Lemons are a versatile citrus fruit that is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Lemons are known for their bright yellow color and their very tangy and tart taste. Since you likely have lemons in your kitchen most of the time, you may have wondered if it is safe for dogs to taste lemons or if it is bad for them.
Although it would take more than a sniff or lick to seriously harm your dog, lemons should not be given to your dog as a snack. Lemons are very acidic, so it is likely your dog would not want to eat a lemon anyway, but it is still important to keep lemons away from your dog just in case they were to get into a basket full on the counter.
Signs of a Dog Not Liking a Lemon
It is easy to tell whether or not your dog likes a certain food or if they do not. You can instantly tell when your dog falls in love with a certain food and how excited they when they hear the chip bag crinkling open.
If your dog loves a certain food, they will eat it without any hesitation and won't spit it out. Instead, they will drool, lick their lips, beg for more, paw at you or the food, stare intently, pace, and sometimes even jump at you or the food as if they are asking for more. They will also look very alert, they will wag their tail, and many dogs will bark, cry, and whine as well.
If your dog does not like a food, just like they probably won't be a fan of the smell or taste of lemon, their reaction is completely different. Many dogs will give the food their "ugly face." Dogs will snarl or expose their teeth at the food and spit the food back out after they try it for the first time.
They may try and play with the food after they spit it out to show they don't see it as food, but just an object to play with. If you have a calm and polite dog, they may just ignore the food and walk away from it as if they are completely disinterested.
History of Dogs and Lemons
Even though the lemons are so popular and are quite easy to get all over the world, the origin of the lemon is still a mystery. Lemons may have originated in India, although this is merely speculation and there is no evidence to confirm this is true. Lemons have been used in India in a variety of ways for more than 2500 years. Lemons then made their way to other parts of the globe as traders from Arabia brought lemons to Africa and the Middle East. Lemons were eventually brought to parts of Europe as well.
By the 15th century, lemons gained so much popularity in Europe that they were used in many food dishes and were then cultivated on a much larger scale, so, they were easier to access. Lemons were then introduced to the Americas when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds with him to the new world. Lemons become popular in the United States as well and by the 1800's, California and Florida were the main lemon cultivators in the United States. Commercial production of lemons grew exponentially.
Lemons also have a long and interesting history in their use for medical purposes. Scurvy was a terrible and contagious disease many people caught, and lemons were used to help cure this painful and unpleasant ailment. Lemons were also used to prevent people from contracting scurvy as well. Lemons helped cure this disease due to their high levels of vitamin C, which boosted the immune system to fight off this deadly infection. Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, so this fruit's high concentrations drastically improved the survival rate.
Science Behind Dogs and Lemons
Lemons are not necessarily toxic to dogs like grapes and raisins, but this does not mean that dogs should ever eat a lemon, especially an entire lemon, skin and all. Your dog will probably not like the smell or taste of lemons anyway, so the risk of them eating a full lemon is very low.
They are extremely sour - so are not enjoyable. Lemons also have a very high level of acidity and this can cause stomach upset, loose stool, and vomiting in your dog. If on the off chance your dog does consume a lot of lemons, they can suffer, so you should seek medical advice from for veterinarian.
Most sources claim lemons are highly toxic to dogs, but we should note that this claim is not fully accurate. Just like other foods that are considered highly toxic to dogs, your dog would have to consume an entire lemon (pits, seeds, flesh, and peel) to have a life-threatening reaction to them. Lemon peel contains strong essential oils and psoralens that may affect your dog's stomach and nervous system - if they were to eat the whole fruit. If you dog simply sniffs a lemon or takes a lick or two of the lemon, they will not experience any kind of life-threatening side effects.
Lemons contain lots of vitamin C and have phytonutrients, but there is no safe way to give your pup enough lemon juice for them to get any of the benefits. Your dog can get the same benefits that lemons have from other dog-friendly sources of fruit or veggies like apples, blueberries, kale, and broccoli.
Overall, you should avoid giving your dog lemons or keeping lemons in a place where your dog can easily access them. However, letting them sniff a lemon will not do them much harm. It is always important to keep in mind that just because something has toxic properties to your dogs, that does not mean any contact with that food will be a massive cause for concern. Often, your dog will have to be exposed to large amounts of the toxic food for them to really be at risk.
Training Dogs to Avoid Lemons
Even though a very small amount of lemon will not pose life-threatening risks to your dogs, you should never force your dog to eat a piece of lemon or leave lemons out for them to get ahold of. Lemons do not contain any nutritional benefits for dogs and dogs do not like the very strong and tart flavor or lemons.
If you want more phytonutrients or vitamin C in your dog's diet, try to feed them other fruits and veggies that also have these benefits but are safe and dog-friendly. For instance, mix some kale into the meal or have them snack on some sweet blueberries with you.
To make sure your dog never has access to a full lemon, either keep your lemon in the fridge or put them in a bowl on a high place on the kitchen counter you know they cannot reach. If you have a lemon tree in your yard, make sure to keep an eye on your dog while the are outside where the tree is, or you can make sure there are no lemons on the ground that they can eat, play with, etc.
By a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo
Published: 05/11/2018, edited: 04/06/2020