Can Dogs Eat Oranges, Grapefruit and Lemons?

Medically Reviewed

Ever wondered if dogs can eat oranges, grapefruits and lemons? We have done a research and it's come out with clear answers about harmfulness of these citrus fruits.

Dogs and humans are not created as equals. And although it may be tempting at first to feed your dog with fruits (as they are considered very healthy for humans) dog’s system may or may not be capable of digesting some of them.

For this reason, we have researched whether dogs can eat some of the most common fruits, namely oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, and have come up with very precise answers to this issue.

Can Dogs Eat Oranges?

The orange is a fruit that is allowed for our four-legged friends. Oranges can be healthy for dogs if given in moderation.

What does it mean?

This accounts for an orange a day for a large dog and a quarter of an orange for a small puppy. A good rule to follow here, as in the case of all other treats, is no more than 10% of the daily diet.

The high content of Vitamin C found in oranges can strengthen their immune system and make them cope better with stress.

These fruits are also rich in potassium, folate, and thiamine, but are low in sodium. All of these healthy compounds are important for your dog’s brain and muscles functionality as well as its heart health.

In fact:

Some dogs under stressful conditions are given Vitamin C supplements in order to strengthen their nervous system. Oranges can also get rid of the toxins found in a dog’s body – toxins which could be acquired from the environment or other foods.

Many dogs like the sweetness found in oranges. However, here is a specific case in which oranges can be harmful for dogs. Due to the high amount of sugar found in oranges some dogs are better off avoiding them. For instance, diabetic dogs or dogs that are overweight should not be fed oranges. Also if you give your dog too many, it could lead to stomach upsets such as diarrhea.

How Should You Serve Oranges to Your Dog?

Apart from its sweet and juicy segments, what it very healthy in oranges is actually the pith or the white layer found around the segments. The pith is actually rich in antioxidants and fiber, and by being also less acidic it makes it the healthiest part of the orange for your dog.

Even if orange seeds are not toxic to dogs, they can still be hard for their digestive system. So better avoid feeding your dog with them.

Furthermore, dogs shouldn’t be given the orange peel as their system isn’t designed to digest it and your pet may develop stomach problems as a result of it. Also, some dog’s systems may not resist the acidic nature of this fruit.

Thus, if you are going to feed your pet with it, it is better to start off with small quantities to see how your dog reacts to it.

Can Dogs Eat Grapefruits?

can dogs eat grapefruit

There are plenty of health benefits of grapefruits to us humans, but they can be very harmful for our dogs. Not all human foods should be given to our four-legged friends and some of them, like grapefruits, should actually be avoided at all costs.

With that being said, this one is a definite no! The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has included the grapefruit on their list of toxic foods for dogs. This fruit could even cause poisoning and it is definitely not clever to feed your dog with it.

Where does the grapefruit toxicity come from?

There are two sources of toxins found in grapefruits:

The first one consists of the essential oils that are present in both the peel and the pit of the fruit. The other one comes in the form of an organic chemical compound known as psoralens.

Eating even a small quantity of grapefruit might make your dog show signs of toxicity. The main symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and photosensitivity (sensitive to light).

Other less common signs include trembling, a general debility, and rashes. In extreme cases, some dogs may need to have their blood replaced in order to recover completely from grapefruit toxicity. Grapefruit can also affect your dog’s kidneys. That being said, grapefruit should be kept at bay from your dog’s diet.

Can Dogs Eat Lemons?

Many of us already know that dogs in general dislike lemon juice. In fact, in some cases, it is used by expert dog trainers to “punish” them when they bark excessively. However, other dogs enjoy the sour taste that lemon provides them with, so it’s hard to say if they should eat it or not just from mere analyzing of your dog’s reaction.

While some say that lemon is too acidic to be given to a dog as it might cause stomach issues. Others believe that small quantities aren’t harmful if given in moderation.

But are lemons bad for dogs?

Actually, the lemon should be given in only very small amounts if you decide to feed them with it. And when we say very small, we really mean it. This citrus fruit’s essential oils contain the same substance found in grapefruit called psoralens which can cause digestive issues, and sometimes even liver failure.

There are many videos of dogs reacting to lemon juice on the Internet which kind of proves that giving dogs lemons is a type of cruelty that should better be avoided.

Can Dogs Drink Lemon Water?

Nevertheless, the lemon also has healing properties that when used correctly can improve your dog’s health and lemon water is actually the best way to make sure that your dog is provided with the benefits of this fruit without risking the gastrointestinal distress after eating a lemon slice.

The important thing is not to pour too much of the lemon juice into your dog’s water bowl. Rather, start by dissolving only a few drops of lemon juice in a cup of water, see how your dog reacts and then slowly introduce a bit more until you get the right ratio.

Be aware that the amount of lemon that you squeeze into your own lemonade or lemon water isn’t good for your dog, so don’t measure the ratio according to your own standards of sourness.

Canine halitosis or bad breath can be cured by introducing lemon juice into a cup of water and letting them drink it. According to experts, dogs never ate lemons in their natural habitat.

Thus, it is advisable to keep portions low as the acidity found in lemons may hurt their stomach potentially causing vomiting and diarrhea – plus, they will not be too willing to ingest it if the taste is too sour.

If you realize that your dog isn’t drinking water anymore because of the added lemon juice, stop giving it to him because you don’t want your dog to stay dehydrated. Hydration is very important for dogs as it is for you.

Interestingly enough, there are also other usages of the lemon water apart from giving it to your dog to drink it. You can also apply lemon juice with water on your dog’s body if your pet is being harassed by too many fleas.

This natural remedy will make them fly away.

Read more about lemon water for dogs here.

What’s the bottom line?

Of all the three fruits listed, oranges are the preferred choice for feeding your dog. They can be healthy if given moderately.

Lemon juice is the second on the list and it is better to be used as a natural remedy than a food on its own.

Finally, grapefruits should be avoided if you want to keep your pet healthy.

If you’re still wondering if other types of citrus fruits not mentioned here could be healthy or harmful for your dogs, discover more in these articles about pomelos and tangerines.

Hope you found this article interesting. If so, feel free to spread the word!

This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Joanna de Klerk, BVetMed (hons) MScTAH.

Joanna graduated from the prestigious Royal Veterinary College in London and works as a veterinarian for dogs, cats and horses. She has a particular interest in nutrition, pain management, neurological disorders and welfare. She has written two books 'Tales from a Young Vet' and 'Tales from a Wild Vet'.

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5 comments

  • Marlys

    We have difficulty with the dog water dish collecting mosquitos. Could we put a slice of an orange in the upside-down water container to deter the mosquitos?

  • Mary

    Lemons boiled and left overnight then placed in a spray bottle makes a great flea spray and it does work 

  • Sandra Machuga

    Thank you for the great info

  • Madie

    I had a female Labrador that loved oranges. I was not in the habit of buying them, but a friend from Florida sent me some and I put them in the basement to keep them cool. When I walked back upstairs with one in my hand, she went nuts wanting to have it. She was an avid retriever so I just thought she mistook it for a ball. I peeled in with her dancing around my feet. I gave her a small piece thinking she would probably spit it out, but she gobbled it down and wanted more. Thereafter, whenever I ate an orange, I shared it with her. Her brother had no interest in oranges at all, strange since of the two, he was the foodie.

  • HowardKL

    Just happened to read this article, I actually dropped a piece of orange fall to the ground the other day, and my dachshund vaccumed it up immediately. Was worried for a bit, but she seemed to be fine. Thanks for providing the degree of comfort!