I was eating pickles and I noticed that my dog is curious and is asking for me to give him a pickle.
But is it safe? Can dogs eat pickles? If so, can they eat all types of pickles, even homemade ones?
Can Dogs Eat Pickles?
The simple answer is “it depends on the pickle”. More accurately it depends on the brine your cucumbers are pickled in. Some pickles might be fine for your dog while others might contain spices that are toxic and far too much sodium in the brine. Most pickle juices are very acidic and high in sodium. They can cause a harmful reaction in dogs.
In order to determine if pickles are something, your dog can eat, let’s look at what they are made from and are those items safe for your dog. Let’s start with cucumbers and cucumbers are safe for dogs to eat. In fact, they are a beneficial vegetable.
The next factor depends upon what type of pickles you have. If they are dill, is that herb safe for dogs? The answer to that question would also be a yes and dill has some beneficial qualities as well.
That leaves the brine. Herein lies the problem. There are vinegar, sodium and all kinds of spices in the brine. It is the brine that makes pickles a problem for dogs.
To make pickles you soak the cucumbers in the brine and add the spices to make the type of pickles you want. What goes in that brine is what makes a pickle edible for your dog or not.
Dill pickles are made with vinegar, brine, and dill so, for the most part, they are not dangerous for your dog to eat. Bread and Butter pickles, on the other hand, are made with vinegar, brine, peppers, and onions. It’s the peppers and onions that are toxic for the dogs.
At the same time, it is the “pickling” process that kills off most of the nutrients in the cucumber. The sodium then makes the pickles too salty to be healthy for dogs.
Cucumbers, even pickled ones, are packed with vitamins and minerals. These include:
- Calcium – Necessary to strengthen teeth and bones, nails and coat.
- Magnesium – Helps with heart function, absorbs calcium, helps to keep bones healthy and regulates the nervous system.
- Iron – Needed to carry oxygen through the blood system. It helps enzymes function properly in dogs.
- Potassium – regulation of kidneys and liver systems.
- Fiber – Is necessary for a healthy digestive system.
- Vitamin K – Blood and bones are both regulated and strengthened by it.
- Vitamin A – Is good for the dog’s eyes.
Despite the presence of all these vitamins and minerals, pickles really can’t compare with the nutrients of unpickled cucumbers. If you are going to give your dog pickles, they should be sweet pickles or dill pickles.
Dill pickles have their own health benefits that come from the dill including:
- Assists with respiratory issues.
- Prevents cramping.
- Improved digestion and calming effect.
The cucumber itself does not offer much in the way of nutrition. The cucumber is crunchy and dogs like that. It is low in calories and aids in digestion. Still, it offers little in the way of nutrition.
The herb dill is used a lot in sauces and salads. It is really good for dogs. It is beneficial in digestion, as a relief for cramps and nausea. It also gives protection against free-radicals with its antioxidant properties.
It can also freshen your dog’s breath. Dogs can eat fresh dill as well as dill seeds in small amounts. Dill by itself is better for your dog than dill pickles.
As previously stated, it is the brine more than the cucumbers that are a problem for dogs. We also stated that the brine is very salty and acidic.
This acidity throws off the pH balance in your dog and can cause diarrhea, stomach upsets, and kidney issues. Pickle juice is mostly vinegar and sodium.
There are also preservatives in commercial pickles. Then there are various spices, depending on the type of pickles. This high level of salt can cause your dog to be excessively thirsty, raise blood pressure and can cause dehydration.
Your dog’s commercial dog food is likely to have 100% of the daily required amount of sodium. Too much sodium acts as a poison to your dog. If your dog develops any of these symptoms after consuming salt, take him to the vet immediately.
Usually, the vinegar used for making pickles is distilled white vinegar. This offers your dog no nutrients. If you are going to pickle cucumbers for your dog’s consumption, use red wine vinegar.
To recap the dangers of pickles:
- Sodium – excessive salt can cause a lot of problems that we previously mentioned. Dehydration, thirst, high blood pressure, and pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is very painful and can become fatal.
- Vinegar – acidic brine can cause pH imbalance and issues with kidneys.
- The herbs and spices – make up many different types of pickles some of which are not dangerous for dogs and many which are.
- Garlic pickles – garlic isn’t bad for a dog but there is still a risk.
- Garlic and Onion Pickles – can lead to anemia.
- Hot peppers – discomfort most dogs won’t like. Not all hot peppers are a problem. But some will be toxic and others unpleasant.
- Bread and Butter Pickles – onions, garlic, and other spices are used and could be toxic.
- Onions are also toxic to dogs and red cells can be damaged by hemolytic anemia.
How to Serve it?
If you really need or want to give your dog pickles, then your best bet is homemade pickles. When you make your own pickles, you can control all the variables that are problems in commercial pickles. You control the vinegar, sodium, and level of acidity. When you do this your dog can easily eat pickles.
Cut your homemade pickle into small pieces. Once or twice a week you can give a chunk or two to your dog. But don’t give the whole pickle or even a few bites every day. Only give her a few bites once or twice a week.
Can dogs eat pickles? The answer is yes, but only safe ones and only in very small quantities. The best kind of pickle to give your dog is the ones you made yourself. The best commercial pickle to serve your dogs is the sweet pickle. Don’t give your dog anything with hot peppers, garlic, onion or unknown spices.
If you can find a low sodium dill pickle that is also a good choice. Just know that the brine for most pickles is salty and acidic. It is not good for your dog for reasons we have covered here.
Pickles on their own are not toxic for dogs, but what they are made with can be. If you are going to feed pickles do it scarcely. You should give it once in a while, certainly not every day.
There are some valuable nutrients and vitamins in the cucumber, but not enough to really make a difference to your dog. He is better of just eating cucumbers and dill, without having to hassle with the brine, vinegar, salt or other spices.
There are no real health benefits for dogs in eating pickles and there are far more nutritious snacks you can offer. The small amount of vitamins and minerals that might be helpful to your dog is offset by the risk involved if a dog ingests ingredients that it should not have.
If you insist on giving your dog a pickle, make sure it is just a small bite or two, not a whole pickle. Don’t give them pickles every day. All dogs want to eat what their people are eating, but just because you love pickles, doesn’t mean pickles will love your dog. Most of them won’t.
If you are absolutely sure there are no toxic ingredients in the pickles, the brine is reduced sodium and maybe red apple cider vinegar was used instead of distilled white vinegar, then you might give your dog a small bite. If you are not sure, it is not worth risking your dog’s health for a pickle.
Victoria Nelson is a lifelong animal lover. She grew up in a small farm with a wide variety of pets that included dogs, cats, cows, fish etc. A published author since 18, she loves writing, and nothing makes her happier than writing about animals and sharing useful animal care tips.