You were so proud when the patio pot of cherry tomatoes began to bear fruit, but perplexed when the ripe, red nuggets kept disappearing before you could pick them. Imagine your concern when you realized the tomato thief was in fact your canine companion. Oh goodness! Is this okay? Should I be worried? You think to yourself…
Can dogs even eat tomatoes?
The answer is that an occasional bite of tomato is likely okay for your dog.
Like people, dogs are omnivores that evolved eating both meat and plant food sources, and tomatoes qualify as the latter.
That said, tomatoes are “barely poisonous” for dogs, say the experts at PetPoisonHelpline.com. That’s because they contain the toxin tomatine, which is found in the highest concentrations in the plant itself, as well as in small green (in much smaller amounts). This toxin decreases even more as the fruit ripens.
Dogs are more sensitive to this toxin than humans are. When enough tomatine is ingested, digestive problems, coordination issues, and weakness can result. However, dogs usually recover quickly and without further problems.
On the bright side, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A (essential for healthy skin and eyes), and the electrolyte potassium, needed for heart and muscle function (both for you and your dog!).
According to WebMD, tomatoes are also high in several antioxidant compounds, including vitamin C and lycopene, which may protect cells from cancer-causing free radicals.
Because of the risk of tomatine poisoning and potential for digestive problems, allowing your dog free access to tomatoes is not advised.
However, an occasional cherry tomato or bite of ripe tomato would be considered safe to feed as a special treat.