Spicy food is commonplace in our diets as doggy parents, but should we share it with our four-pawed pals? Jalapeños are a popular choice for us – found in pizza toppings, sauces, and enjoyed on their own – but can dogs eat jalapeños?
We know dogs can share some foods that we enjoy as humans, but some human foods are damaging and even toxic to our canine friends. Many fruits and vegetables are good, healthy treat options for dogs.
But what about jalapeños? The last thing any of us want is to cause our doggies any harm. So, are jalapeños safe for dogs? What about other chilis and spicy foods?
What Are Jalapeños? Can My Dog Eat Them?
Jalapeños are peppers from a group of plants known as capsicums. Almost all capsicums contain a substance called capsaicin – this is what gives them their heat and spicy flavor. The bell or sweet pepper is the only exception – despite being a capsicum, bell peppers do not contain any capsaicin, so they have a mild (sweet) flavor.
So, the short answer is no, jalapeños are not a suitable choice of food for dogs. There are plenty of other safer vegetables you can provide your dog as a snack. Consider cooked carrots, squash, or pumpkins as a better alternative.
Jalapeños vs. Other Peppers
The spiciness of peppers can be graded in different ways. One way is using the Scoville Scale. The higher the score of Scoville Heat Units (SHU), the hotter the chili and the more capsaicin it contains.
Bell peppers score zero on the Scoville Scale. Jalapeños score around 2,500-8,000 SHU, which sounds a lot, but habanero peppers (another popular choice in human foods) can score a mouth-watering 100,000! So, jalapeños are not the spiciest of peppers, but they still have quite a “kick.” The question is, do jalapeños taste spicy to dogs?
Can Dogs Taste Spice?
Dogs have around 1,700 taste buds versus a human’s 9,000 or so, meaning their taste is considerably less sophisticated than ours. That’s why feeding your dog a complete, balanced diet that is the same each day is not as dull for our doggies as we tend to imagine.
Dogs are much better at smelling than we are, and they get a rich variety of whiffs from their bowl of biscuits. So, generally, they’re happy with that – and it keeps them in optimum health.
Dogs do have some sense of taste. They taste the same four basic flavors as us – sweet, sour, bitter, and salt – they just don’t have the same sensitivity. Dogs do, however, have a far greater sense of smell than we do. You might notice that you offer your canine companion foods you think will repulse her and she gobbles them down, no questions asked. These foods might smell delicious to your pup but not taste much.
So, the golden rule is don’t be fooled – a dog’s willingness to eat something is not necessarily based on taste, or at least not the taste you associate with that food – and it is not a good indicator of whether a food is safe for them.
Are Jalapeños Bad For Dogs?
Jalapeños cause tummy upsets in dogs because capsaicin, the source of the spicy flavor in chilis, can irritate a dog’s gut. The lining of a dog’s stomach and intestines is sensitive to rich, spicy, and unfamiliar foods. Some dogs are more sensitive than others, just like humans.
Dogs that have eaten spicy food, like jalapeños or other chilis, are likely to experience a tummy upset. This could be anything from a bit of irritation and bloating, which could be subtle and go unnoticed, to vomiting and diarrhea that can be painful and cause harmful side effects, like dehydration. The more capsaicin that your dog has eaten, the more likely she is to be unwell.
We advise that you don’t feed any spicy food to your pup. Please don’t feed dogs jalapeño peppers, whether on their own, in a sauce, or in baked goods. Jalapeños and other chilis are not appropriate for dogs even in small amounts.
You might hear someone say, “my dog ate chili and was fine,” but please remember dogs are very good at hiding discomfort. Your pup could feel bloated, gassy, or nauseous, and you may not know.
My Dog Ate a Jalapeño: What Now?
If Fido has pinched a jalapeño, or another type of chili pepper or spicy dish, don’t panic. There are a few different steps you’ll want to consider.
Step #1: Remove The Peppers
Move your pup away from the source of spicy food. Make sure your pup can’t access it anymore. You may need to place your dog in a secure location while you do this.
Step #2: Assess What Was Ingested
Try and establish exactly how much has been eaten and of what – is it just jalapeños, or were other things included, like garlic or onion, if the jalapeños were in a sauce?
Step #3: Contact Your Veterinarian
Contact your veterinarian and give them as much detail as you can about what your dog has eaten. Your pup might be seriously unwell if she’s eaten a lot of jalapeños, and some other ingredients, like onion, are toxic to dogs. Tell your vet when you think the jalapeño was eaten. If it was within the last few minutes, then the advice and treatment might be different compared to if it was several hours ago.
Step #4: Follow Your Veterinarian’s Advice
Follow your veterinarian’s advice. Your vet may want to see your pup. If only a small amount of jalapeño has been eaten and your furry friend is currently well, then your veterinarian might feel monitoring at home is OK. If so, watch Fido carefully and keep a lookout for signs of a tummy upset.
What Could Happen to My Dog?
If your dog is unwell from eating jalapeños, or other chili peppers, you might see one or more of the following signs:
- Stomach Pain – looking at her tummy, bending down on her front paws (prayer position), being restless, lying awkwardly
- Not wanting to eat
- Having loud tummy noises – gurgling and rumbling
- Being more lazy than normal or seeming dull or depressed
- Not wanting to exercise or exercising less vigorously
If your dog shows any of these signs, it is sensible to contact your veterinarian for advice. If treatment is needed, this might include anything from some injections or medication to give at home, to a stay in the veterinary clinic and a drip.
It is fine to feed a few dog-appropriate treats to our pups, and it can be a lot of fun – hiding treats under pots for your dog to find is a great game and an excellent way to spend time with them. Just be sure not to overdo it on the treats and monitor their weight regularly with the help of your veterinarian.
90% of your dog’s overall intake should be their main food – a complete, balanced dog food – then the rest (10%) can be added extras, like dog-safe table scraps, shop-bought treats, and chews. Just remember, any new food should be introduced gradually, and some dogs are more sensitive than others. Any food can cause a dog to have an upset tummy, so always feed a tiny portion initially and wait a few days to make sure Fido’s tummy is OK.
Our doggies do best when fed a relatively simple diet without too much variety. This sounds a bit boring to us, but our furry friends thrive on a regular dose of balanced and nutritious dog food, specifically designed to give them everything they need and not too much of what they don’t.
Frequently Asked Questions
Jalapeños are not poisonous to dogs, but they can cause a stomach upset if eaten. While a small amount of jalapeño is unlikely to do too much harm, some dogs will react more strongly than others and may need veterinary intervention to help them feel better. If your dog has eaten a jalapeno, you should talk to your vet for advice.