Like many dog owners, my pooch gets the occasional human treat. I have a habit of tossing a bit of whatever I’m eating, as long as it’s safe for them, their way. I had read about the foods that are dangerous for dogs to consume.
Xylitol, chocolate, raw chicken bones, and grapes were all on my no feed list. I thought my list was complete. Then, I discovered something startling. It turns out, potatoes can be toxic to dogs. Who knew?
Can dogs eat raw potatoes?
Technically, a dog can eat a raw potato, but it can make them ill. Similar to other toxins like grapes and chocolate, there’s a compound in potatoes that is highly toxic to dogs but fine for humans.
You’ve probably heard of nightshade. It’s most often used to refer to Belladonna, or deadly nightshade, the infamous poison plant. However, there are many fruits and vegetables that belong to the nightshade family as well.
These plants do not contain the same toxins as deadly nightshade, obviously, but they do have some similar compounds. The one that concerns us is solanine. A few other plants, including blueberries, also contain solanine, although they are not technically nightshades.
Nightshade plants include:
- White potatoes
Solanine can be toxic to humans, but it takes a large amount of the compound. Foods like potatoes do not contain enough solanine to make a human sick. Dogs are much more sensitive to the compound. They can become very ill from a small amount of raw potato, or other nightshade foods.
Are Cooked Potatoes Safe?
Yes, cooked potatoes are safe for your dog. The cooking process greatly reduces the amount of solanine present. You wouldn’t want to feed your pooch pounds of cooked potatoes, but an occasional serving is safe.
You should exercise care when feeding them potato skins. It’s ok for them to eat in small amounts. However, it’s hard for them to digest, so large amounts of potato skins can cause stomach upset.
Even if the potatoes are cooked, never feed your dog a green potato. These have a much higher level of solanine. In fact, green potatoes have been responsible for many cases of human solanine poisoning.
How to Cook Potatoes
All cooking methods are not created equal. Boiling is usually recommended as the best way to cook food for your pooch. However, when it comes to potatoes, boiling doesn’t effectively remove the solanine. Potatoes should be baked or fried instead.
Of course, you shouldn’t add salt, butter, or other oil to the potatoes when preparing them for your dog either. Keep it plain to avoid giving your dog too much salt or calories.
Other Potato Parts
It’s not only the potato itself that is poisonous. The stems, leaves, and sprouts also contain solanine. If you grow your own potatoes, be sure your dog doesn’t have access to these potato parts. The highest concentration of solanine in the potato itself is in the skin.
What happens if my dog eats a raw potato?
If your dog eats a raw potato, they may be in for a difficult time. Solanine poisoning can have very serious effects.
There’s some confusion about whether potato poisoning is often serious. Some sources state that a small amount of potato can be very dangerous, while other sources state that the symptoms are usually mild.
Factors in Severity
Before we look at the symptoms, understanding the factors that affect severity can help you know what to expect.
Size and Amount Consumed
The first factors are your dog’s size and the amount of potato they consumed. Large dogs can tolerate more solanine, because it will be more diluted in their system.
Of course, large dogs also consume greater amounts of food. The bottom line here is that a slice of potato would be much more dangerous for a small dog than a large one, but if a large dog consumes a large amount of raw potato, they are also at high risk of serious symptoms.
The second factor is your dog’s age. Very young or old dogs have weakened immune systems. Their bodies are not able to tolerate distress as well as adult dogs.
Health is the last consideration. Dogs with poor health or a chronic health issue will be more susceptible to the toxin than healthy dogs.
There’s an element of unpredictability as well. Some dogs seem to be more sensitive to the compound, without any clear rhyme or reason. However, these factors do provide general guidelines.
How Much Potato Is Toxic to Dogs?
Even one teaspoon of raw potato can be toxic for your dog. The solanine itself is toxic to humans at dosages of 2 to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight. At 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight, solanine can be fatal.
However, dogs are much more sensitive to solanine than humans. Unfortunately, the toxic dosage for dogs isn’t clear.
The average potato only contains 1 mg of solanine. The problem is that when potatoes turn green, the solanine content increases by 20%. This means 4 to 5 potatoes would be enough to make a human very ill.
At this concentration, one green potato is more than enough to kill a dog.
What Happens When Your Dog Eats Raw Potato
When your dog eats raw potato, Solanine prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. This causes reduced function in several important bodily systems. It affects the nervous system and the liver. It’s also been found in the brain, lungs, heart, and kidneys, suggesting it affects these areas as well.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms of Potato Poisoning
Gastrointestinal symptoms are often the first sign of potato poisoning. Of course, these symptoms can also occur simply because the potato doesn’t agree with your pooch’s stomach.
These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. If your pooch is having severe bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, contact your vet immediately. Mild stomach upset can be treated at home, as long as their are no other symptoms.
Neurological symptoms are those that affect the brain. Acetacholine is essential for healthy brain function, which means that solanine has a significant impact on brain function.
Neurological symptoms can include seizures, paralysis, disorientation, and loss of sensation or numbness.
Ingesting solanine can also cause your dog’s temperature to fluctuate. Severe cases of poisoning can cause fever, which elevates their temperature. It can also cause hypothermia, which means your dog’s body temperature has dropped too low.
Heart problems, including abnormal heart rhythm, can occur. Your dog may develop dizziness or joint pain as well. Solanine can also affect the thyroid, causing thyroid disorder.
What to do if my dog eats a raw potato?
There are many similarities between dogs and children. Human and pet parents often find themselves wondering what they should do if their baby gets sick or hurt. Do you seek medical or veterinary attention, or just wait it out at home?
If your dog eats a raw potato, you are naturally concerned. Will they be ok? What should I do?
It’s a good idea to induce vomiting if your dog’s eaten raw potato. Because potatoes aren’t caustic, it’s safe to induce vomiting. It can remove the potato before the toxin has a chance to get into your dog’s system.
The best way to induce vomiting is with simple hydrogen peroxide. It should be 3% hydrogen peroxide, because higher concentrations can cause problems for your dog. The good news is that 3% peroxide is what you’ll find in your local store’s pharmacy aisle.
Give them 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight, up to 3 tablespoons for larger dogs. You’ll need to administer it with a dropper or needleless syringe, because your dog won’t drink it willingly.
They should begin vomiting within 10-15 minutes, and it can continue for 45 minutes. This should remove about 1/2 the contents of their stomach. If the first dose doesn’t induce vomiting, you can repeat the dosage one time.
Never induce vomiting if it’s been more than 2 hours since your dog consumed the toxic substance, or if they are lethargic, already vomiting, or losing consciousness.
Monitoring for Symptoms
You’ll need to monitor your dog closely for symptoms. If you notice any signs of nausea, vomiting, or distress, get them to the vet. If they seem ok, and they haven’t consumed a large amount of potato, continue monitoring them for at least 12 hours.
Call Your Vet
If you are unsure if your pooch will be ok, calling your vet is a great idea. Your vet is in the best position to decide if they need treatment, or if you can manage the situation at home.
Call Pet Poison Control
When your dog eats something potentially toxic, what could be more useful than a database with potential toxins? Pet Poison Control has a 24/7 hotline that will connect you with a pet poisoning expert.
They will use their large database to determine what your next steps should be. They will also take into account your dog’s size, health, and age. They will factor this into the equation. Then they will make recommendations.
If they recommend that you seek veterinary attention, they will discuss their treatment plan with your vet. This service is fee based, but the knowledge is well worth it.
If your dog needs veterinary treatment, it will probably begin with a medication to induce vomiting. In severe cases, your vet may perform a stomach lavage, which removes more of the stomach contents.
First line treatments include medication for the nervous system, IV fluids, and charcoal to remove toxins.