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Can Dogs Eat Lemons? Are Lemons Safe for Dogs?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

sliced and whole lemons

Let’s face it. Lemons probably aren’t high on your list of potential treats for your pooch. That’s a good thing, too. The question of whether they can eat this citrus fruit is no. It may even be toxic to your pet if he eats enough of it. However, dogs will be dogs, and some will eat just about anything they can find.

You’d think that the strong scent and acidity of lemons would be enough to deter him. Many animals avoid them naturally, including cats. It’s even an ingredient in repellants and stain eliminators to keep them from doing it again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with an unpleasant taste for your dog.Divider 8

What Makes Lemons Bad for Dogs?

The first thing you must understand is that many human foods are poisonous to dogs and other pets. After all, we’re all different. Just because you can eat it doesn’t mean your pup can. Potentially toxic foodstuffs include:

There are two chemicals in lemons and other citrus fruits that are problematic for canines and other animals. The seeds, pith, and peel contain psoralen, an organic compound found in many plants. It can interfere with DNA synthesis and cause mutations. That probably sounds scary enough. However, it also increases one’s sensitivity to light and, thus, the absorption of UV radiation.

The healthcare industry uses that property for that purpose when treating skin conditions that respond well to light therapy like psoriasis in people. As you may guess, it can also increase your risk for some skin cancers.

The other organic compound in lemons that can adversely affect your pooch is limonene, found in the peel primarily. It is a major component of the essential oil and gives lemons their refreshing scent. Bear in mind that these ingredients are highly concentrated. A little goes a long way. All of this information adds up to a toxic food not only for dogs but cats and horses, too.

Image Credit: MiraCosic, Pixabay

Is Lemonade Bad, Too?

Unfortunately, lemons are still harmful, even if it’s diluted. Remember that a thirsty dog can put away a lot of water too. He’ll likely drink enough to trigger a reaction if he likes the taste. Because it’s in liquid form, your pet’s body will absorb it quicker and probably more of it as well.

The other issue involves what’s sweetening your beverage. Sugar in large quantities can cause a spike in your pet’s blood sugar levels. That can be potentially deadly for diabetic dogs. Likewise, artificial sweeteners like xylitol are equally as toxic with the same serious outcomes.

lemon juice
Image Credit: PhotoMIX-Company, Pixabay

Symptoms and Treatment

If your dog tastes a little just to know he doesn’t like it, he’ll probably be fine. As Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, once said, “Only the dose makes the poison.” A lot of lemons, therefore, are harmful. Symptoms you may see in your pup include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Irritation around and inside of his mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dermatitis

Depending on the pet and their physiology, it can lead to tremors and even death. If you suspect your dog has eaten lemons, get him to the veterinarian immediately.

Treating Your Dog

Your vet is going to do the same thing that your dog is trying to do when he gets sick—get the toxin out of his system as quickly as possible. That means gastric lavage or pumping out his stomach. It’s just as unpleasant for your pooch as it is for people. He’ll likely follow up with administering activated charcoal. That will help prevent further absorption—and symptoms—in your dog.

After all of that, your poor pooch will need time to recover. It may mean feeding him foods like white rice or a prescription diet for a few days so that his GI tract can heal. We’d suggest keeping him quiet, too. Your dog will let you know when he’s feeling better.Divider 7

Final Thoughts

If you have a food-motivated dog, it’s imperative to learn what foods are toxic to your pet. Please don’t assume that he can eat anything that you can, including lemons. Citrus fruits contain organic compounds that are poisonous to your pup. We suggest playing it safe. Only give your canine friend foods and treats formulated for dogs. He’ll be a lot happier and healthier in the long run.

Featured Image Credit: stevepb, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is the proud mom of Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway, and Baby, a Burmese cat. Originally from Canada, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. Nicole has a strong love for all animals and has experience caring for all types of dogs, from Yorkies to Great Danes. Nicole even worked as a dog sitter during her travels through South America and cared for stray pups — something she ...Read more

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