Can My Dog Eat A Lemon Safely?

Here's what you should know about lemons and dogs.

can dogs eat lemons

While we love the idea of sharing everything with our pets, there are some foods that are not safe for dogs to enjoy. And unfortunately, lemons are one of them. Lemons contain citric acid, which can be toxic for dogs.

There’s good news, however. In most cases, dogs don’t care for the bitter taste of lemons. But since some curious dogs will try to eat anything, you should be aware of what could happen if your dog eats a lemon.

We reached out to Dr. Megan Conrad, a licensed veterinarian with Hello Ralphie, and Samantha Henson, a certified clinical pet nutritionist with Next Generation Pet Wellness, for more information on the topic.

Can dogs eat lemons, or are they bad for them?

Unfortunately, both the stems and leaves from a lemon tree, and the lemon itself, contain citric acid, which can be toxic to your dog. “Citric acid can cause GI upset, and if eaten in large quantities, can possibly cause central nervous system depression,” Dr. Conrad told The Dodo.

If you have ever dreamed of having a lemon tree in your backyard, you may want to reconsider that plan if you have dogs at home. If your dog is prone to chewing on trees or would pick up any stray lemons on the ground, this simply isn’t a good idea.

“Despite the fact that lemons contain vitamin C, dogs should not eat lemons or be exposed to lemon oil (including essential oils and blends),” Henson told The Dodo.

If my dog eats a lemon, what adverse effects should I watch out for?

The good news is that small amounts of the fleshy part of a lemon, if eaten occasionally, shouldn't cause a problem for your dog. But if you know that your dog has eaten any part of a lemon, you should still watch for signs of illness.

“Signs of citrus toxicity can include things like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty walking and sudden inflammation of the skin,” Henson said. “Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has gotten into lemons or lemon oil. The same goes for lemon-flavored things as lemon oil is often used as flavoring.”

Additionally, lemon seeds can be a potential choking hazard, and intestinal blockage can occur if your dog swallows too much of the peel (or the entire lemon itself).

Considering a lemon’s physical similarity to a tennis ball, it’s best to keep lemons out of sight and away from curious dogs who like to poke around the kitchen.

What will the recovery process look like if my dog eats a lemon?

If your dog does exhibit signs of vomiting and diarrhea, it can resolve itself on its own if not too severe a case. Feeding bland meals like scrambled eggs, plain rice and plain cooked chicken is advised, as well as making sure your dog is drinking water. If it has been over 24 hours and your dog still has an upset stomach, consult your veterinarian.

If your dog’s acting strangely quiet and not eating or drinking at all since eating the lemon, call your veterinarian right away.

While this may be disappointing news for the lemon-obsessed, consider the fact that lemons don’t contribute any significant nutritional value to your dog's diet. There are plenty of other fruits your dog can eat that are a healthy and tastier choice. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the fact that a lemon looks very much like a tennis ball, so keep those lemons out of sight!