Our pups might be fine after eating a couple slices, but dogs shouldn't eat pickles because they're made with ingredients like garlic that can make them sick.
That's according to The Vets' Alejandro Caos, DVM. Your dog might be no worse for wear after eating a piece of pickle, but there's no reason to risk it. Especially when you have other, better options.
"My advice would be: Forget the pickling altogether," Caos says. "Just give cucumbers."
Here's what else you need to know about dogs eating pickles:
Why Can't Dogs Have Pickles?
We make pickles by soaking cucumbers in a liquid compound and adding spices, and that's why dogs shouldn't eat them. We love what gives the pickles flavor, but those additives can really endanger our dogs.
Top of the list? Onions and garlic, two ingredients you'll find in plenty of pickle recipes. They're both Allium species, which are toxic to dogs and can cause anemia. Anemia occurs when dogs' blood lacks red blood cells or hemoglobin. Caos also warns that the Allium plants' toxicity can also attack your dogs' kidneys.
Then you have all the other ingredients like vinegar, cinnamon, sugar, and plenty of salt. In small amounts—especially what ends up on a single pickle slice or spear—these ingredients probably won't hurt your dog, but they're definitely not healthy. (It doesn't matter if it's a bread and butter pickle, dill pickle, or sour pickle. Keep them all clear of your dog.)
"Those herbs and those spices, those can also be detrimental to their health," Caos says.
These additives also pose additional dangers to dogs already dealing with a health issue like pancreatitis or obesity. In particular, too much sodium can exacerbate underlying heart disease, high blood pressure, or dehydration. If a dog eats a large amount of pickles in a short period of time, they can develop hypernatremia, or high blood sodium levels. Hypernatremia can lead to vomiting, loss of balance, and seizures.
Did Your Dog Eat a Pickle? Here's What To Do
Pickles are not good for dogs, but your pup snagging a piece off the counter probably isn't going to hurt them, Caos says. That's especially true for larger dogs who eat smaller pieces of pickle, thanks to their greater digestive fortitude. So don't panic.
As you keep an eye on your dogs, look for signs that they might be dealing with a reaction to the pickle's toxicity. Those include:
If you see any of those signs, it's a good idea to call your veterinarian and schedule a visit. Caos also recommends the ASPCA Poison Control Center if you'd like an expert to consult you over the phone.
Remember, dogs in most cases will be able to eat pickles without any issues. They just shouldn't eat them as a precaution.
Can Dogs Eat Cucumbers?
Pre-pickled pickles—cucumbers—are a much better treat for your dog, Caos says. The low-calorie fruits contain fiber and tons of water, making them excellent snacks for overweight dogs who don't need any more treats.
But you should still consult with your veterinarian before introducing a new food into your dog's diet. Our pups should be getting most of their daily nutrition from their regular dog food, and you don't want to disrupt that.
Plus, each dog reacts to new food differently, so you'll want to start small, only giving your dogs teensy amounts of cucumber (or a different vegetable) to begin.