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Ketchup definitely isn’t a dog food, but many dogs tend to poke their nose where they shouldn’t. Can dogs eat ketchup?
Keeping things away from dogs can be quite a feat, and given how often ketchup gets used with meat dishes, there is always the possibility that your dog has ingested some amount of ketchup. But is it safe for them, or should you be worried?
Ketchup is safe for dogs in very small amounts, so the occasional lick is fine, even though it provides no nutritional value to them. However, it contains many ingredients that may be toxic for dogs if taken in large quantities and can cause harm in the long run.
Dogs tend to like human foods, and this includes ketchup. However, knowing which foods are safe to consume and in what quantities is important as a dog owner.
We researched different aspects of ketchup, from the ingredients it contains that may not be safe for dogs to what other dog owners have to say from experience. We’ve collected our recommendations and findings in one place.
Ketchup And Its Ingredients
We think of ketchup as just smashed tomatoes, but that’s far from what it really is. Even ketchup with ‘simple’ ingredients will contain processed ingredients from tomato concentrate, vinegar or onion powder. There will also be some ambiguous ingredients like ‘spices’ and ‘natural flavorings’ which could really be anything at all.
We never know if ketchup is safe for us, let alone our dogs.
Sometimes ketchup also includes sweeteners like xylitol.
So, are these ingredients safe for dogs? Let’s consider some of the main ingredients of ‘simple’ ketchup.
This is probably fine. While raw onions aren’t good for dogs, ketchup contains a very small amount of onion powder, so there’s no real risk to the dog’s health. At least, not from the onions.
Raw garlic can be bad for your dog’s circulatory system and result in anemia, but again, ketchup contains very small amounts of garlic powder. In fact, your dog would have to drink multiple bottles of ketchup to get the same problems as they would from eating raw garlic.
Dogs’ sodium requirements and tolerance are different from humans. The sodium from the salt in ketchup can be bad for dogs and result in dehydration, but it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if they consume it in small amounts.
While ketchup isn’t entirely mashed tomatoes, tomatoes do make up a pretty large portion of it. When tomatoes are growing, they may contain chemicals like solanine that can be poisonous to dogs. When the tomatoes are fully ripe and have a complete red color, these compounds are no longer present, and the tomatoes become safe for dogs to consume.
However, even if they aren’t toxic, dogs shouldn’t be consuming any of the green parts or the stems and leaves. While you can manage what parts of a tomato your dog eats when it’s right in front of you, this is not true with ketchup. You have no idea whether the green parts of tomatoes are included in the ketchup you eat, and whether the tomatoes used were fully ripe.
However, chances are, even if there were some tomatoes used that weren’t fully ripe, they'd make up a very small amount of the ketchup in the bottle. Your dog probably won’t be affected by the presence of tomatoes.
Natural ingredients are less of a concern to dogs, despite having some properties that make them unsuitable. However, the real threat is chemicals like this. Xylitol is added as a sugar-free sweetener to some ketchups, and is extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. In fact, even 50 milligrams per pound can have severe adverse effects. A teaspoon of ketchup that contains xylitol is enough to make a 40 pound dog ill!
No matter how small the amount is, xylitol is extremely dangerous for dogs, and any ketchup that contains it is automatically also unsafe.
Xanthan gum is added to a lot of ketchups to make it thicker. While you’d find plenty of conversation about how bad xanthan gum is for dogs online, studies do not actually prove any such adverse effects. Regardless, the ingredient itself is a processed and artificial one, and is best avoided just in case.
Natural Flavors & Spices
Manufacturers will sometimes sum up a number of things within the term ‘natural flavors’ or ‘spices.’ There is no fixed definition or rule for what these natural flavors or spices would comprise of. Different manufacturers may use them to refer to different things. In such cases, it is best to do your research and make sure they don’t include any ingredients that could be harmful for your dog.
How Do Dogs End Up Eating Ketchup?
Surely, you’re not feeding your dog ketchup. While many dog owners do mix up human foods that are safe for dogs and those that aren’t, barely anyone ever gives their dog ketchup.
Even if you keep an eye out to make sure your dog isn’t stealing ketchup out of your cabinets when you’re not looking, there are some situations where they can end up eating some.
For example, if you add ketchup to your burgers while you’re cooking the meat, you may get distracted and your dog might steal one while you’ve turned away. Fast food restaurants will also give you ketchup packets that are easy for dogs to rip open. Sometimes, if there’s ketchup on unwashed dishes, your dog might lick it.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Ketchup
Again, ketchup in small amounts is usually safe for dogs, so you probably won’t have to worry much.
However, like we mentioned earlier, xylitol in the smallest amounts can be dangerous for dogs. First, check if your ketchup contains xylitol or not. If it did, you should rush your dog to the vet at once. Small amounts of xylitol can make your dog’s insulin levels shoot up, which can cause nausea and vomiting.
If the ketchup doesn’t contain xylitol, and your dog didn’t eat a very large amount, you can relax.
But you should keep an eye on your dog anyway, especially if they eat more than a teaspoon of ketchup. Ketchup will likely cause your dog to get an upset stomach, so you should watch out for that and help them through it.
It’s best to train your dogs to avoid ketchup to prevent such things from happening. Sometimes, dogs will like the taste of something even if it’s bad for them – including ketchup! In such cases, you’d likely have to be a bit stern and keep a firmer eye on them. Hide your ketchup away in higher places where they’re unable to reach.
If your dog really, really likes ketchup, you can also make an alternative for them, using handmade tomato sauce with some dog-safe spices. Make sure the tomatoes are fully ripe!
So, can dogs eat ketchup?
They can, but that doesn’t mean that they should. Ketchup has no nutritional value for dogs, and has a number of ingredients that can actually be harmful when ingested in larger quantities. It is always best to avoid letting your dog eat ketchup, and if they do eat it, keep an eye on them for any side effects.