If you switched to homemade meals and follow our home cooked dog food recipes here on Top Dog Tips, you've probably seen some that include tomatoes on the ingredients list. You may have heard that tomatoes are bad for dogs, but that's a misnomer. Here's what you should know about feeding tomatoes to dogs, and in particular using them in your home cooked dog food recipes.
Why Is Tomato Controversial?
Tomato is in the “nightshade” family of plants. Some other plants from this category are known to be somewhat toxic to dogs.
The two main concerns of nightshade are compounds called “tomatine” and “solanine.” Tomatine and solanine are highly concentrated in the green parts of the tomato plant: leaves, stem, and young green tomatoes.
It can become a problem when your dog tends to help themselves into your garden, and chew on or ingests a large quantity of green nightshade. The result may be “tomatine” poisoning.
In large doses or small breeds, tomatine poisoning can lead to stomach and GI upset in most cases. In case of a severe poisoning, the result could be loss of coordination, cardiac issues, muscle weakness, tremors, and seizures.
So How Much is Too Much?
There's no argument that in certain doses, green tomatoes can be dangerous to dogs because they contain a higher concentration of tomatine (up to 5%). As the tomato ripens and becomes red, levels of tomatine decrease.
In fact, tomatoes (and their tomatine) are technically “poisonous” not only to dogs but to humans, too. They're as poisonous as psoralens in celery, or glycoalkaloids in potatoes. But the levels of toxic substance in these fruits and vegetables aren't high enough to have any side effects in most cases. The same applies to dogs (only in smaller dosage).
For a dog to be poisoned by tomatine, they'd have to consume copious amounts of the leaves, stems, and unripened fruit for extended periods. As for fully ripened tomatoes, a dog would need to consume even more to be poisoned.
Like humans, some dogs may have a lower tolerance to tomatoes which could result in adverse side effects. However, the chances of a dog developing any damage from the consumption of a safe amount of ripe tomatoes are low to zero.
Using Safe Amounts of Tomato in Homemade Dog Food
When it comes to using tomato in home cooked dog food meals, none of the recipes of mine, or those developed by holistic veterinarians, use large amounts of tomato.
If you choose to feed your dog tomatoes more often, it is recommended to use only small (one or two pieces) on occasion as a treat; smaller dogs should have less.
This dosage is likely to be safe for healthy adult dogs and will allow you to reap some of the health benefits tomatoes can provide to your dog.
Be Mindful of Existing Health Conditions
Just like with any recipe, or ingredient, or drug, or even commercial kibble, observe your pet for any signs of sensitivities when feeding tomatoes.
Be mindful when using tomatoes in home cooked dog food recipes that the above recommendation is for healthy adult dogs only, and those that do not suffer from certain conditions.
When it comes to feeding tomatoes to dogs, in some cases this may be more dangerous than in others.
- Sensitive Stomachs. Due to the high acidic content in the tomato, dogs with sensitive tummies should avoid this fruit.
Consult with a holistic veterinarian before you begin feeding tomato to your dog, as well as before switching to a homemade dog food diet plan. When using fresh tomatoes, start slowly to avoid stomach upset and never exceed the recommended “dose” for your dog’s weight.
Note: Do NOT feed any green parts of the tomato plant or green unripened tomatoes to your dog. Also, avoid tomato sauces which often contain added spices, salt, preservatives because these can also pose a health risk.
What Tomatoes Contain
A small (100 gram) tomato contains the following:
- 18 calories
- 95% water
- 9 grams of protein
- 9 grams of carbohydrates
- 6 grams of sugar
- 2 grams of fiber
- 2 grams of fat
They also contain carotenoids lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin C. Tomatoes have minerals: chromium, folate, and potassium.
Potential Benefits of Tomatoes for Dogs
As with any fruit or vegetable, there's been a huge amount of studies done on the benefits of tomatoes in humans, some of which can extend to dogs. Below are some of those benefits based on research.
Anti-Oxidant Properties – Due to the high vitamin content, tomatoes and tomato puree can boost your dog’s immune system.
Keeps Dogs “Regular” – Tomatoes contain high amounts of fiber (especially puree). Fiber helps keep your dog’s bowel movements regular.
Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar – The high fiber content of the tomato helps stabilize your dog’s blood sugar.
The natural benefits of the tomato can help improve the following areas of a dog’s body;
- Lycopene: promotes strong, healthy bones, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and may even aid in cancer prevention.
- Beta-carotene: wards off metabolic syndrome and improves cognition.
- Vitamin C: improves immune response and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Potassium: promotes nerve and muscle health, and healthy blood pressure.
- Vitamin A: promotes good eyesight.
- Vitamins C & A: faster wound healing and helps maintain healthy skin.
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