from reoccurring.

In severe cases, eating a lot of rhubarb or other foods and plants that contain calcium oxalates can cause kidney failure which can be fatal.

However, the stems of rhubarb contain fewer crystals than other parts of the plant. That’s why some dogs can eat a bit of rhubarb stem and appear perfectly fine. Meanwhile, the leaves contain a lot of those pesky crystals and are considered poisonous to people and pooches.

If your pooch eats rhubarb, they can become sick and might display the following symptoms:

As well as irritating your dog’s insides, these nasty crystals can upset your dog’s skin too. If your pup rubs up against a rhubarb plant, especially if the plant is broken and leaking sap, the minuscule crystals can jab into their skin and cause irritation and itching. If your pooch has bounced through some rhubarb plants and seems uncomfortable and scratchy, it’s best to give them a gentle bath.

That means if you grow rhubarb in your garden, make sure it’s kept out of reach of any curious snouts who might try munching the leaves like a personal salad buffet.

RECAP: CAN DOGS HAVE RHUBARB?

Your dog can not eat rhubarb because it can make them sick, and it doesn’t offer much nutrition for them anyway. The tangy taste of rhubarb isn’t very enjoyable for pups either, so they probably won’t eat it even if you offer it to them!

That being said, some dogs can eat a little bit of rhubarb stem and seem fine. This is because the stem is edible and less likely to cause illness than other parts of the plant. But your pup should never eat the leaves or other parts of a rhubarb plant because it will make them ill.

Rather than letting your dog snack on rhubarb, which isn't nutritious and can be unsafe, feed your dog a complete and balanced meal, bursting with wholesome nutrition such as Pure. Pure is packed with human-quality ingredients that you would buy for yourself, our dogs are family so we think they should be getting the best quality food you can give them!

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

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.