Can Dogs Eat Lemons?

April Saylor

April Saylor

. Reviewed by Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
Updated May 22, 2024
pug sitting on a kitchen chair looking at lemons on the table

NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be OK for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.

When life gives you lemons, it’s probably best to just make lemonade for yourself—don’t share it with your pup. The sour taste probably won’t appeal to your canine companion, and for good reason. Dogs should not eat lemons or lemon juice because it can make them sick, and certain parts of the fruit are even toxic to pups. 

But if your dog does somehow ingest a lemon or lemon juice, here’s what you need to know.

Are Lemons Bad for Dogs?

While a lemon’s flesh isn’t toxic to dogs, it can still make your dog sick. Thankfully, the strong citrus taste is not something most dogs would enjoy, so most hounds will avoid eating it if they find a lemon slice on the floor. 

If your dog does eat lemon, they may have an upset stomach. The high acidity may irritate your dog’s digestive system and can lead to vomiting or diarrhea

Lemon Peels

While the pulpy flesh of the fruit is not toxic to dogs, lemon peels are a different story. Keep your dog away from lemon peels or the rinds of the fruit, as these parts contain natural chemicals that are toxic to dogs (psoralen, limonene, and linalool). If you suspect your dog has eaten a lemon peel or the pithy white part of the fruit, watch them closely for the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lethargy

  • Skin irritation

Call your vet if you notice any of the above, as lemon poisoning can cause liver damage if not treated right away. Eating lemon peels can also cause an intestinal obstruction, another life-threatening emergency.  

Lemon Juice

Ingesting large amounts of lemon—especially lemon juice, which is more concentrated than the fruit—can cause your dog to become very ill. Never give your dog lemon juice. 

If your dog accidentally licks a small amount of lemon juice off the floor, it’s not likely to cause serious harm. But do your best to discourage this behavior and definitely don’t give them lemon juice on purpose.

Lemon Cake and Cookies

Lemon-flavored baked goods including cakes and cookies are also not good for dogs. These treats may contain ingredients like sugar and butter, which are bad for dogs. 

My Dog Ate Lemon. What Do I Do?

If you think your dog has eaten a piece of lemon, monitor their behavior for any signs of illness. Keep an eye out for symptoms of digestive distress, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. Call your vet if your pooch shows any of these signs, as they’ll be able to help you determine if a visit to the clinic is necessary.

Dogs who are very small, elderly, or have other health conditions may be more at risk of side effects than healthy adult dogs. If your dog appears disoriented or has tremors, difficulty breathing, or weakness, head to the vet right away. 

Can Dogs Die From Eating Lemon?

While it’s extremely rare that a healthy adult dog would die from eating a lemon, some dogs may be more at risk than others. Very small dogs, young puppies, or dogs who have underlying health issues may be more at risk.

One small lick or taste of lemon will likely not have severe consequences. But larger amounts of lemon or concentrated lemon juice can lead to more serious health issues. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian, as they can provide advice based on your dog’s age, weight, and medical history.

Dogs who are very small, elderly, or have other health conditions may be more at risk of lemon poisoning than healthy, adult dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Citrus Fruits?

Other citrus fruits, including grapefruits and limes, also contain citric acid and may cause similar stomach problems in dogs if eaten in large amounts. Keep them away from your dog to avoid potential health issues. 

On the other hand, there are some citrus fruits that are OK for dogs to eat. Oranges, tangerines, clementines, and mandarins do not pose the same risk as lemons, limes, and grapefruits. In fact, a little slice of orange is OK for dogs to have as an occasional treat. 

What To Feed Your Dog Instead of Lemons

Instead of lemons, try one of the following fruits that are safe for dogs. Remember to start slow and feed in moderation. Keep an eye out for any signs of digestive upset, and stop feeding if your pooch appears unwell.

Remember that not all fruit is safe for dogs to eat. Some fruits, like grapes, should be avoided because they are toxic to dogs. Always talk to your vet before introducing a new food to your dog’s bowl, as they may have recommendations that take into account your pet’s health, age, and weight.

Featured Image: Getty/Anastasiia Shavshyna

April Saylor


April Saylor

Freelance Writer

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