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Can Dogs Eat Limes? Are They Safe For Dogs?

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Last Updated: August 25, 2023 | 6 min read | Leave a Comment

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This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate a lime, we recommend you contact your own veterinarian immediately.

Limes are common fruits and are used as an ingredient in plenty of recipes too. Many households, therefore may have limes at home.

You might also have seen videos on social media of people feeding their dogs citrus fruits to film their reactions and could be wondering whether this is safe to try yourself. The answer to this would be no.

Let’s explore limes in more detail, including the potential side effects if your dog were to eat one, and find out what fruits are a better choice for your canine companion’s health and well-being.

What Are Limes?

Dog laying next to a bunch of limes outside
Most limes are grown in the hot climates of Mexico.

Limes are bright green citrus fruits, similar in shape to lemons but slightly smaller, and are usually available in grocery stores all year round. The fruit has a zesty taste and is used in a variety of savory dishes (salsas, curries, and marinades), desserts such as key lime pie, and in cocktails like delicious margaritas. Lime wedges are often used as a garnish or to add extra flavor to many other drinks.

Limes are rich in vitamin C, which is something that humans (and guinea pigs) require from external sources as they cannot make their own. Other species, such as dogs, don’t require extra vitamin C in their diet as they can synthesize this themselves.

Are Limes Safe For Dogs To Eat?

No. Limes are actually toxic to dogs. The ASPCA advises against giving any citrus-type fruits to dogs, including lemons and grapefruits, as well as limes. Most dogs don’t enjoy the taste of these fruits, but there are some dogs out there that will have a go at anything.

Emergency treatment for pet poisoning can be terrifying and costly, so be sure to consider pet insurance for your beloved pup before they start having major health concerns. Getting it young is important because pre-existing conditions are not normally covered by most companies.

To keep your dog safe, you should store limes well out of reach or shut away in a secure cupboard. If you have any lime plants, then you should restrict your dog’s access to these and ideally supervise him, as eating any part of the plant, as well as the fruit, can cause side effects. Dogs can also develop skin rashes by coming into contact with the plant or the fruit peel.

Accidental ingestion of a small amount of lime or its juice is unlikely to cause too many problems, but you should monitor your dog for any side effects.

Are Limes Bad For Dogs?

Limes are bad for dogs and should never be fed to them. The peel and pith are particularly toxic as it contains high levels of psoralens compounds and the essential oils limonene and linalool. Lime plants and their leaves also contain large amounts of these. Side effects caused by these compounds range from vomiting and diarrhea to liver failure. If your dog eats a large number of limes, then he is at higher risk due to the increased amounts of these oils. So eating a small piece of lime is unlikely to cause problems, but lots could cause serious side effects.

Upset Tummies

Limes can cause digestive upset in some dogs, such as vomiting and diarrhea. In many cases, this is self-limiting due to the irritation that the juice from the limes causes in your dog’s gut. However, you should seek veterinary advice if your dog vomits multiple times or becomes lethargic.

Photosensitivity

If your dog’s skin comes into direct contact with the leaves from a lime plant or with a lime peel, he may come out in a rash. These rashes can be made worse by exposure to sunlight. If he does make contact in this way, wash his skin thoroughly with water and soap to remove all traces of any citrus oils. If a rash develops, then speak to your veterinarian for advice.

Liver Failure

Excessive consumption of limes or their peel could cause liver problems in dogs. If your dog has damage to his liver, then he may show signs of gastrointestinal upset, seizures, and collapse. Most dogs don’t like the taste of limes and don’t consume much, so this is, thankfully, a rare occurrence.

Digestive Tract Obstruction

If your dog eats whole limes or eats a lot of peelings, then he could develop an obstruction in his digestive tract. This blockage could become quite serious, with your dog becoming very sick if it is left untreated. The peel and pith on limes are very fibrous and indigestible, meaning they won’t be broken down in your dog’s stomach.

Small amounts of consumed peel could pass through relatively unchanged, but large amounts may get stuck. Signs of obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea (or constipation), abdominal pain, lethargy, and collapse. Speak to your veterinarian if your dog is showing any of those signs.

Lime-Based Dishes & Drinks

Small dog licking a margarita with a lime in it
Some dishes and drinks that contain limes may also have other ingredients that are harmful to dogs.

Limes are contained in many alcoholic beverages. Dogs are much more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than people are, so could succumb to dangerous alcohol poisoning if they drink a lime-based alcoholic drink.

Margaritas, caipirinhas, and mojitos are all cocktails that contain limes, but lime wedges are used in many other drinks to garnish them and give flavor, for example, sodas (such as cola). These drinks may also contain high levels of caffeine that could be harmful to our pets.

Lime Juice

Lime juice should not be given to your dog. It is a concentrated form of limes, and some may also contain added sugars or flavorings. Many dogs simply won’t enjoy the taste of this product in the first place, but if they do drink it, then it could cause problems.

Salsa, Curries, & Other Savory Dishes

Some savory dishes that contain limes, like salsas and curries, should not be fed to your dog. Not only could the limes cause side effects, but the recipes could contain onions or chilis, which may be harmful as well. Onions are part of the allium family, a group of plants (onions, garlic, chives, leeks, etc.) that can all cause dangerous hemolytic anemia in our pets.

Onion causes oxidative damage to the red blood cells, causing them to break. This means a much lower capacity for carrying oxygen around the body. Anemic animals are, therefore, pale, weak, and may collapse. Chilis and other spices, alongside limes, could cause digestive upset, so are best avoided.

Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie is a classic dessert that features limes as one of its main ingredients. While we enjoy this sweet treat, we shouldn’t offer it to our dog. Not only could the limes cause problems, but the dessert is high in sugar and calories, which is not healthy for our pets. Sometimes cream is used in this recipe and could also trigger digestive upset, as some dogs are unable to digest the natural sugar in dairy products (lactose).

Safe Fruits For Dogs

Dog Eating Blueberries From Bowl
Blueberries are a safe and popular fruity snack and sweet treat for dogs.

If you want to offer your dog some fruit, you could try some on the following list of safe fruits for pups, but even then, only give him small amounts at a time to avoid any tummy troubles:

  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Strawberries

You should never force your dog to eat any kind of fruit—some dogs just don’t like the taste. But if he is keen, then small amounts of these safe fruits every now and then would be fine. Just keep the limes and citrus fruits for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if your dog eats lime peel?

Lime peel is particularly toxic as it contains high levels of psoralens compounds and the essential oils limonene and linalool. These can cause digestive upset and, in very concentrated forms, could cause liver failure in dogs. Lime peel is also not very digestible, so could cause an obstruction (blockage) in your dog’s digestive tract, which can make them seriously unwell.

How much lime will make a dog vomit?

Dogs don’t tend to like the taste of limes due to their zesty, citrus flavor, so will rarely eat very much at all. Most of the toxins are present in the lime peel and the plant, so they have a higher chance of being poor from consuming these parts than they do from the flesh of the fruit. The effects can therefore be variable, with some dogs being unwell after eating fairly small amounts, whereas others may be able to tolerate larger amounts.

Can dogs have lime juice?

No. Most dogs don’t like the taste of lime juice, and there is no nutritional reason to give it to them. If your dog does accidentally consume a small amount of lime juice, then they may develop some mild symptoms of digestive upset. If your dog becomes very unwell with marked vomiting and diarrhea, then you should seek veterinary assistance.

Final Thoughts

Can I feed my dog limes? Dogs do not need limes in their diet. They will add nothing nutritionally to your dog and could cause adverse side effects such as stomach upsets.

If your dog accidentally eats a small amount of lime, such as a single lime wedge, it is unlikely to cause too much damage. Larger amounts, however, could cause problems. You should not give your dog any dishes or recipes that contain limes either, as many of these also contain other ingredients that could be harmful to your pet.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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