There was an internet craze started a few years ago where dog owners were letting their dogs lick lemons to record their over-the-top reactions. Admittedly, it is hilarious, but this led experts to issue warnings about the potential dangers associated with lemons. Lemon juice has been used as a negative reinforcement tool in training dogs, but it is truly safe?
Are Lemons Okay for Dogs to Eat?
Not really. Most citrus is considered toxic to dogs, and lemons aren’t exempt from this. Citrus fruits contain a substance called psoralens that produces GI distress, neurological symptoms, and even liver failure. It’s found throughout the entire lemon, but the skin, seeds, and pith contain the highest levels.
Signs of Psoralens Toxicity
How severe the toxicity is depends on how much lemon was ingested. Smaller amounts will cause lesser symptoms, but dogs who love to snack on lemons from backyard lemon trees see more severe symptoms. Initial symptoms begin with GI distress. A slice of lemon, for example, will typically just give your dog vomiting and diarrhea. Larger amounts start to produce more severe symptoms like drooling, muscle tremors, and an inability to walk or stand. Some dogs develop rashes in their groin area, and significant ingestion combined with no medical treatment can result in liver failure and death. Once symptoms progress beyond GI distress, veterinary care becomes even more important.
Are All Forms of Lemon Dangerous for Dogs?
Various internet sources tout the benefits of lemon essential oils for combatting external parasites or various other skin issues. It’s never safe to apply essential oils of any kind to your dog’s skin and ingesting them is equally dangerous. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can produce immediate and severe side effects, including death. If an essential oils representative or a website claims these oils are safe in dogs, they are not.
Lemon juice is also unsafe. While it contains smaller amounts of psoralens than the lemon’s skin, for example, that doesn’t mean it won’t still give your dog GI upset simply because of the sheer acidity of the juice.
Dogs don’t need vitamin C like humans do, so there really isn’t nutritional benefit in giving your dog lemons. Because of this, don’t try to search for a way to use lemons in/on your dog despite how good they are for humans. There’s just no need!