This question came from my Facebook page, and I thought it’d be a great one to address on the blog. You can read the original thread here.
I posted a message about taking advantage of tomatoes being in season right now, and listed their energetic and therapeutic qualities (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory). The post quickly prompted a few people to inquire about the toxicity of tomatoes, as they had read some articles that cautioned against feeding your dogs tomatoes.
“So the article I read about this [tomatoes] being poisonous to dogs is not true?”
“I had read that tomatoes were toxic to dogs as well. Shall I disregard?”
Here’s the short answer: Usually no, tomatoes aren’t toxic for pets to consume.
Ahh misinformation. This (VERY COMMON) train of thought is about as factual as “garlic keeps werewolves away.”
But I can understand why these questions come up – many veterinarians lack a concise knowledge and/or background in dog nutrition, and thus err on the side of caution, which is why they issue blanket statements that home-cooked meals are inadequate, and flat out insist that dogs (and cats) should be fed a “formulated, balanced, commercial diet,” rather than whole, fresh veggies, meats, and starches. Well-meaning and thoughtful pet owners read these articles and (of course) follow the rules, because they are looking out for the best interests of their animals.
But it’s a cycle of misinformation that perpetuates itself and creates a fear of whole foods.
Let’s explore where this (“tomatoes are toxic”) particular notion may have come from.
Where Did That Idea Originate?
Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants. Some others in this category include potatoes and eggplant. All of these fruits/vegetables are HIGH in antioxidants which help nourish the body with Vitamin A (carontnoids), lycopene, quercitin, and Vitamin C.
Now some animals and people are “allergic” to this family of fruits/veggies, as other people and pets are allergic to oats, wheat, GMO corn, rice, soybeans, etc. It’s very rare, but it sometimes happens.
Here’s are some signs of an allergic reaction in your pet:
- Licking of the feet
- Hot/red ears
If your dog or cat displays any of these symptoms right after consuming tomatoes (about 20-30 min later), then your pet may be allergic to this family of plants and should not be fed these any longer.
My little dog Hina eats our tomatoes off the vine regularly. As do my wife and I. For most of the population, consuming tomatoes (raw and cooked) is okay. If you are concerned though, cook the tomatoes. Cooking the tomatoes are the best way to utilize them as a medicinal food for the antioxidant contribution, vitamins, and minerals.
Another tip is to always buy organic, non-GMO tomatoes, or grow your own.
They are the easiest vegetable to grow in your yard, and produces fairly quickly. I love tomatoes, and have feed them to my dogs and cats in various forms: raw, and cooked into a paste.
Food as Medicine?
Most veterinarians have NO training in nutrition, and the idea that whole foods and plants can have medicinal qualities is a very “far out” notion for them to accept. This is sad because herbal and diet therapy is another tool for veterinarians to use to improve or maintain good health in animals. There is tremendous value in using the medicinal qualities of food to treat disease and PREVENT serious ailments.
But the typical approach in conventional veterinary medicine is to approach food and diet as a means to an end: it’s all about calories and percentages of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates. The quality of the “fuel” fed to the animals, and the nuances of each ingredient within the diet are simply not considered.
High quality diets aren’t a new idea. We know that in people, eating healthy meals can prevent serious issues like cancer, kidney disease, liver problems, etc. But (collectively) we’re still in a mind-shift to approach our pet’s health in the same way.
My book Fresh Food & Ancient Wisdom: Preparing Healthy & Balanced Meals For Your Dogs can give you some insight as to why the current “conventional” paradigm of feeding dogs is invalid and creates disease; the book will also give you clear action steps on how you can better feed your dogs.
P.S. And that reminds me – there’s another fruit that gets a “bad rap” for being toxic: Avocados!
Where I have lived (along the West Coast and in Hawaii) in the past 30 years, I have always had avocado trees. My dogs ate avocados every day. Where I now live, we have 7 avocado trees. The cats keep the rats away but the avocados fall to the ground and our little 15lb Shiba Inu/ Terrier has been eating one avocado per day for weeks and without ill effects. Many of my clients regularly feed avocados to their dogs.
So why is avocado ALWAYS listed as a poisonous plant in most traditional pet safety guides? Perhaps the original avocados that caused some pets to get sick were grown with pesticides and artificial fertilizers…it does make a difference!