Italian-style pasta sauce can be a great way to add some variety and excitement into your dog’s dietary regime, especially when combined with some beef or pork meatballs for added protein.
But are tomatoes actually safe, and what are other important ingredients to avoid when preparing the dish for your four-legged friend?
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
The short answer is both yes and no.
As a part of the nightshade family, tomatoes can contain several chemicals that can provide digestive discomfort to your dogs.
This is true of the green stems and immature tomatoes, which contain a glycoalkaloid substance known as tomatine. This can be toxic when consumed in large quantities, and can cause dogs to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and severe stomach pains.
The stems and the leaves of the tomato plants also contain a substance called solanine, which when consumed in large quantities can also cause serious health problems.
Look out for a lethargic state, drowsiness, and confusion, as well as dilated pupils and a slowed down heart rate. If your dog experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
That being said, the red, ripe, full bodied tomatoes at peak maturity can be greatly enjoyed by dogs, and possess no negative side effects or sicknesses.
In fact, tomatoes can be especially good sources of fiber, improving their digestive health and regularity when it comes to bowel movements.
This is caused by the tomato skin, pulp, and crushed tomato seeds, which are commonly found in dog foods under the name “tomato pomace”.
Whilst considered by some to be the waste products of the tomato plant, any nutritional expert will tell you that those parts are the most important parts to consume, as they contain beneficial minerals and vitamins.
As well as this, tomatoes are full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to fight cancer cells in both humans and animals, leads to better skin and fur health, and can lead to further longevity and maintenance of the eye sight.
Tomatoes aso contain beta carotene, the substance that causes the attractive red color of the ripened tomato fruit. Beta carotene is vital to the production of vitamin A within the body, and can be beneficial for eye and skin health.
As well as vitamin A, tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, which is a vital antioxidant and immune system booster.
Whilst not specifically a part of their dietary requirements, vitamin C can help prevent cancer cells forming, and improve sensitive or weakened immune systems in dogs.
Ingredients To Avoid
Of course, with many tomato-based sauces (particularly those of Italian origin), there are numerous herbs, spices, seasonings, and vegetables that are used to give the sauce its rich and delicious taste.
Whilst perfectly fine for most humans, dogs do not have the right digestive constitution to handle most of those kinds of ingredients.
Here is a list of ones to avoid when preparing the sauce for your dog.
Salt & Sugar
Both of these ingredients are not exactly healthy for us in large doses, so it should come as no surprise that dogs suffer the same ill effects.
Sugar in their food can lead to digestive issues, like upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains, and so should be avoided at all costs.
Sugar can also cause significant weight gain in humans and animals, which can cause a whole host of health problems down the line.
Too much salt can cause a whole host of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes. Too much salt can also lead to salt poisoning, also known as hypernatremia, which can manifest itself as diarrhea, fever, seizures, swelling, vomiting, and weakness.
This is caused by too much salt being present in the blood, leading to muscles losing moisture and shriveling as a result, bodily stiffness, shaking, and jerking.
Salt poisoning can also cause neurological symptoms, including convulsions, comas, and even death if particularly severe.
Onions & Garlic
Onions and garlic, whilst delicious to us, possess a whole host of risks for a dog’s physical wellbeing. The main risk is that they will attack the red blood cells, which after time can cause anemia, poor health, weakness, and even death in extreme cases.
Whilst best avoided entirely, or maintained to miniscule doses, heavy consumption can result in symptoms of toxicity, namely bad breath, drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and physical weakness.
The treatment for these symptoms is IV treatment to rehydrate the dog, and even medication depending on the severity of the toxicity.
Some bad cases of canine anemia also require blood transfusions, which can be stressful, invasive, painful, and also expensive for the owner.
Ingredients To Try (In Small Doses)
Basil can be consumed safely by dogs in small portions, but heavy consumption can result in loose stools/diarrhea, allergy effects, digestion problems such as bloating, flatulence, and stomach pains, as well as skin irritations similar to those during allergic reactions.
That being said, there are several health benefits to dogs consuming basil in small, controlled doses.
Firstly, basil is another good source of antioxidants, which are good for preventing the growth of cancer cells, as well as possessing anti-inflammatory properties, perfect for older dogs with joint issues.
Basil has also been shown to counteract oxidative stress, using beta carotene and anthocyanins to eliminate free radicals (uncharged molecules) in the body.
Basil can also be good for heart health, with healthy oils that can lower cholesterol, and magnesium which can promote better blood mobility and circulation.
There are also mental health benefits, once again thanks to the antioxidants, which possess a calming effect, and can reduce anxiety and stress in dogs.
This is done by reducing the presence of corticosterone, a chemical which causes anxiety in dogs.
Antioxidants are also great for preventing natural cellular damage, and for promoting a longer lifespan, thanks to their counteracting of joint conditions like arthritis, and heart problems associated with older dogs.
Bell peppers are once again great sources of beta carotene and vitamin C, possessing antioxidants that are beneficial for a number of natural and unnaturally occurring canine ailments.
Bell peppers are also chock full of water (almost 92%), and contain traces of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, all of which can help bolster your dog’s overall nutritional health.
The fats and carbohydrates will provide your dog with the energy they need, and protein offers muscle building benefits.
Peppers also include manganese and magnesium, both of which are essential for bone health, something that is important in dogs, young and old.
However, there are certain health consequences for heavy consumption of bell peppers.
Firstly, dogs are carnivorous creatures, and so a vegetable heavy diet will not give them the nutritional benefits they need to thrive and be healthy.
Excessive consumption of vegetables will cause bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting in dogs, and bell peppers are no different.
Spicier peppers like jalapenos should be avoided, as they could cause digestive distress, discomfort, and pain to dogs, even in small amounts.
How About Other Tomato Products?
The main issue with most types of tomato-based products, is the added seasonings and ingredients, and so caution should always be taken when serving them to your dog.
A lot of tomato soups contain both cream and cheese for added body and flavor, and whilst these may taste nice to us, they can cause digestive problems in dogs, such as bloating, sickness, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
They also contain a lot of the previously discussed seasonings and spices, most of which are not beneficial for dogs. Tomato soup works best if homemade and ingredient controlled, if only for peace of mind.
As well as the added seasonings and spices, ketchup also commonly features xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause kidney problems in dogs if heavily consumed, as well as vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
Whilst tomato sauce can be a nice, delicious addition to your dog’s diet, it is important to always be vigilant about hidden ingredients, seasonings, and spices.
The best, healthiest results are always achieved by making your own, and this can be a nutritional, tasty treat for dog and owner alike!