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Can Dogs Drink Lemon Water? Is Lemon Water Safe for Dogs?

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By Nicole Cosgrove

lemon water

Few things are more refreshing than a glass of iced lemon water on a hot summer afternoon. It satisfies like few other beverages. If you see your pup panting after a rousing game of fetch, you may wonder if they can enjoy the same benefits. After all, it tastes so good and provides vitamin C, albeit a small amount.

The short answer is no, they can’t. Lemon contains some toxic ingredients that can harm your dog. The same reaction applies to cats and even horses. It all rests in the chemicals from citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange.

Divider 1The Similarities and Differences Between Dogs and People

It may surprise you that dogs and people are more alike than you may think. The fact remains that we share 84 percent of our DNA with canines. Genes, after all, are merely ingredients. The combination of them makes a person, Golden Retriever, or mouse. While we may like similar foods like steak and chicken, there are significant differences between you and your pet.

That’s why many foods you can eat, like garlic and onions, are toxic to your pup. Most of the problems are related to digestibility. You may be able to metabolize an ingredient that your dog can’t. The absence of that vital enzyme can tip the scale. An example is lactose intolerance. Your body may lack the lactase enzyme to break down the milk sugar, leading to gastrointestinal (GI) distress in some individuals.


sick jack russell
Image credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

Toxicity of Lemons

We’d be surprised if your dog even wanted to drink lemon water. It’s not pleasant, especially if it’s not sweetened. Making it sweet isn’t an option, especially with an artificial sweetener like xylitol. On the other hand, dogs eat a lot of stinky and unappetizing things, anyway. The taste may not be a formidable enough barrier.

There’s also the acidity, which you can undoubtedly understand if you have had acid reflux. It can tear up your dog’s gut just like yours. Lemons also contain two toxic chemicals that can cause serious health consequences. Psoralens is a term that refers collectively to 5-methoxsalen and 8-methoxsalen.

They have therapeutic effects for treating psoriasis in humans but not animals. It’s another example of that 16-percent difference between humans and dogs coming into play. The human value comes from the compound’s ability to increase photosensitivity. UV light is a standard treatment for some human skin conditions, but it doesn’t benefit dogs in the same way and is toxic.

Lemon water can cause a host of unwanted symptoms, including:
  • Excessive drooling
  • Skin irritation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

The other problematic ingredient is limonene. Psoralens are found throughout the lemon tree, but limonene is found mainly in the peel. It’s what makes lemons smell like lemons. Adding to the issue is the fact that it’s concentrated, making its toxicity more of a problem even in smaller amounts.

You’d think that the taste of lemons would deter dogs, and it usually does. However, that doesn’t stop irresponsible pet owners from giving their pets this ingredient for what they consider as amusing reactions. We think it’s nothing short of cruel.

lemon water
Image credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

Treatment of Lemon Toxicity

Eventually, your dog’s body will rid itself of this poison. In the meantime, you must ensure they don’t become dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. The sudden onset of these signs is a telltale sign of poisoning. Health conditions often develop slowly.

If the digestive reactions are excessive, we strongly urge you to take your pup to the vet. They may need IV fluids to avoid the complications of dehydration, which can only make things worse. It is urgent if you’re dealing with a puppy or toy breed.

Divider 3Final Thoughts About Lemon Water

Lemon water is another example where something welcome and even healthy for humans has the opposite effect on dogs. Citrus fruits contain several toxic ingredients that can cause several problems for your pup. Dogs’ digestive systems are much different from humans’ and are more sensitive to some substances. Instead of lemon water or other flavored liquids, provide your dog with fresh water daily.

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Featured Image Credit: Klimkin, Pixabay

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