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Dog Ate Chili or Spicy Food? Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you got a taste for hot sauce and ever wondered if your dog might too? Spicy food comes in all sorts of forms, and as much as we all love to taste and experience flavors from around the world, your furry friend might not quite be so adventurous!

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Do Dogs Taste Spicy Food?

Dogs have an incredibly heightened sense of smell compared to us humans, and they’re always using their nose to find their way to whatever is on our plates! But when it comes to taste, our furry friends aren’t quite as sophisticated. Humans have around 9,000 taste buds in their mouths, but dogs have only 1,700, which means they don’t experience a huge range of flavors!

Dogs can differentiate between sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, but they usually use their sense of smell to decide whether or not they should eat something. Dogs love the smell and taste of meat, for example, but they probably can’t taste the difference between chicken and beef!

Just like us, dogs don’t like bitter tastes, so if you’re wondering whether your pup would enjoy a spoonful of curry, the answer is they probably won’t! Spicy food can be potentially dangerous for your pup for a number of reasons, so if you’re wondering what to do if your dog ate spicy food, read on to learn more!

Image Credit: Monika, Pixabay

The Dangers of Eating Spicy Food for Dogs

While a spicy take-away on a Saturday night might be full of appeal to you, it’s certainly not a meal you’ll be wanting to share with your furry friend. Although as pet parents we all want to treat our pets as part of the family, when it comes to human food, it can be harmful to them.

Dogs Don’t Like Chilies

Many of the ingredients in spicy food could be potentially dangerous for your pet. The core ingredient of course being the chili itself. Chili peppers are fruits which grow on plants belonging to the genus Capsicum and contain a substance called capsaicin which is responsible for that familiar burning sensation you feel in your mouth after eating spicy food.

Although not actually toxic to dogs, capsaicin will cause a very unpleasant burning sensation in their mouth and throat if eaten. Not only is this incredibly unpleasant for your pet but can also cause them to become quite distressed. Chili powder is also usually found in spicy food, and as this contains capsaicin from dried chilies, it can cause the same level of discomfort for your pup as the chili pepper itself.

chili peppers in the market
Image Credit: PxHere

Other Risks of Spicy Food for Dogs

It’s not just the chili you need to worry about. Most spicy foods contain onion and garlic, both of which are toxic to dogs and can be life threatening if not treated quickly at the vets. Onion contains a toxin that damages red blood cells, causing a potentially life-threatening anemia if not treated fast.

Other ingredients in spicy food may not be directly unpleasant or toxic for your pup, but the veg and sauce could be very rich for them, and our dog’s digestive systems just aren’t able to process this kind of food in the same way we are. Spicy food is likely to give your pup an upset tummy, and it often causes vomiting and diarrhea, which — although not usually serious — can be very unpleasant for both you and your pet. An upset tummy could make your pup feel a rather rubbish for a few days, especially if they already suffer from a sensitive gut.

Generally, although many human foods can make a safe and tasty occasional treat for your pet, it’s really important that you feed your dog a complete and balanced diet designed for dogs. This will make sure that your pup is getting all the right nutrients to stay healthy, as well as being appropriate for their digestive systems. Treats should only make up 10% of their daily calory intake, but spicy food shouldn’t be featuring on their menu any time soon!

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My Dog Ate Spicy Food What Do I Do?

Come home to find out your dog ate chili? Whether your dog has eaten a chili pepper, chili powder, or spicy food containing it, the likelihood is you’ll know about it quite quickly, as the capsaicin in the chilies will cause them discomfort. Dogs tend to react a little like humans – streaming eyes, drooling and sneezing are all common symptoms in dogs that have eaten something spicy.

1. Provide plenty of fresh water, or try a spoonful of yogurt.

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of clean, cold water, as they will likely rush to the bowl in an attempt to counteract the nasty taste in their mouths. Yogurt and milk can have a cooling effect on the mouth after eating spicy food, so a spoonful of plain yoghurt or a small saucer of milk might make them feel a little better.

It can also help to wash your dog’s paws with some cold water, as this will stop any spicy oils from being transferred to their face, as capsaicin is very irritating to the eyes.

2. Check the ingredients for other toxins.

Next, it’s important to check the ingredients in the spicy food, as although chilies themselves are not toxic to your pup, other components of the dish could be. It’s really helpful for your veterinarian if you can tell them exactly what your pup has eaten, as this will help them treat your dog more effectively.

If there is onion or garlic in the food, then you need to contact your veterinarian and get your pup checked over at the clinic. Your vet will want to make your dog sick to prevent the toxic food being absorbed from their stomach.

onion and garlic
Image Credit: monicore, Pixabay

3. Expect an upset stomach and prepare accordingly.

Spicy food can give your dog a rather upset tummy. Capsaicin can have effects on your dog’s digestive tract and cause diarrhea, vomiting, and gas. You’ll need to monitor your dog for these effects, and try to make life easy for them. Take them out to the toilet more often, feed them small amounts little and often, and make sure they get plenty of water to rehydrate.

You should monitor carefully for signs of dehydration and be prepared to call the vet if your dog becomes lethargic or is unable to keep water down.

4. Feed a bland diet for a few days.

It can help to feed your dog some very bland food if they experience any vomiting or diarrhea after eating spicy food. While a commercial sensitivity diet is best because it provides all of your dog’s essential nutrients, plain cooked chicken or white fish, with a little cooked white rice is OK in a pinch. After a few days, you can start to re-introduce their old diet gradually, monitoring for re-occurrence of the symptoms.

little brown dog eating porridge
Image Credit: Parichart Patricia Wong, Shutterstock

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What Happens if a Dog Eats Spicy Food?

If your pup has got their paws on something spicy, you’re going to know about it quite quickly! Just like in us humans, the burning sensation in the mouth will start pretty soon after eating chili peppers, chili powder, or any spicy food. The symptoms that capsaicin causes can vary, but most dogs will start to sneeze, drool, or foam at the mouth. You may also notice:

  • Watery, runny eyes
  • Pawing at the face
  • Rubbing the face on furniture or carpet
  • Panting
  • Thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence (gas)

Capsaicin can cause extreme thirst in dogs, which could lead to dehydration if they don’t have access to enough fresh water. Capsaicin, as well as any spicy food, can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. These symptoms are usually short term and will go away after a couple of days, but occasionally they can persist and make your pup feel quite unwell.

rottweiler unwell
Image Credit: Olexandr Andreiko, Shutterstock

Do I Need to Go to the Vet if My Dog Ate Chili?

As long as your dog remains bright and well, and didn’t eat any toxins, you can trial treatment at home. However, it’s never wrong to call your vet for advice or asked to be seen if you’re worried about your dog.

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Feed your pup some easy-to-digest food. You may also want to get some probiotic paste from the vet. If your dog becomes lethargic or is vomiting multiple times, they may need an anti-sickness injection to help them settle back down.

Don’t forget, if your dog has eaten spicy food containing onion or garlic, then your veterinarian will want to make your dog sick to prevent the toxins being absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream. Depending on how long ago your dog ate the onion/garlic and how much they have eaten, the vet may also give your dog some charcoal to further prevent absorption from the gut into the blood and may want to keep your dog in at the clinic for monitoring, blood tests, and IV fluids.

Can Spicy Food Kill Dogs?

If your dog ate spicy food or chili, the likelihood is they will be just fine, and will experience nothing more than some discomfort and an upset tummy. As chilies are not themselves toxic, they are not life-threatening for your pet. Other ingredients in spicy food, however, such as onion and garlic are toxic and if your pup eats a lot of them, they could be potentially fatal if left untreated.

If your dog has only eaten a very small amount of chili or spicy food, then you might not see much of an effect, and it certainly won’t cause them any long-term harm. But if your dog has eaten a larger portion of spicy food, then they will experience some short-term discomfort and possibly an upset tummy too.

If you think your dog has eaten a chili, or any spicy food, then best thing to do is to contact your usual veterinarian for advice, especially if you’re worried about them.

sick dog
Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Spicy Food?

You should always avoid your dog from getting access to chilies or spicy food. If you grow capsicum plants in your garden, make sure they are well out of your dog’s reach! Take care when preparing foods that can be potentially harmful to your pet. Never leave your pet unattended in the kitchen when there is food on the surfaces, if you drop anything clear it up straight away, and don’t keep the scraps of anything spicy aside for your dog!

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The short answer is no, dogs cannot eat chili or spicy food. Chili contains capsaicin, which causes discomfort and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat when eaten, which is as unpleasant for your pup as it is for you! Spicy food also gives dogs an upset tummy and can cause extreme thirst. Although not life threatening, these short-term effects can be very distressing for your pet.

Spicy food also contains other ingredients which could be toxic to your pup, such as onions and garlic. It’s best to avoid offering your dog any spicy food, and if they do get their paws on any, contact your veterinarian for advice.

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Featured Image Credit: Steve Buissinne, Pixabay

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