It’s fun to imagine the first time a human plucked a lemon from a tree and bit into it. Can you picture the face they made when they tasted the sour lemon juice? It makes you wonder why they went back for more! Your dog probably has the same reaction when he tastes lemon. Dogs, in general, are not fond of lemons and other citrus fruits. Are lemons actually toxic to dogs? Keep reading.
Lemons are a great source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, and copper. They are also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, iron, and magnesium. They are low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol and sodium.
Lemons are made up of 63 percent carbohydrates, 13 percent fats, and 24 percent protein.
One raw lemon with the peel (108 grams) contains 21.6 calories, 11.6 grams of carbohydrates, 5.1 grams of dietary fiber, 0.3 grams of total fat, 0.1 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 1.3 grams of protein.
That one serving of lemon with the peel is very high in vitamin C and copper.
The sugars in lemon are mainly simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
The main fiber in lemon consists of pectin. Pectin is a soluble fiber that can help lower blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion of sugar and starch.
Lemons also provide some nutritional benefits but even humans rarely eat them by themselves because they are so sour.
Lemons contain plant compounds such as:
- Citric acid: The most abundant organic acid in lemons, citric acid may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
- An antioxidant that may strengthen blood vessels and help prevent atherosclerosis – the buildup of plaque inside your arteries.
- This is an antioxidant used in some drugs that affect the circulatory system. It improves muscle tone and can help reduce chronic inflammation in the blood vessels.
- An antioxidant found in lemon juice and lemon peel.
- D-limonene. Found mostly in the peel. D-limonene is the main ingredient in lemon essential oils. It is responsible for the distinct aroma of the lemon. It’s thought to relieve heartburn and stomach reflux.
The vitamin C in lemons is associated with reduced heart disease. Citric acid in lemons may reduce the risk of kidney stones. Lemon is also believed to help avoid problems with anemia. While lemon only contains a small amount of iron, the vitamin C and citric acid in lemon can increase the absorption of iron from other foods.
Lemon is believed to help reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer because of the plant compounds it contains.
Lemons can trigger allergies in some people. Some people can have skin irritation from lemons. They are also very acidic so they can be bad for tooth enamel.
Lemon, raw, without peel
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||121 kJ (29 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.8 g|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||4%
|Link to USDA Database entry|
Can Dogs Have Lemons?
Lemons are not toxic to dogs but most dogs will naturally avoid them, especially in large amounts. While dogs are often known for eating things they shouldn’t, including trash and even poop and carcasses, they seem to draw the line at bitter, sour, tart fruits.
Your dog doesn’t have as many tastebuds as you do but he is certainly able to taste bitter and sour foods. For scavengers like dogs, these flavors appear to warn them that something can be harmful. Your dog might smell or lick a lemon but most dogs won’t eat them. (There are always exceptions.)
If your dog does eat a lemon, there is no need to panic. Coming in contact with a lemon, whether it’s the fruit inside, the peel, or the juice, won’t hurt your dog. It’s generally the citric acid that can be harmful. Your dog would have to consume a lot of it – and more than one lemon – to be harmed.
In fact, many dog foods use citric acid as a preservative so your dog has probably ingested small amounts during his lifetime.
As for eating lemons, if your dog is one of the rare dogs that wants to eat them, his size and the sensitivity of his digestive tract will determine how much he can eat before he gets sick.
The essential oils in lemons, however, can also be problematic for dogs. Essential oils are very concentrated. If you have lemon essential oils in your home, you need to keep them where your dog can’t reach them. Most dogs will avoid them if they get a whiff of them but it’s always possible your dog could gulp first and ask questions later. Essential oils can be very potent. If your dog does consume lemon essential oils you should contact your veterinarian for help.
If your dog does consume lemons or lemon peels you might see the following symptoms:
- Digestive upset
Dogs that eat lots of lemons can develop an unusual sensitivity to light.
If your dog eats larger amounts of lemons, peels, or essential oils, they can be toxic to your dog. The essential oils and compounds contain psoralens that can be dangerous if your dog consumes them in large enough quantities. Your dog could exhibit these symptoms:
- Cold limbs
- Excessive drooling
- Liver failure
- Loss of coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Rash or skin irritation
- Sudden death
If you think your dog has eaten a large amount of lemons, lemon peels, or essential oils, contact your veterinarian immediately. The prognosis for recovery is good for most dogs especially if you contact the vet quickly.
Lemons can pose a choking hazard to your dog if he treats them like a toy or a ball. Swallowing a big chunk of a lemon could also be problematic. Lemon seeds are unlikely to be a choking hazard because of their small size but don’t let your dog have them anyway.
In case you are wondering, lemonade, lemon pie, and other foods that contain large amounts of lemon are also a bad idea for dogs. Most of these foods not only contain lemon but copious amounts of sugar which is also bad for dogs.
How Much Lemon Can You Give Your Dog?
We don’t recommend that you give your dog lemons at all. If your dog happens to steal a slice of lemon, it’s not usually a cause for concern, however. Watch your dog to see if he becomes ill. He may experience vomiting or digestive upset.
If your dog somehow manages to consume a large amount of lemons, contact your veterinarian right away.
Lemon scent is very popular not just in household cleaners but also in dog shampoos and other grooming products. This shouldn’t be a problem for your dog. Most dogs are not tempted to consume dog shampoo or conditioners. If your dog should happen to consume dog shampoo that contains lemon ingredients, such as d-limonene (the key ingredient in most lemon essential oils), contact your veterinarian.
Likewise, if your dog consumes any household cleaners (with or without a lemony scent), contact your veterinarian immediately.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Lemon?
We recommend that you do not give your dog lemon or make it part of his diet.
Lemons have many benefits and humans have found ways to enjoy them. However, lemons are not something that should be part of your dog’s diet. Most dogs don’t like the sour taste. The citric acid in lemons can be harmful to dogs in large amounts. Plus, the essential oils in lemons contain compounds which can be toxic to dogs. Try to discourage your dog from any interest in lemons.