Reevaluating Tomatoes and Dogs:
A possible misunderstanding in the field of dog food
In the field of veterinary medicine, many recommendations seem to have been passed down through generations of physicians and accepted without question. One such belief is the potential toxicity of tomatoes in dogs. I’ve done a lot of digging and there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation that tomatoes are bad for dogs.
Is it possible that claims that tomatoes are poisonous to dogs are completely unfounded?
My curiosity was piqued by a fascinating encounter with Bobi, the oldest dog in the world, who, surprisingly, ate tomato sauce almost every day of his long, healthy life!
This contradicts decades-old advice from veterinarians, including myself. Instead, I wondered: Have we overestimated the danger of tomatoes? Are ripe, cooked tomatoes safe for our canine friends?
Historically, our caution about tomatoes stems from solanine, a glycoalkaloid found primarily in the green parts of the tomato plant, including unripe tomatoes, leaves and stems. Solanine is indeed toxic to dogs in significant amounts. However, the concentration decreases significantly as the tomato ripens and is negligible in red, ripe fruits.
This makes me wonder; perhaps the danger lies not with tomatoes per se, but rather with their unripe fruits, stems and leaves. Bobi is one of the many dogs that have done well on tomatoes. Leonel, Bobi’s father, gave tomatoes to his other dogs, some of whom had lived for more than twenty years!
After all these observations and the lack of empirical evidence against feeding ripe, especially cooked, tomatoes to dogs, I have decided not to avoid them when feeding my dog. However, with my current knowledge, I cannot simply recommend tomatoes for other people’s pets. The choice should be based on individual discretion and understanding.
It may be time to reevaluate and update our advice on tomatoes for dogs. I see this as a reminder that we, as veterinarians, must continually examine our recommendations to ensure we are giving pet owners the most accurate and helpful advice, no matter how established some opinions may be.
Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes:
Tomatoes are nutrient-rich fruits with high levels of vitamins C and A, crucial for immune function, vision health and skin and hair integrity. They also provide a good amount of potassium, which supports heart health and maintains blood pressure.
Additionally, tomatoes are known for their high lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant associated with a lower risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Lycopene is also known for its potential skin protective properties against UV damage.
Additionally, the folic acid in tomatoes makes them a beneficial nutritional choice for pregnant individuals, as it is crucial for preventing neural tube defects in infants. Their vitamin C content aids in the absorption of iron, which can help prevent anemia.
In short, tomatoes are a versatile and tasty ingredient and a nutritional powerhouse that offers a wide range of health benefits.
Interesting Tomato Facts:
The tomato has a fascinating history and cultural significance. Here are a few curiosities about tomatoes:
- Origin – The tomato is originally from western South America and Central America. It was first used as food by the Aztecs and other Native American peoples of southern Mexico.
- European introduction – Spanish explorers brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century. Initially grown as ornamental plants, they were believed to be poisonous due to their similarity to the deadly nightshade plant.
- The toxic myth – Many Europeans were afraid of tomatoes for a long time because they were thought to be poisonous. This was because tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, which includes several poisonous species. Tomatoes are indeed poisonous if you eat the leaves and stems, but the fruit is completely safe.
- The pizza connection – Tomatoes gained wide acceptance in Europe in the late 18th century. In Italy, poor people started using tomatoes in pies and pies, which eventually led to the invention of pizza.
- Botanical confusion – Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit because they develop from a flower and contain seeds. However, in culinary contexts they are often considered vegetables because of their savory taste.
- Variety – There are approximately 10,000 varieties of tomatoes worldwide, varying in size, shape and color. They vary from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes and from round to pear-shaped. Moreover, they can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple or even black.
- The Tomato Festival – In Spain, the town of Buñol organizes an annual festival called La Tomatina. Thousands of participants throw ripe tomatoes at each other in a big tomato fight. This special event has been held since 1945 and is a major tourist attraction.
- The great tomato debate – In the US, a case reached the Supreme Court in 1893 to decide whether tomatoes were a fruit or a vegetable. The court ruled that tomatoes should be classified as vegetables for commercial purposes because they are typically served with dinner and not with dessert. However, the ruling was about tariffs, as vegetables were subject to import duties while fruits were not.