Updated - Apr 5th, 2023
Can dogs eat pickles? In truth, no pickles are safe or healthy for dogs to eat, and no dog should eat pickles as part of their diet. Whether sweet or dill, pickles contain many ingredients – like vinegar, onions, and garlic – that can upset digestion, decay teeth, cause weight gain, exacerbate heart or kidney disease, and even trigger anemia.
- While dill, fiber, and water are good for dog health, other pickling components like vinegar, onion, garlic, sugar, and salt are not.
- Dogs with heart or kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, or dental issues should not eat pickles. But one accidental ingestion is no cause for alarm, as pickles are non-toxic.
- Cucumbers are a better snack if you’re looking for a pickle alternative!
Are pickles safe for dogs to eat?
At a basic level, pickles are considered non-toxic to dogs, so there isn’t an immediate cause for concern if your pup accidentally ingests one. However, plain cucumbers, celery, or strawberries are better options if you’re wondering what foods your pet can eat. These satisfying alternatives offer many health benefits without posing potential risks to your dog’s health.
Cucumbers are better for your dog than pickles
When most people think of pickles, they think of cucumbers – the most commonly pickled vegetables – which happen to be very healthy for dogs. Cucumbers contain vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, as well as minerals like magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. They also provide a healthy dose of antioxidants that fight free radicals which cause cell damage.
Fresh cucumbers are low-calorie, low-sugar, high-fiber veggies that even overweight and diabetic dogs can enjoy. Cucumbers can be sliced, cubed, or dehydrated for a chewier texture.
Dill is your dog’s friend
Given all these benefits, it seems reasonable to assume a pickle would be a more flavor-packed alternative to cucumbers, right? Well, one added benefit to pickles is dill – which can freshen your dog’s bad breath and deliver powerful, inflammation-reducing antioxidants that reduce the cognitive effects of aging.
But not so fast: fresh dill is better, since the pickling process negates its nutritional value. What’s more, the salt content of pickles and the ingredients used in the preserving process pose additional risks for our furry family members.
Possible risks associated with pickles for dogs
Pickling is the centuries-old process of fermenting or preserving a food product using either salt or vinegar. The salty or acidic liquid prevents food spoilage by killing bacteria and can be used to pickle meats, beets, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and other foods. Unfortunately, pickling can pose some risks for dogs, depending on what the brine contains.
Potential side effects of pickles for dogs include:
- Kidney stress. Distilled white vinegar has no nutritional value for your dog. It can stress their kidneys and cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
- Toxicity. Most pickling recipes contain an abundance of salt as a natural preservative. A teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium, and a medium pickle can contain as much as 700-1,500 milligrams of sodium. The recommended daily sodium intake for dogs is 100 milligrams, so salt toxicity is a serious concern associated with pickle consumption. Large amounts of sodium in the blood or insufficient water intake triggers dehydration when the muscles and tissues release fluids. Dogs with Addison’s disease may be particularly prone to salt poisoning due to an inability to regulate fluids and electrolytes. Stiffness, difficulty walking, incoordination, tremors, and seizures may occur as a result. Salt can also cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks, so dogs with heart disease should especially steer clear.
- Anemia. Onions and garlic are also common pickling ingredients. These are from the allium family of root vegetables and include leeks, scallions, and chives. These vegetables contain N-propyl disulfide, an organic compound that damages your dog’s red blood cells and causes hemolytic anemia. The organosulfur compound, found in allium plants, attaches itself to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in the blood, creating Heinz bodies. These damaged red blood cells (Heinz bodies) die off more quickly than your dog’s body can replace them, leaving your dog with anemia. Signs of anemia include extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and kidney damage. It’s a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care.
- Diabetes, obesity, and dental issues. Sweet pickles and bread-and-butter pickles contain a lot of sugar. One pickle can contain 7-30 grams! Sugar content varies by brand, so be sure to check the nutrition label. Dogs with diabetes, kidney disease, or weight problems shouldn’t eat sugary sweet pickles. Eating too much sugar can also cause tooth decay and periodontal disease, which can leave your pup with all kinds of health problems.
- Gastrointestinal upset. Cloves and other common pickling spices in sweet pickles are okay for your dog if the sweet pickle is an occasional treat, or if they gobble up a dropped slice. However, some recipes include cinnamon and nutmeg, which contain myristicin. Myristicin is toxic if consumed in large quantities. More often than not, the small amount found in pickle spices will not cause toxicity, but it could cause a stomach upset or worse if your dog reacts to the compound.
- Death. You can buy sugar-free pickles, but make sure they don’t include xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s very toxic to canines, causing liver failure and death even in small amounts.
Pickle alternatives for dogs
In contrast to pickles, fresh cucumbers offer many health benefits for dogs with no added salts, sugars, or seasonings. As with any fruits or veggies, you should cut them up into bite-sized pieces and feed in moderation. This is especially important for small dogs.
The bottom line: Your dog shouldn’t eat pickles
If pickles are your favorite food, it can be heartbreaking to see those sad puppy dog eyes as you chow down without sharing. While dogs can sample a lot of what you eat in small amounts (10% or less of their daily diet), the risks outweigh the benefits in this case.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables (like cucumbers) that are safe, delicious, and nutritious for dogs. As with anything, it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog a new food – and to introduce that food gradually to ensure it’s well-tolerated.
Can dogs eat pickles FAQs
Can dogs drink pickle juice?
Pickle juice is nothing more than the salt, vinegar, and spices that preserve and season the cucumbers. The high sodium content in pickle juice is dangerous for your dog. Even if you offer it, most dogs won’t drink it because dogs don’t appreciate tangy or briny tastes.
Can dogs eat homemade pickles?
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a pickle recipe that lacks sugar, salt, garlic, or onion – all ingredients dogs should not have.
How many pickles can a dog eat?
Zero! There is actually no recommended or optimal amount of pickles to feed dogs, as even one pickle contains triple the amount of daily sodium dogs should have.
How many cucumbers can a dog eat?
If you’re feeding your dog plain cucumbers instead, you might feed a Pomeranian one slender cucumber spear or a German Shepherd one cup chopped into bite-sized pieces. Vets commonly recommend that treats, including raw veggies, make up no more than 10% of your dog’s diet.
Should I make my dog throw up if he or she ate pickles?
You may wonder how to make your dog throw up if you realize a whole jar of pickles has been consumed. However, making your dog vomit will do more harm than good. Inducing vomiting can cause aspiration pneumonia, especially in small breeds like French Bulldogs or Pekingese. Instead, call your veterinarian or the poison control hotline (1-888-426-4435) if your dog ate pickles and is displaying signs of toxicity like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures.