It’s Taco Tuesday, and Fido is staring at you with eyes that say, “Pretty please.” Since humans tend to love spicy foods, you might think that your pup would also enjoy a little heat with their meaty morsels and dry kibble. But should you give your dog a nibble of sriracha or chili powder? Can dogs eat spicy food? The answer is a hard no.
There are a couple of health-related reasons why dogs shouldn’t eat spicy food, as well as some taste-related ones. Let’s talk about why.
Can Dogs Eat Spicy Food?
Dogs should never be given spicy food. Sure, your pup might snatch a bite of chicken smothered in hot sauce and be fine. The reaction, however, depends largely on the heat and the kind of spice.
Because of the taste, your dog may behave oddly. They could pace around the house, shake their heads, drink loads of water, and lick their lips constantly. A dog that drools a lot may start forming pools of saliva.
These reactions are normal whenever a dog eats something spicy. But why does this happen?
Spicy Food For Dogs: How They’re Taste Buds Work
Even though dogs shouldn’t have spicy foods, you might be interested in whether they can even taste spiciness. Dogs, as you may know, have an incredible sense of smell, which is related to the sense of taste. However, a dog’s tongue has about 1,700 taste buds. For comparison, humans have a whopping 9,000 taste buds. The more taste buds you have, the more sensitivity you have to various flavors and levels of spice.
In other words, dogs don’t taste things like humans do. Interestingly, dogs have more water-receptive taste buds on their tongues; so while they might not be able to enjoy all the flavors in a burrito bowl, they can definitely taste water better than their humans.
Dogs also don’t like bitter or sour flavors, explaining why chew deterrents often have a sour taste. Should a dog take a bite of a jalapeno, for instance, they might not get the full impact of the spice. But they will react to the bitterness once the spice reaches the back of the tongue (where their bitterness receptors are located).
Do Dogs Like Spicy Foods?
Since spicy foods are usually also bitter or sour, the chances of your dog enjoying it are low. Dogs are more likely to go for something sweet—a byproduct of their ancestors enjoying fruit. This is why it is okay to give a dog tomato.
So, if you think Sparky wants a bite of your extra hot chicken wings, think again.
Here’s a video of a dog who clearly didn’t enjoy a bite of hot pepper:
Are Spicy Foods Safe For Dogs to Eat?
Generally, most spicy foods are not going to affect your dog too badly. A hot pepper won’t cause enough distress to warrant a trip to the emergency vet, but your dog also won’t be looking for more peppers to eat any time soon.
However, you shouldn’t give your dog hot sauce or hot peppers. Hot sauce is unacceptable for dogs. Plus, many commercial hot sauces contain additives that provide no benefit to your dog’s health.
If you want to try giving your pooch some spice, there are three options that have little to no negative effects (only good ones) on dogs:
- Turmeric: This golden spice is a strong anti-inflammatory that can decrease pain in dogs suffering from arthritis.
- Cinnamon: When added to a dog’s diet in small doses, cinnamon may improve circulation, digestion, and brain function.
- Bell pepper: Green and red bell peppers are on the sweeter side, meaning your dog will enjoy this kind of pepper. Plus, veterinarians say that these peppers have many health benefits, including lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamins B6, E, A, C.
Can Spicy Food Kill Dogs?
While dogs rarely die from eating spicy food, they shouldn’t have too much of it for a good reason: digestive upset. Nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can happen when a dog consumes too much spice. The spicier the food, the worse the symptoms.
Worse, if your dog consumes spicy foods too often, they could develop long-term health conditions, such as pancreatitis or kidney problems. Since these issues can shorten your furry friend’s lifespan, do not give them spicy food. Also avoid food with a lot of garlic and onion, as these seasonings can cause anemia.
My Dog Accidentally Ingested Spicy Food. What Do I Do?
Don’t panic. If a dog eats spicy food, it’s not the end of the world. Keep a close eye on your dog for any signs of serious illness. This will usually happen within 24 hours of eating the spicy food. Again, your dog might drink a lot of water, salivate, and have nausea and diarrhea. This is to be expected.
Consider calling the veterinarian for assistance if your dog is vomiting, dehydrated, and struggling to breathe.
No Spice, Thank You
Can dogs eat spicy food? Not really. Spicy meals aren’t really meant for dogs, and there can be all kinds of harmful effects. So the next time you’re tempted to give your dog a bite of sriracha-laden noodles or your spicy taco, think again. Stick to dog-safe foods only!