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What is Lemon and Lime Poisoning?

The fruits of the lemon and lime trees are well-known additions to food and drink in the human world but can be a danger to our pets. Lemons and limes, like other citrus fruits, contain the essential oils limonene and linalool, as well as a phototoxic compound known as psoralens. Although a small amount is unlikely to pose a serious threat, it can cause gastrointestinal upset. Ingestion of larger quantities of these fruits, or the trees that they grow on, can cause more serious distress.

Both lemon (citrus limon) and lime (citrus aurantifolia) trees produce phototoxic compounds called psoralens as well as linalool and limonene. Although safe for humans, these substances are toxic to canines.

Lemon and Lime Poisoning Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Lemon and Lime Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of poisoning from citrus fruits like lemons and limes are caused by a combination of the phototoxic compounds known as psoralens and the essential oils limonene and linalool.

  • Cold limbs
  • Collapse
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Liver failure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Photosensitivity 
  • Rash or skin irritation
  • Sudden death
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Types

 

Both psoralens and linalool are found in other plants as well. However the essential oil limonene is generally restricted to citrus plants. Other plants that produce linalool:

  • Beech trees 
  • Cinnamon
  • Laurels
  • Mint plants
  • Rosewood

Other plants with high concentrations of psoralens:

  • Anise seeds
  • Caraway seeds
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dill
  • Fennel seeds
  • Figs
  • Grapefruit
  • Lovage
  • Mustard seeds
  • Oranges
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Root parsley
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Causes of Lemon and Lime Poisoning in Dogs

The toxicity of citrus plants lies in the essential oils limonene and linalool, as well as in the phototoxic compound psoralen.

Limonene

 

A terpene produced in all citrus fruits which is the main component in the aroma of the different citrus fruits. It is often used in cosmetic products, flavoring compounds, and cleaning products. d-limonene is often employed in fragrances and shampoos for dogs. It is important to note that although the amount of d-limonene in these shampoos is safe for most canines, can be lethal to use on cats. 

Linalool

A terpene that contributes a floral scent to the citrus aroma, linalool is often utilized as an insecticide in soaps and lotions as a fragrance as well as being employed as an insecticide.

Psoralen

A compound found in many plants, including citrus plants like lemons and limes, it is used as a treatment for skin disorders but can also induce phototoxicity.

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Diagnosis of Lemon and Lime Poisoning in Dogs

If you catch your pet consuming any type of citrus plant, signs and symptoms combined with the identification of the plant may be sufficient to make an initial diagnosis. Your veterinarian will question you regarding factors that will help to choose the most effective treatment plan, such as the amount of plant material ingested, how long ago it was ingested, and what part of the plant was eaten. If the toxin is unknown because the ingestion was unwitnessed, a urinalysis, blood chemistry profile, and complete blood count will be needed in order to determine which toxin is causing the distress. 

Any skin interaction will be noted, and any vomit or stools will be analyzed for toxins as well. Neurological testing to measure your pet’s reflexes and coordination may also occur during the diagnostic appointment. These evaluations are done in an attempt to pinpoint the specific areas of the nervous system that have been affected.

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Treatment of Lemon and Lime Poisoning in Dogs

Any parts of the skin that have been exposed to the oil of the citrus plant should be washed immediately removed using a mild soap and clean water. Limonene and linalool are included in several dog shampoos as a fragrance and therefore, should be avoided when removing citrus oil. It is not advised to induce vomiting as breathing the oil into the lungs can be harmful. Gastric irrigation will be performed on the patient to physically remove as much of the toxin from the digestive system as possible. Activated charcoal will then be administered to prevent any further absorption of the toxic compound into the bloodstream. 

There is no antidote for either the psoralens or the essential oils, so treatment is generally supportive beyond decontamination. This can include IV fluids for dehydration as well as mixtures of electrolytes and sugars to adjust for any imbalances that might develop. If your dog is having difficulty breathing, oxygen will be provided, and antiseizure medications may be administered if tremors become acute.

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Recovery of Lemon and Lime Poisoning in Dogs

Prognosis is typically good as the poisoning symptoms only last a few hours, however, ingestion of essential oils including lemons and limes can have a more dire outcome.  Dogs that require gastric lavage and are recovering from anesthesia may have coordination difficulties and confusion until the sedatives have fully cleared the patient’s system. Cases of phototoxicity have developed with citrus poisoning, and your pet should be sheltered from sunlight for around 48 hours after treatment to prevent skin reactions. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend regular monitoring of blood chemistry levels for your pet after any type of poisoning, particularly in relation to liver and kidney functionality or impairment.

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Lemon and Lime Poisoning Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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Lemon and Lime Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pit Bull

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Ate A Half A Lemon And Lemon Peel

Hi! My dog ate half of a squeezed lemon and peel from off the table - I saw her do it and she didn't even chew, just swallowed it whole. I've been reading that lemons can be really bad for dogs. What should we do?

Aug. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. Lemons are not toxic to dogs but can cause them to vomit or have diarrhea. If this happens, it may be best to see your vet for medication to help treat her symptoms. Good Luck.

Aug. 21, 2020

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Pit Bullmastiff

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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None

Half a lemon fell On floor and he snatched it up and ate it Do I induce vomiting with him or what should I do?

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I don't expect a toxicity from that amount of lemon, and the lemon should actually be broken down in the stomach and not have a huge risk for foreign body. There may be some GI upset, and you may want to feed him a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for a couple of days. It would be best also to monitor for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea, and if those occur, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope it all goes well.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Maltese mix

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Gastrointestinal Noises; Not Eating

My dog a couple of leaves off a lemon tree last night. Should I take him in as an emergency visit?

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, This plant is toxic to dogs. Common signs that you will see are vomiting and diarrhea. If he just ate a small amount he may be just fine. Since you are already noticing some GI signs it would be best to take your dog to the vet, especially since your dog is small. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 25, 2020

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Unknown

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Two Months

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2 found helpful

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None

My puppy licked a squeezed lime! Help!

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Licking a lime should not cause any serious problems. Eating large amounts can be toxic but licking a small amount should not cause any serious issues. I would monitor for G.I. upset but I don’t anticipate that happening.

July 10, 2020

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Violet

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Labrador Retriever

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18 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My 18 wk old lab puppy ate a small branch of my Meyer's lemon tree. She just got sick on the carpet and seems a little more lethargic than usual. Her temperature seems normal at 101. Should I monitor this for the next 24 hours or get her to a vet? Many thanks!

Sept. 23, 2018

Violet's Owner

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Pickles

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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6 Months

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Lethargy

Hi, I just caught my 6 month old puppy eating the leaves off my lemon tree. I have no idea how many he has eaten, he was already a bit lethargic before eating the lime leaves so its a bit hard to tell if its that, he does already have a vet appointment for Saturday, but should I be getting him in sooner?

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Tikkani

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Siberian Husky

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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Lethargy
Not Eating
Sleepiness

Our husky got a hold of half a slice of lime, that had been sitting in a glass of water. He had swallowed it before I could open his mouth to get it out. About an hour or two later, I noticed he was just laying around. He didn't come to his bed like he normally does. I monitored him through the night, to check breathing, and if anything around his stomach irritated him. This morning, he was still lethargic. I tried to get him to drink water, but instead he chose to chew on some ice cubes. I will make him some boiled chicken and rice tonight to get him to eat. Should I make an appointment with the Veterinarian?

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Umbra

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Siberian Husky

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10 Months

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Diarrhea

My 10 month old husky just ate one wedge of lemon potatoes. This was seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and a little lemon juice. She seems to be energetic and weighs about 40 pounds. Should I be concerned?

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Charlie

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Mix

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6 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Labored Breathing
Sluggish

I made some fish on Sunday afternoon. The fish was seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and lemon to finish. My family ate most of it, but the remaining bits were given to our 6 y.o. mix breed, Charlie. He was fine most of Monday but began acting funny late Monday night: sluggish and protective. This morning (Tuesday), he is still sluggish but is eating. No poop or vomit.

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Javier

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Chiweenie

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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None

I have an 11 year old, 9 lb chi weenie who drank about a third of a can of flat lime LaCroix; the water no longer had carbonation because it had been out overnight. Happened about an hour ago, and it’s bedrime here so he’s sleepy anyway. Ate some cheese cracker treats after. No symptoms, but I know the LaCroix is flavored with lime essence oils and I’m concerned. Do you think he will be okay or does it need to be more concentrated to cause problems? I always worry because he’s so small.

Lemon and Lime Poisoning Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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