Can dogs eat tomatoes?

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

If your dog is anything like ours, they want to eat anything you are, regardless of if they’re allowed it or not. However, it can be tricky keeping track of what foods your dog can or can’t eat. And should they be eating some of the human food we give them in the first place?

Take tomatoes, for example. They are a healthy snack option for us humans, so would a dog benefit from them too? Can dogs eat tomatoes in the first place?

It’s true that some people foods can cause illness and sometimes even death for some dogs. That is why it’s important to always check whether you can or can’t feed your pup. You may be making yourself a nice, healthy salad, and fancy letting your dog snack on a piece of lettuce, some cucumber or carrots.

In this article however, we will be talking about all things tomatoes. Including answering if dogs can eat tomatoes, if tomatoes are healthy for a dog, and if there are any risks of feeding tomatoes to dogs.

Can dogs eat tomatoes?

Typically, yes, dogs can eat tomatoes. They make a safe snack as long as the fruit is red and you remove the stem and leaves like you would for yourself. A ripe tomato is as delicious for your dog as it is for you, and can make a healthy snack too.

Provided the fruit is fully ripe and red in colour, it is safe for dogs to eat tomatoes. However, always consider your dog’s individual sensitivities and avoid feeding your dog tomatoes if they are allergic.

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Are tomatoes healthy for dogs?

Tomatoes are really good for us humans, so it’s natural to wonder if they have as many benefits for our furry friends.

Tomatoes as an occasional snack for your dog can provide them with a boost of vitamins and minerals.

Tomatoes are the best source for biotin for humans, and your pooch will also benefit from it, as biotin is important in maintaining healthy fur and claws. It also has loads of other benefits for your pooch including maintaining healthy digestion, muscle formation, normal growth, and it helps improve their mood and energy.

Tomatoes are also high in fibre, which is im-paw-tent in keeping your dog’s digestive system healthy and working well. They also contain antioxidants like lycopene, vitamin A, and vitamin C. These antioxidants all have numerous benefits for your dog from regulating free radicals, keeping their coat and claws healthy, to helping to prevent heart disease and arthritis.

Overall, dogs can eat tomatoes as a tasty and healthy treat. Just only feed them ripe, red tomatoes occasionally.

Why ripe and red? Because if a tomato isn’t those things, it isn’t a safe snack for your pooch.

Are there any risks of feeding a dog tomatoes?

Although a ripe, red tomato poses little risk to your pup, it’s important to understand why it is so important that tomato be nice and ripe.

This is because some parts of the tomato plant contain a chemical which can be harmful to dogs. This is called tomatine.

What is tomatine?

Tomatoes are a member of a nightshade family. If you’ve ever watched or read some Agatha Christie, or any other murder mystery, the name might ring a bell. Thankfully, deadly Nightshade is completely different, but it is a member of the same family of plants called Solanaceae.

Other members of the nightshade family that you probably have in your kitchen include potatoes, peppers, and aubergines.

These plants in the Solanaceae family all produce alkaloid chemicals. Most produce solanine. Tomatoes produce a similar alkaloid called Tomatine. Tomatine can be found in the unripe fruit and in some parts of the plants.

Why is tomatine a problem for dogs?

Dogs are pretty sensitive to solanine and tomatine, and it can be harmful in large quantities.

That’s why it is advised to feed your dog tomatoes in moderation as an occasional treat. It is also why it is important to only let your dog eat fully ripe, red tomatoes.

This is because tomatine is found in the green parts of the tomato. It is most abundant in the leaves and stem, but can also be found in unripe, green tomatoes. As the tomato ripens and reddens, the levels of tomatine decrease. A ripe tomato is perfectly safe for a pup to eat.

It will usually take a significant amount of tomatine to be ingested before it becomes toxic. This means it can be very easy to avoid, provided you don’t feed your dog green tomatoes or any of the stem or leaves. If you grow your own tomatoes, you might need to take some extra precautions to keep paws off.

Take care if you grow your own tomatoes

If you grow your own tomatoes, it is advised that you keep the plant out of the way or reach of any dogs. That’s because they may decide to snack on the growing fruit or the leaves of the plant.

Because both the green, unripe tomatoes and the leaves and stems of the tomato plant contain high levels of tomatine, a dog can suffer illness if they ingest a lot of it. If they’re helping themself to a tomato buffet, it can lead to some serious sickness.

That’s because if left unsupervised and in reach of a tomato plant, your pup could help themself and eat more than a safe amount. To prevent your pup potentially hurting themself, you will just need to make sure you keep their paws off your plants.

Signs of tomatine poisoning

The levels of toxicity will vary according to your dog’s size, the amount ingested, and their own individual sensitivities and allergies.

In many dogs, eating a small amount of the plant or an unripe tomato won’t cause poisoning. However, given their size, it takes less tomatine to cause illness in smaller dogs.

Symptoms of tomatine poisoning include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset (vomiting & diarrhoea)

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Excessive drooling

  • Muscle weakness

  • Loss of coordination

  • Cardiac changes (hyperventilation, changed heartbeat.)

  • Seizures

If you believe your dog has ingested any part of the tomato plant or eaten any unripe tomatoes, keep them under close supervision and get in touch with your vet. If they display any symptoms of poisoning, they will need to see a vet as soon as possible.

To recap: Can dogs eat tomatoes?

As long as the tomato is fully ripe and red in colour, yes, your dog can eat it.

If you are going to feed your dog tomatoes, make sure to remove all leaves and any stems. And make sure to only feed your dog tomatoes as an occasional treat. As with most treats for our furry friends, moderation is key to keeping them happy and healthy!

Never feed your dog:

  • Green tomatoes

  • Tomato plant leaves

  • Tomato plant stems

As these contain higher levels of tomatine, which in large quantities, can make your dog sick.

Even though tomatoes are a healthy snack for humans, it's a better option to feed your dog a complete and balanced meal, such as Pure, rather than letting them snaffle random snacks from your fridge. Pure contains all the fruit and veg your pooch needs, all included to provide your dog with functional, health-focused benefits so they can live a long happy life.