There are plenty of videos online showing the humorous, albeit slightly twisted, reactions of dogs eating and tasting various foods that have a strong flavor. Several years back, one such video trend was to record your dog eating a lemon. This trend became so popular, in fact, that a four and a half minute compilation video of dogs reacting to eating lemons has five and a half million views! With so many folks subjecting their dogs to this super sour citrus fruit and so many others getting a good laugh out of these videos, one has to wonder if any of them every stop and ask two simple questions: Can dogs eat lemons and should you be feeding lemons to your dog?
Citrus and Dogs
All citrus fruits contain organic chemical compounds called psoralens. These compounds are found throughout the lemon but are in highest concentrations in the skin, seeds, and the pith. Psoralens can cause an array of symptoms in dogs depending on the dog's exposure. Psoralens aren't just found in citrus, though. They can be in other plants such as celery, parsley, West Indian satinwood, and the common fig as well. An accidental lick won't be so detrimental to the health of your dog, but if even just one whole lemon were to be ingested, you may start to see clinical symptoms.
If your dog were to eat a lemon, you may start to see signs of vomiting and diarrhea. The more a dog eats, though, the more severe the symptoms you see may become. If your dog eats a large amount of lemons, you may start to see things like sensitivity to light, drooling, tremors, and/or dizziness or inability to walk. If a significant enough amount is ingested and no immediate veterinary intervention is sought out the symptoms may even lead to death. The risk of ingesting lemons should be taken seriously and not utilized for a gag video on social media.
So what about just a lick for a funny video? Well, even though a lick might not be damaging medically, it isn't without it's own consequences. No one likes to be the butt of a joke and no one likes to feel betrayed by someone they trust. Dogs are no different. Breaking your dog's trust in such a manner puts a strain on the human-animal bond that is shared between you and your pooch. Some dogs may be more confident than others and might not be as effected from just one incident, but other dogs that are a bit more hesitant and timid around new people and new situations may not be as stoic.
Lemonade is a popular and refreshing summertime drink throughout the country. What about something like lemonade, where the acidity of the lemons is cut by sugar and water? While the water will certainly dilute out the concentration of psoralens, you still shouldn't allow your pup to drink any. If you want to give your pup a refreshing summertime treat, ice cubes are an easy, inexpensive way to keep 'em cool.
What About Lemon Essential Oil?
Various sources online may purport that lemon essential oil can be holistically beneficial, but you should always consult with a veterinary knowledgeable in integrative medicine and essential oils first. Many essential oils that are safe and useful for human homeopathic use are not safe nor useful for pet homeopathic use.
Cats especially are extremely sensitive to essential oils and some oils, even if simply diffused in the home, can wreak havoc on a cat. The world of essential oils also isn't well regulated. You may not be getting exactly what you are paying for as the purity and strength might not be the same from one vial to the next. A veterinarian will be able to recommend a good, pet-friendly essential oil company to you if you wish to use essential oils in your home. Even if the essential oils are for your own personal homeopathic use, you always want a pet-friendly one in your diffuser since they will be breathing it in as well. Also, some of these sources may have you administer the essential oils topically or even feed them to your dog to see the supposed benefits, but under no circumstances should any essential oil of any kind be used in such a manner. Doing so can cause symptoms that are both immediate and severe.
So while lemons are great for pies, cookie bars, and summer drinks, keep them out of your dog's food bowl. The ten second gag of watching their reaction just isn't worth it and they will thank you for not tricking them into eating one.