Can My Dog Eat Spicy Food?


dog with chili pepper

Some spicy foods are so good that it’s tempting to sneak your dog a bite. But can dogs eat spicy food? And do they even like it?

Not all spicy foods are toxic to dogs, but you still shouldn’t give your pup any, since spicy foods can burn his mouth and lead to a stomach ache.

“Dogs shouldn’t eat spicy foods, as it can cause oral and gastrointestinal irritation,” Dr. Christian Cumberbatch, director of medicine at easyvet, told The Dodo.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Cumberbatch and Dr. Jonathan Roberts, a veterinarian from Pet Keen, to find out everything you need to know about dogs and spicy food.

Can dogs taste spicy food?

Dogs have far fewer taste buds than humans. We have about 9,000 taste buds, while dogs only have around 1,700. Because of this, dogs aren’t able to taste as many flavors as we are.

So if you try to feed your dog spicy food, he won’t even be able to taste the flavor that well. He’ll just feel the effects of the spice.

Do dogs like spicy food?

Most dogs actually don’t even like spicy food. Because they can feel the heat of spicy food, but they don’t taste the flavor as well as people do, the experience isn’t so pleasant for them.

Think about having the spice of buffalo wings without the flavor of the sauce. The heat might not be worth it without the flavor.

“Most dogs do not enjoy the effect of spicy food, as the sensation burns their palate and tongue,” Dr. Roberts told The Dodo. “This burning effect is very uncomfortable for them.”

Spicy food can also taste bitter to dogs, which they don’t like that much.

While dogs’ sense of taste isn’t as strong as humans’, their sense of smell is much better. So your dog will also probably react to smelling the sharp scent of something spicy, and he may not want to eat it.

Is spicy food bad for dogs?

Many spicy foods can seriously upset your dog’s stomach or irritate his mouth, even if they’re considered to be nontoxic.

“While most of the spicy foods we consume may not be toxic to dogs, they can cause significant irritation,” Dr. Cumberbatch said. “Spicy foods can cause both oral and GI irritation and may lead to gastroenteritis, where the pet has vomiting and even diarrhea.”

But there are some spicy foods that can be toxic to your pup. For example, a lot of spicy foods are made with garlic and onions, which are poisonous to dogs.

“These are two ingredients that dogs may never ingest,” Dr. Roberts said. “Garlic and onions are very toxic to dogs as they cause the red blood cells within the blood vessels to rupture, and with this, the dog will develop anemia.”

Some spicy foods can contain other ingredients that are bad for dogs, too. “Other ingredients in many spicy foods are nutmeg, capsaicin and salt,” Dr. Roberts said.

Capsaicin is an irritant, and nutmeg contains myristicin, which affects the nervous system. If your dog eats too much nutmeg, you might see disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate, upset stomach and seizures.

And dogs can get salt poisoning from eating too much salt.

“Salt is not good for your pooch, as excessive amounts of salt will cause excessive thirst,” Dr. Roberts said. “This can sometimes lead to vomiting and dehydration.”

In severe cases, spicy food can cause pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, in dogs.

Can dogs eat hot sauce?

Dogs shouldn’t eat hot sauce. The active ingredient in hot sauce is capsaicin, which is what gives hot peppers their spice. Capsaicin can irritate your dog’s mouth and digestive tract.

“Capsaicin will burn the palate and tongue of your dog and cause diarrhea,” Dr. Roberts said.

Many hot sauces are also made with onions and garlic, which dogs definitely can’t eat.

“Spicy foods with lots of onions can be toxic, as dogs don’t possess the metabolic pathways to metabolize onions,” Dr. Cumberbatch said. “This can lead to anemia in your pet and would require medical intervention.”

What to do if your dog eats spicy food

If your dog accidentally eats some spicy food out of the garbage, you can give him a little milk to help with the heat. Contrary to popular belief, drinking water doesn’t actually help with spice (this is true for people, too). Milk numbs the heat from spice.

“If your dog has ingested spicy foods and is showing any clinical signs, it does help to feed them a small amount of milk to neutralize the ‘heat effect,’” Dr. Roberts said. “Thereafter contact your veterinarian to assess if any other intervention is needed.”

Your vet will treat your dog based on his symptoms. This can include medications to treat vomiting and diarrhea and IV fluids to manage dehydration.

“Usually your vet will start with general blood work to assess your pet’s overall condition,” Dr. Cumberbatch said. “This is then followed with symptomatic treatment to alleviate any vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc., and may include IV fluids, antiemetics [medication for nausea] and antidiarrheal meds, oral lavage and gastro protectants.”

So don’t give your dog spicy food. He probably won’t really like it anyway.