Can dogs eat cherry tomatoes? Are they safe & healthy?

Can dogs eat cherry tomatoes? Can dogs eat any tomatoes? And how can you be sure that your dog won’t react badly to them?

First things first- if you’re ever uncertain about what you can and can’t feed your dog specifically, a safe bet is a trip to the vets. If your dog has ever exhibited allergies in the past, or you just aren’t sure that they’re feeling 100% after a nibble on some human delicacies, then a vet’s appointment is a sure-fire way to settle your worries. Above all, you want your four-legged friend to be happy and healthy and getting a professional opinion is the best way to achieve this.

But can dogs eat tomatoes? If you’re indulging, can you safely share with your pet? Tomatoes are a tasty and healthy foodstuff for humans- they are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and to help prevent UV damage in skin when exposed to excess amounts of sunlight. Eating tomatoes has lots of positive effects for humans. But it is not so straightforward for dogs.

Do tomatoes have health benefits for dogs?

Though tomatoes are commonly called vegetables and used as vegetables when it comes to cooking and the kitchen, they are actually a fruit. Specifically a berry, tomatoes belong to the nightshade family, the technical name for these being Solanaceae. Nightshades are flowering plants and, though the moniker ‘deadly nightshade’ is well known and many nightshades are highly toxic, there are also lots which are regularly consumed. Potatoes, chili peppers and aubergines (eggplants) are all members of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes.

Present in these plants is also solanine, a poisonous alkaloid produced by the fruits to act as a natural pesticide. The solanine present in edible nightshade plants is rarely potent enough to harm humans and, therefore, these foods are all safe for you to eat. The plants produce solanine to deter insects from feeding on them and form part of their natural defences. Solanine in tomatoes is more concentrated within its green components; the stem and leaves, so it is important for both humans and dogs to avoid eating these parts of the tomato plant. However, the levels of solanine in the tomato itself are of a safe level to consume, so long as they are not consumed in excess.

Tomatoes are made up of 95% water, 4% carbohydrates and less than 1% fat and protein. As such, they are a very healthy foodstuff and also help you reach your recommended daily water intake and stay hydrated. As such, tomatoes are not unhealthy for dogs either, and this includes cherry tomatoes. However, it is important to make sure you that the tomatoes you are giving your dog are fully ripe.

Is the colour of tomatoes important?

Tomatoes that are fully ripe are a shiny, deep colour all over. Red tomatoes ought to be a deep red, yellow tomatoes a deep yellow etc. The consistency of the colour is also crucial- if half of the tomato is red and the other half is green then it is not ripe. Of course, if you are buying your tomatoes from the store or from a market, they should be reasonably ripe, but if you are picking your own tomatoes, it is good to know that they are ripe enough before consuming them. Eating unripe tomatoes can cause both you and your dog to become unwell.

What about tomato poisoning?

Another worry for you when considering whether you should feed your dog tomatoes is the possibility of tomatine poisoning. Similar to solanine, tomatine is a glycoalkaloid produced by tomatoes to act as an organic insecticide. Tomatine has been shown to have many health benefits in humans, but the same is not necessarily true for dogs. Though the small amount of tomatine present in ripe tomatoes should not present any problems for humans, even if eaten in relative excess, small and rare portions are important for dogs to reduce the risk of tomato poisoning.

Despite the fact that your dog would, theoretically, need to ingest thousands of ripe tomatoes in a short space of time in order to risk tomato poisoning, it is good to know the signs. Your dog may have a sensitivity to tomatoes and some of the glycoalkaloids that they produce, and this may make them more likely to become unwell if they ingest too many tomatoes. Symptoms of tomato poisoning can include hypersalivation, gastrointestinal disturbance (tummy upset), lack of appetite, drowsiness and sleeping for unusually long periods of time.

Additionally, if you notice your dog beginning to exhibit any atypical behaviour or act in an uncharacteristic manner, you should contact your vet and organise an appointment. Tomato poisoning is unlikely to be deadly, but it can leave your dog feeling unwell and this is never an ideal situation, for your pet or for you. Your vet may recommend that you stop feeding your dog tomatoes altogether, or simply that you regulate your dog’s intake of tomatoes and ensure that they are only given as an occasional foodstuff.

Can my dog be allergic to tomatoes?

There is also a rare possibility that your dog may be allergic to tomatoes. This is not to do with the toxicity of tomatoes in general, but rather your dog’s own genetic makeup which causes them to react badly to tomatoes. Signs that your dog may be allergic to tomatoes include vomiting and diarrhoea after consumption and, in some cases, skin problems or fur loss. The symptoms of an allergy can present as similar to the symptoms of poisoning and so it is important to seek veterinary help to determine whether it is a long-term condition or not. If your dog is allergic to tomatoes, you will need to carefully monitor their diet to avoid the consumption of tomatoes.

When to go to the vets?

You may also need to take a trip to the vets if your dog has eaten the leaves or stems of a tomato plant. These are the parts of a tomato plants which contain the highest levels of toxicity, though they are still very low. But eating the leaves or stems of a tomato can make your dog ill. However, illness in a dog after leaf or stem consumption does not necessarily mean that your dog should not eat ripe and ready tomatoes- this may still be okay. As such, seeking a vet’s opinion is always best.

Whilst tomatoes may be safe for dogs to eat, the same is not true for other tomato flavoured substances. It is not, for example, safe to feed your dog ketchup or any tomato sauces. Ketchup and other tomato flavoured sauces often contain high levels of sugar and salt. They also sometimes contain other flavourings and ingredients which are not recommended for dogs.

If your dog consumes a large amount of tomatoes or any unsafe tomato sauce then you ought to take them to the vet as soon as you can. Your vet will be able to assess the situation and recommend steps to be taken.