Is Ketchup Bad For Dogs? (How Much is Too Much?)

Is Ketchup Bad For Dogs? Photo of a dog looking to a ketchup bottle and licking his lips.

Whether it’s a nibble of your french fries or some of your hotdog, you may have considered giving your dog a tasty treat with ketchup on it. Can dogs eat ketchup without any harmful side effects? Here’s what you should know about it!

Dogs can eat small amounts of ketchup without harm as a special treat. Ketchup contains a lot of sugar and salt, and many spices that can hurt your dog if he has too much of it regularly. Below, we’ll talk about the safe versus the unsafe ingredients and what you should watch for when it comes to potentially serious symptoms or side effects!

Can dogs eat ketchup?

Like a lot of things, it really depends on what is in the actual ketchup that you’re giving your dog and, of course, how much of it he is getting. While tomatoes themselves are actually safe for dogs to eat, many ketchup options contain much more than this delicious red plant.

Most ketchup blends have added sugar and salt, both of which can cause serious problems with your dog’s health (more on that in the next section). The danger about ketchup or any tomato product is determining what parts of the tomato are used for the ketchup itself!

While the tomato itself is harmless in dogs in small portions, its leaves, flowers, and stems are not! They contain high amounts of a substance called tomatine. Tomatine is toxic to dogs, and it doesn’t take much of it to cause a problem. There is tomatine in tomatoes themselves, but not enough to cause a problem in normal portions. The green parts of the tomato are where the danger lies.

What ketchup ingredients are bad for dogs

There are a few things in ketchup that can create problems for a dog’s digestive tract and general health. These include:

  • The sugar content
  • The salt content
  • The amount/ratio of tomatine
  • Spices and added seasonings

Sugar and salt content

More so than humans, dogs are sensitive to both sugar and salt. Because their threshold is significantly lower than ours, regular feeding of sugar and salt-rich foods can create problems, including diabetes and obesity. Too much salt can also cause a severe condition called salt poisoning. This just means that he’s had too much salt in too short a time, and it imbalances his system, creating serious symptoms that need vet attention.

The amount/ratio of tomatine

We’ve talked about tomatine already. In this case, the problems for a dog’s health will come from what that actual percentage of the potentially toxic tomatine amount is. Since this isn’t exactly printed on the package, and it will vary from one spoonful to the next, this can be notoriously tricky to figure out. We’ve got the symptoms listed below to help you out!

Spices and added seasonings

The other tricky part of ketchup, particularly with store-bought ketchup, is the spices and other seasonings. Many include mustard, garlic, xylitol, and onion, for instance, all of which are dangerous for dogs even in small amounts. Others contain potentially dangerous ingredients like vinegar and cinnamon. While these take more to cause a problem, they can be dangerous for your dog.

Many store-bought bottles of ketchup also used dehydrated versions of all of these spices and seasonings. This makes them even stronger than fresh options used in homemade recipes for ketchup.

Benefits of ketchup or tomato products for dogs

As far as ketchup itself, no. Ketchup can seriously injure your dog, and it has no positive side effects that make it “worth the risk” in small doses. If you want, though, you can consider pure, ripe tomato products (for example, unseasoned and plain stewed tomatoes or pure tomato sauce). 

Tomatoes themselves are actually seen as healthy options for your dog! They have many nutrients and vitamins — including generous portions of Vitamin A and C. They also are rich sources of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that will help prevent cellular damage. They also have a lot of digestive fiber, which is often missing in many dog foods out there. 

What happens if a dog eats ketchup?

If he’s had ketchup in a small lick or two, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. You’ll want to monitor for signs of indigestion, including vomiting and bloat, but he should be okay. If he has a lot of ketchup, though, you’ll want to be careful. Dangerous symptoms can appear within a few hours of eating ketchup, and some of the most common ones to look for include:

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness and coordination issues
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Extreme thirst
  • Indicators of pain or discomfort

If you see any of these signs, it could mean that your dog is suffering from reactions that come from having too much ketchup.

You’ll need to keep a close eye on him for 12 hours, in mild cases, to make sure the danger has passed, and you should call your vet, too, to let them know his symptoms and see if they think he should come in. 

Whenever your dog has severe symptoms, or heh as the more “serious” ones like tremors and loss of consciousness, a trip to the vet is a must!

How much is too much ketchup for dogs?

A great question! As usual, it depends on your dog’s size and the recipe used for the ketchup in particular. A lick off your plate is a little, for most dogs. Eating several ketchup packets is considered a lot (especially if he ate the packet itself, too). 

Can tomato sauce kill a dog?

If your tomato sauce is just pure tomatoes with no seasoning and no stems or other parts of the tomato, then just the fruit itself, small amounts of it should not kill your dog. For example, if you make homemade sauce, it’s safe to give your dog a tiny sample of it before you start adding in seasonings. 

When it comes to store-bought tomato sauce, however, it’s harder to tell. Since they have all sorts of sugar, salt, and dehydrated seasonings, it becomes a lot more serious in much smaller portions. 

The general rule of thumb would be to make sure your dog doesn’t get any kind of store-bought tomato products — including ketchup — unless you are absolutely sure that it is just pure tomato in its pureed form!

Keep in mind, too, that tomatoes even in “safe” portions may not be an excellent option for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Just like humans, tomatoes can be known to cause flare-ups of conditions like acid reflux. Suppose your dog has a weak stomach or struggles with digestion. In that case, tomatoes can make it worse in even small amounts!

Is there such a thing as dog safe ketchup?

We get it. You want to share your food with your dog! While there are many recipes that you can make that are dog-safe, ketchup is one of the few that is tricky to do without losing all of the flavor (for humans). As mentioned, the safest thing to do is give him a few bites of pure tomato if you really want to help him be a part of the dinner table!

While dogs can eat ketchup without a problem as a treat, there are many other dog-safe options that you can consider instead. Know someone prone to giving their dog ketchup regularly? Consider sharing this with them to help them be “in the know”!

On a final note

Yes, dogs can eat ketchup in small servings every once in a while. However, ketchup has many potential dangers for dog health, including tomatine content and seasoning poisoning, amongst others. It’s best to avoid it for your dog’s safety!

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Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have.