Can Dogs Lick Lemons?

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Introduction

With all the dog videos you watch on YouTube, you've probably seen a shot of a well-intentioned, but misinformed owner feeding a lemon to their pup to elicit a cute, silly, puckering pup face. While these videos seem harmless - and admittedly, can be pretty funny - feeding your dog a lemon or allowing your dog to lick lemons isn't something you should practice. 

While lemons aren't necessarily deadly for dogs (like other fruits can be), the psoralen compounds and aromatic oils in lemons are toxic enough for your pup that you can expect upset stomachs, dizziness, and even unusual sensitivity to light. Though dogs most likely won't eat lemons on their own - the sour smell and taste are enough to throw your dog off the hunt for food - it is possible they will gobble one up - especially if they are young and curious. 

How can you tell if your pup is experiencing symptoms due to ingesting lemons? How can you keep your pup away from lemons in general? Check out our guide below to give you all the lemon info you and your doggo need.

Signs Your Dog Got Their Paws on Lemons

Like we said above, an accidental lick or two of a lemon - or another citrus fruit, for that matter - isn't going to be enough to get your dog sick, but if your pup has got his or her paws on an entire lemon,  it could spell trouble. 

If you notice that a few of your citrus fruits are missing, it might be time to check in on your pooch and ensure that they haven't ingested all your lemons. If you suspect they might have, check first for signs of irregular digestion, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and other irregular bathroom behaviors like incontinence. 

Your pup also might face skin issues like dermatitis, rashes, and general irritation. Your pup might also face things like system depression, unusual light sensitivity, and other neurological symptoms - but that would be after quite a lot of lemon per body weight of the dog.

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues to look out for if you suspect your dog ingested lemons:
  • Panting
  • Ears drop
  • Drooling
  • Lack of focus
  • Back hair on edge
  • Pupils dilated

Other Signs

Here are a few other things to keep an eye out for if you think your dog ingested lemons:
  • Dermatitis
  • Inability to walk or stand
  • Muscle tremors or shakes
  • Drooling
  • GI distress
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The History of Dogs Eating Lemons

When it comes to training dogs, people have often resorted to using lemon juice as a bitter, sour, punishment for their pups. The argument? If your dog associates a bad taste in their mouth with the behavior that put them there in the first place, they likely won't continue this behavior.

Dozens of sites on the internet claim that mixing up a solution of vinegar and lemon juice can be the ultimate spray to keep your dog's bad behaviors at bay, but unfortunately, this is a dangerous mistake. Even though your dog won't be ingesting the peel and the seeds, where the toxic materials are, the acidity of the lemon juice in your dog's no-no spray can cause serious GI issues - this can be a painful experience for your dog as well as a serious case of clean-up for you. 

But even more likely, a spray with lemon in it could really bother their eyes, which you presumably want to avoid.

The Science Behind Lemon Toxicity

Though the severity of lemon toxicity isn't quite as serious as other human foods, even a small amount of it can still cause severe issues for your dog. But what is it about lemons that cause such issues for your dog? 

The real issue lies within a substance contained in most citrus fruits called psoralens. Psoralens can be found in most parts of the lemon, but are most concentrated in the skin and seeds of the lemon, making dogs who snack on lemons that grow outside on trees at severe risk. 

Lemon juice - sans the skin - is still dangerous, as the high acidity can upset your pup's GI system significantly. Various internet sources will boast about the benefits of lemon essential oils for battling external parasites, but it should be noted that essential oils are simply concentrated lemon, and it's never safe for your dog to ingest them due to the highly concentrated psoralens.

Training Your Dog to Stay Away from Lemons

As great as dogs are, they're incredibly curious, and that can often get them into trouble. If your pup so happens to be curious about lemons, well, that could be a great deal of trouble. Lemons, as well as other citrus fruits, are toxic to dogs and can be incredibly dangerous if eaten in large qualities. 

While we'd hope you wouldn't feed your dog lemons, it's possible that their curiosity could lead them toward lemon trees growing outside or the lemons you store in your home. That being said, it's important you train your dog to stay away from lemons. 

A good starting point for this is to ensure your dog can follow basic obedience commands. A firm "no" or "stay" can go a long way, especially if you see your dog running jowls-first toward the bowl of lemons you keep on your counter. 

It's also important that you train your pup to only venture outside where they're allowed. If your neighbors have a lemon tree, or you have one in your yard, training your pup to stay away from it is going to be vital. You can do this in a few ways - ensure that you're outside when your dog is to keep an eye on them, train them to stay away from certain areas (just as you'd train them to stay off the furniture), or train your pup with an electric collar and set up perimeters around the lemon trees.

How to React if Your Dog Ingests Lemons:

  • Contact your vet immediately.
  • Wash your dog's mouth out with water.
  • If your vet instructs, induce vomiting.
  • Consider new places to store your lemons - somewhere your dog cannot accidentally get to.
  • Consider fencing off the area where lemon trees grow.