Can My Dog Eat Lemons, or Are They Bad for My Furry Friend?

Just like humans, dogs generally won’t rush out to eat lemons. But what if your furry friend eats one that fell off the tree?

Is lemon toxic to dogs, and what should you do if your pet does eat a lemon? Are there any benefits of lemons for canines?

A sad Dachshund standing beside a piece of lemon
A sad Dachshund apprehensive of a lemon fruit

Keep reading as we delve deeper into your various lemony questions to answer the question, “can my dog eat lemons?”.

Are Lemons Good for Dogs?

Babies eating lemons are some of the funniest internet videos around. The hilarious reactions they make when they pull and twist their face to the sour taste are similar to what your dog may do.

Most dogs will have a solid reaction to the taste of lemons. And while it may look funny, it’s not a joke to try and feed lemons to your pet. 

This video of dog owners giving their pets lemons actually has more than 800,000 views, but feeding your canine lemons might be considered animal abuse.

Foods that are rotten or poisonous often taste bitter to dogs, so it makes sense that they stay away from the taste of lemons. The citric acid in this fruit can pose a problem for your pet’s digestive system

For humans, lemons are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber. They also contain two cancer-fighting antioxidants, limonene and flavonol glycosides.

However, your dog would have to eat copious amounts of this fruit to reap these health benefits, which would do more harm than good. 

Therefore, lemons have no nutritional value for dogs, so there isn’t any real reason to make them eat this fruit.

Are Lemons Toxic to Dogs?

A sad Frenchie surrounded by three pieces of lemons
A sad Frenchie seems to know lemons is not good for him

Dogs are known to stick their noses where they don’t belong and eat things they shouldn’t. So it does occasionally happen that your dog may get hold of a lemon. While the flesh of lemons isn’t poisonous for dogs, eating it in large quantities can be dangerous.

Citrus fruits are packed with essential oils and psoralen compound, a chemical compound that is toxic for dogs.

This compound is in the highest concentration in the skin, seeds, and the white parts of the fruit, known as the pith, making lemons bad for dogs. These psoralens aren’t only found in lemon; they’re also present in celery, parsley, and figs.

Risks associated with eating Lemons

Lemon can cause digestive problems for your dog. Along with causing an upset stomach, there is also an obvious risk of your dog choking on a lemon. If your dog swallows a lot of lemon peel, this can also block the intestines

You also want to ensure that you keep any lemon-scented items away from your dog. Even if you have natural lemon-scented household cleaners, they can still make your pet sick.

Essential oils with a lemon fragrance can also upset your dog, especially as these products are highly concentrated.

Diagnosis of Lemon Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of lemon poisoning in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, and sensitivity to lights. A nauseous dog will also lick their lips and swallow more frequently.

The more lemon your pooch has consumed, the more severe their symptoms will be due to the increased toxicity levels.

A large amount of lemon in your dog’s system will lead to severe gastrointestinal distress and can cause drooling, muscle tremors, dizziness, and an inability to walk.

Ingesting a large amount of lemon can also cause itching and rashes in the groin area and liver failure.

Treatment of Lemon Poisoning in Dogs

A Jack Russell Terrier being passed by one veterinarian to another
A Jack Russell Terrier being treated at the veterinarian

If you suspect your dog has eaten lemons and has poisoning be sure to contact your vet or animal poison control immediately. Most dogs can handle a small amount of lemon in their system and won’t need to be seen by a veterinarian.

That said, a large amount of lemon ingestion without immediate veterinary help could lead to fatal consequences.

Dogs that have consumed copious amounts of lemon may need to have gastric lavage, which includes flushing saline solution through your dog’s stomach through a tube inserted in the mouth to remove the toxicants. 

Recovery of Lemon Poisoning in Dogs

Most dogs who haven’t consumed a large amount of lemon will recover within a few hours if they display any symptoms at all.

If your dog needs a gastric lavage procedure, it will also have to recover from anesthesia. While recovering, your dog will need to stay at the vet as they will be confused and uncoordinated for quite some time. 

Dogs who have developed photosensitivity due to lemon poisoning will also need to be sheltered from the sunlight for at least two days to prevent skin and eye issues.

Your dog’s blood levels might also need to be monitored to check their liver and kidney function.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog standing by pieces of lemons
Meet Frida, a Corgi who seems curious about lemons – Image source

Is there a variety of lemon foods and drinks that dogs can eat?

Just as dogs can’t eat lemon, they should also avoid lemonade and drinks or foods made from lemon.

Lemonade, which is essentially just lemons, sugar, and water, has the same acidity as lemons with the added problem of sugar, leading to unnecessary weight gain and other health problems. 

Many lemon products and lemon juices also contain xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs. 

What should you do if your dog ingests too much lemon? 

Most dogs won’t get sick from a simple accidental lick of one lemon or eating small quantities. Your dog would likely need to eat more than one whole lemon to start showing symptoms of poisoning.

That said, if you’re unsure about how much lemon your dog has ingested, it may be a good idea to take him to the vet just in case.

How can you train your dog to stay away from lemons?

Some dogs like to play with lemons. After all, they are round and yellow and kind of look like tennis balls. To train a dog to stay away from lemons, you need to get them to respond to the command, “leave it.”

If your dog always goes to pick up lemons in their mouth, then you’ll also want to train them to listen to the command, “drop it.” 

Be sure to reward your dog with a treat when they obey your commands so that they start to realize that lemons are not toys

Also, never try and get your dog to lick a lemon just for a gag video. This is one sure way to break the trust you have in your dog and can break the bond you have created.

This may cause them to be stubborn or defy you when training and be hesitant around new people or when confronted with strange situations.

Is Lemon essential oil for external use good for dogs?

A Cavoodle standing on the grass, in front of a lemon tree
Meet Harley, a Cavoodle who likes hanging out by a lemon tree – Image source

Some people use lemon essential oils or a lemon spray to stop their dog or puppy chewing certain items. This is not advised, as citric acid can make your dog violently ill. 

While you can use a bitter spray made from apple cider vinegar to try and get your puppy to stop chewing, instead try to avoid destructive behavior by giving your pet a chew dog or puzzle game to keep them occupied when you’re away. 

As essential oils aren’t regulated products, using these in your home can be dangerous for your dog.

There are some pet-friendly alternatives that you may be able to use, but if you also have cats around, these are best avoided as home diffusing oils can wreak havoc with felines.

Are other Citrus Fruits Dangerous for dogs?

Most other citrus fruits with a sour taste are bad for your dog. This includes limes which also have a very high citric acid content.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also contains grapefruit about the list of foods you should avoid feeding your pet. 

The only real exception to this rule is oranges, but these should only be eaten in moderation because of their high sugar content, which can lead to obesity.

Various other fruits are good for dogs, providing plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These include cranberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, and strawberries.

Of course, any human foods should also be fed to your pet in moderation and as part of a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Many of these healthy fruits are also included in dog food.

A 10% rule is an excellent guideline to follow when feeding fruit to your pets. This means that any treat given to your pet should not exceed 10% of their daily calories.

Now You Know: Lemon is Bad for Dogs

A Bichon Frise lying on the grass, resting its chin on a lemon stuffed toy
Professor Porridge, a Bichon Frise, loves his lemon stuffed toy – Image source

While you might think it’s funny to watch your dog’s face screw up as he tries to eat a lemon, now you know that feeding lemon to your dog isn’t actually funny at all.

While your dog won’t like the taste, you also run the risk of causing gastrointestinal upset, which could have severe consequences for your pet. No good pet parent would feed their dog lemon just for fun.

Also, be sure to stay away from giving your pet any lemon-flavored foods or juices whose acidic nature can also be toxic to your dog. Avoiding any lemon-scented essential oils and cleaning products, even if natural, is also advised.

Has your dog consumed lemon by mistake? Did they have any side effects? We would appreciate you sharing your experience with other readers in the comments below.

Further reading: What other alternative fruit options can dogs eat?

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