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The essentials

  • Your dog should never eat lemons — While the flesh of the lemon is technically safe, the rind and juice are toxic to your pet.
  • Dogs don’t like the taste of lemons, anyway — Animals typically avoid bitter-tasting foods.
  • Lemon poisoning is possible if your pet eats a lemon — Call your vet if your dog displays symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or light sensitivity.

While lemon and other citrus can make for delicious human desserts, they’re not dog-friendly fruits. Lemons should not be offered to your pet in any form, as the fruit can cause serious side effects. 

Read on to learn more about the dangers of lemons for your dog, and alternative dog-friendly fruit to offer.

Are lemons safe for dogs?

While there are many human foods that dogs can safely eat, lemons are not among them. Any potential benefit or nutritional value that pets may get from consuming small amounts of lemons isn’t worth the risk of toxic compounds getting into your pet’s system.

Below, we share some of the most common lemon products that your dog might find around the house and what the risks could be if they consume or interact with them.

Lemon peels

Lemon peels contain essential oils and chemical compounds called psoralens.  These can be highly toxic to dogs in large quantities, resulting in diarrhea and vomiting

Lemon flavored-baked goods

While not all lemon-based foods have actual lemon in them, many contain high levels of sugar and dairy — neither of which are good for dogs. 

Also, the artificial sweeteners that are regularly used in baked goods can be poisonous to dogs and should be avoided at all costs.

Fruit of the lemon

The fruit of the lemon is technically safe for dogs in small doses, so an accidental lick isn’t necessarily harmful. However, your dog likely won’t like the taste — so the “reward” of this treat likely isn’t worth the risks that you’ll bring on by feeding your dog a lemon. 

Lemon juice

The high amount of citric acid in lemon juice can lead to an upset stomach for your furry friend, and it can also erode the enamel on your dog’s teeth.

Lemon-scented essential oils

Physical contact with essential oils can create irritation on your dog’s skin — and ingestion of these concentrated oils can lead to possibly fatal toxic reactions in your pet.  

Lemon essential oils contain limonene and linalool that work as natural insecticides. These two compounds can also be incredibly toxic to your furry friend. Consuming these oils can also cause damage to your pup’s liver or lead to diarrhea, vomiting, etc. 

Lemons and lemon-based products are best to avoid altogether. Dogs don’t typically don’t like the sour and bitter taste of a lemon (or limes), and the risks outweigh any possible benefits your pet might gain in most cases. 

👉 If you’ve used pet correctors in the past, your pet might not like lemons at all. Many deterrent products use a bitter taste to correct undesirable canine behavior.

Symptoms of lemon toxicity

In a perfect world, our pups would completely avoid foods that are bad for them. While many animals avoid lemons, there’s always the risk of accidental ingestion or exposure where a whole lemon or more might end up in your dog’s stomach. 

If your dog overdoes it with large amounts of lemons or lemon products, digestive upset or more serious health issues could occur. This is particularly true when they consume lemon peels, leaves, or stems. 

If you believe that your dog has ingested lemons or lemon-infused products, call your veterinarian and keep an eye out for the following toxicity symptoms:

  • Vomiting. If your dog starts drooling, retching,  having abdominal contractions, or vomiting, clean it up and call the veterinarian.  
  • Lethargy. If your dog suddenly chooses to lie down instead of playing with their favorite toy, they could be showing signs of distress. Watch out for a lack of interest in other activities they love, like walking or cuddling.
  • Constipation. Some parts of the lemon, like its skin and seeds, have the potential to create a blockage in your pet’s digestive tract. If left unaddressed or unpassed, this could lead to a medical emergency. Consult your veterinarian if you believe your dog has gotten into any parts of a lemon. 
  • Weakness. Canines experiencing weakness may collapse suddenly, take longer to stand up, or experience shaky muscles.
  • Rashes. Some dogs may be more sensitive to lemons and could experience an allergic reaction after ingestion or exposure. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction can include skin rashes, itchiness, lethargy, or difficulty breathing.
  • Diarrhea. One of the messiest and most obvious symptoms, diarrhea is always an indicator of gastrointestinal distress. Uncontrollable bowel movements and loose, watery, or excessive stools are telltale signs.
  • Unusual light sensitivity (photophobia). If your dog starts displaying discomfort when opening their eyes, they could be irritated. But, if your dog is showing a sudden increase in sensitivity , it can indicate a more severe case of poisoning.
  • Muscle tremors. Lemon-flavored products may contain xylitol, which can cause neurological symptoms like seizures and tremors. 

🚨 Seek care from your veterinarian ASAP if you notice your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms after ingesting lemons.

What parts of a lemon are toxic to dogs?

Understanding what exactly makes lemons harmful for dogs helps keep your furry friend as safe as possible. There are many parts of a lemon that are downright toxic for dogs, including: 

  • Linalool. This naturally occurring oil creates the citrus aroma we know and love — but when metabolized by dogs, it can cause toxicity and liver damage. 
  • Psoralen. This plant compound can cause photosensitivity when ingested by dogs.
  • Citric acid. As a rule, dogs shouldn’t be given anything acidic. Ingestion of citric acid can lead to stomach irritation or central nervous system malfunction.
  • Limonene. Like linalool, limonene has insecticidal properties and it can cause liver failure in your pet if it’s ingested.

Other dog-friendly fruits

Lemons aren’t healthy for dogs. However, the good news is that there are lots of healthy fruits and vegetables that are safe choices. What’s better than a snack for you and one for your furry friend, too?

Here’s our list of the best dog-friendly fruit options: 

  • Seedless watermelons. Not only do watermelons provide hydration for your pet, but they are also jam-packed with nutrients like vitamins A, B6, and C, but make sure to keep it seedless. Watermelon seeds and rinds can be toxic.
  • Blueberries. Blueberries are a great healthy treat for dogs. They contain antioxidants , minerals, and plenty of dietary fiber, all of which offer health benefits to your pet. 
  • Apples. While certainly no substitute for scheduled dental cleanings with your veterinarian, apples are excellent for your dog’s teeth. Plus, apples are rich in fiber and other vitamins. Simply remove the skin, core, and seeds before sharing with your furry friend.
  • Green beans. Vegetables are great to add to your dog’s diet — and green beans are a great low-calorie option to add to your treat rotation. Green beans are a great source of vitamin C, plus they offer a source of green protein for your pet pal. Just make sure to feed your dog salt- and seasoning-free green beans and not as frequent treats.

Dogs can sometimes get into things that they shouldn’t, so it’s best to keep that batch of lemon bars and those aromatic oils well out of your dog’s reach. Keeping a careful eye on your kitchen and dessert bar, and having all the information on signs and symptoms of issues, can reduce the risk of toxicity for your pet and can give you the peace of mind you deserve.  Seek veterinary care if you suspect that your dog has gotten into lemons or lemon-based products. 

Fruits can be a part of a healthy life for your dog but there are plenty of other dog-friendly fruit options available if you’re looking for a sweet treat for your pet. These include apples, watermelon, and blueberries so avoid lemons and opt for a safe treat instead.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if a dog eats a lemon?

If a dog gets into lemons or lemon-based products, they may simply react to the sour taste of lemon and spit it out. If they digest the skin, leaves, or stem of the citrus fruit, however, it may lead to issues with your dog’s digestive system—like diarrhea or vomiting. 

Any benefits of lemons for your pet are far outweighed by the negative reaction that can happen if your pup consumes them. 

Can I give my dog a piece of lemon?

While you can give your furry pal a small bit of the flesh of lemons, they likely won’t enjoy it — and with good reason. Dogs have instincts that tell them to steer clear of bitter or sour-tasting fruits, as they could be poisonous. Plus, large pieces of lemon rinds could be a choking hazard.

If you’re looking to spice up treat time, it’s best to consider a safer and tastier fruit instead. Your dog can safely eat watermelon, apples, and bananas or others like mangos and oranges as an occasional treat, as long as they’re prepared properly. Some safe veggies also include carrots and sweet potatoes.  It’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian prior to introducing a new food.

Can I put lemon juice in my dog’s water?

No! Pet parents may enjoy lemonade or lemon water, but our pets will not. While citruses are considered natural ingredients, there is no beneficial reason to put lemon in your dog’s water. High levels of citric acid found in lemon juice are known to cause digestive symptoms in canines and lemon seeds are another potential issue. 

What lemon items can my dog not have?

While the smell of fresh lemon is welcome for humans, lemon oil, like those used in diffusers for the home, should be avoided. Similarly, lemon juice, lemon seeds, a lemon slice, or pieces of lemon rinds can be dangerous when consumed. 

The bottom line is that even a small amount of lemon or lemon-based products can cause a strong reaction in your dog. 

Why does my dog like lemons?

The fact is, dogs have a tendency towards curiosity, which is actually a sign of good social health and well-being. With that being said, dogs may find lemons, or any other newly introduced object, interesting and may want to interact with it.

The good thing is that most dogs prefer other smells and tastes to lemons, but too much lemon access could unnecessarily expose your dog to potential harm.

Are lemon trees toxic to dogs?

While people love the smell of citrus, lemon, and lime trees are toxic to dogs mostly because of the compounds and oils that the tree itself produces. Even small quantities of lemon can be harmful to your dog. If exposed to larger quantities, consult with your vet.

If you have dogs and lemon trees on your property, you might consider removing the trees or fencing the plants off so they’re out of your dog’s reach. If you have lots of lemons in your kitchen, ensure they’re in an area secured away from your pet.

Can my cat have lemons?

Acidic fruits can cause nervous system depression in cats and have too much sugar for safe metabolization. The best thing to do is steer clear of them altogether and opt for cat-safe foods.