It is no secret that our dogs love to eat. Sometimes it seems our canine friends will eat anything. Even if you avoid feeding human food to your dog, it does not mean they don’t crave it – or won’t attempt to sneak some when you are not looking. So what happens if your dog eats a jalapeno? Is it safe for dogs to eat these hot peppers?
From a personal standpoint, I love jalapenos and add them to my eggs, pizza, and sometimes sandwiches. I can only imagine how they must taste to a dog.
However, each dog has their own tastes. Simply put, a dog can eat a jalapeno and won’t be harmed by it – but you should avoid making it a part of their diet or normal treats. Unlike chocolate and onions, jalapenos are not toxic to dogs.
It will likely not harm them to eat a small amount, but it could possibly be too spicy for their liking and cause an upset stomach. Oftentimes, a dog may simply spit it out since this is not a food that they crave like meat, sweets, and water.
What Makes Jalapenos Irritating?
Jalapenos are part of the nightshade family in the solanaceae plant family. This means that capsaicin, which is also found in hot peppers, is also present in jalapenos. Capsaicin is responsible for the burning sensation you get when eating spicy foods. In large amounts, this chemical can cause problems in dogs – including fever and stomach problems just to name a few.
Raw Jalapenos vs Cooked Jalapenos
If you choose to feed your dog cooked jalapenos, consider that cooking these peppers can reduce “spiciness” in them by about 50%. Removing the seeds also reduces spice. If you give your dog cooked foods with jalapenos, make sure there aren’t too many peppers. You want to make sure they are not getting the spicy flavor when eating something like this.
Restaurant Food With Jalapenos
No matter how tempting it is to share your “doggie bag” from the local Mexican restaurant, avoid giving your dog food with jalapenos if you are not aware of all of the ingredients in it. Foods that often have jalapenos, like a delicious bowl of chili, frequently contain onions and/or garlic as well. Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs. So don’t take chances if you are not 100% sure of what is in the food – no matter how much your dog begs while you eat that loaded burrito.
How Do Dogs Respond to Spice Levels of Foods?
Dogs cannot feel the “hotness” in certain foods. The chemical that causes humans to feel heat when eating hot peppers does not exist in the canine palette. While dogs have taste buds similar to humans, there is no capsaicin present in their mouth to feel the heat/spice of a jalapeno.
Spicy food isn’t “bad” for them. Unless your dog has an allergy or sensitivity to spicy foods, they won’t automatically have a bad reaction to eating these types of food. The issue is more with gastrointestinal problems or a food allergy they may have.
If your dog has an adverse reaction to spiciness, it may exhibit the following signs:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive thirst
- Rubbing mouth/tongue on floor or carpet to relieve mouth pain
- Flared nostrils
- Itchiness around ears, mouth, and feet
While most dogs can eat a small amount of jalapenos without issue, avoid letting your growing puppy near them. Their immune systems are not as strong as adult dogs yet.
However, if the pup accidentally eats one and experiences mouth irritation, your veterinarian may recommend an antacid or providing cool water to reduce the heat of the peppers.
Can Dogs Eat Jalapeno Stems?
The membrane of the stem where capsaicin resides can be highly irritating to your dog’s mouth and throat. Dogs may attempt to chew through this part of the pepper but quickly realize it hurts their mouth, making them stop chewing immediately after trying it out once or twice.
Can Dogs Eat Jalapeno Leaves?
Like the stems, the part of the plant that holds and contains capsaicin makes this an irritant for dogs. This is where most spicy action occurs in jalapenos, so it’s best to avoid letting your dog eat parts of this plant or food if they contain them.
Do Canines Enjoy Hot Foods?
Speaking of taste, dogs have a unique sense of taste (in addition to having a fantastic sense of smell). They can detect certain flavors that we cannot even imagine – including a special taste bud for water. However, they don’t necessarily notice spice.
When a dog tastes something spicy, they will only pick up on the bitter and sour aspects. The bitter and sour taste buds are on the back of the tongue, so it may take a minute for a dog to react to tasting something spicy or hot. Usually, they don’t like this taste.
While they have fewer taste buds than ours, 1700 compared to our 9000, their sense of smell works in cohesion with taste. Dogs can also taste their food through smell. This particular smell receptor favors meaty and fatty aromas. Spicy food (especially spicy meat) usually smells delicious, so it is feasible that some dogs may seek out certain spicy dishes based on the smell.
Of course, there is another reason why your dog may want to taste a particular spicy dish. Your dog may want to help you eat a taco, curry chicken, or chili meat because it is meat, and it is simply not attracted to the spice. They have unique taste buds just for meat.
With that said, there is no reason to intentionally feed a dog spicy food, especially from outside the home. Dogs often seek out a taste of our chocolate bar, but we simply must not oblige unless we want them to get sick. Whether or not dogs enjoy spicy human food, it is not ideal for their digestive system over time.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats a Jalapeno?
Don’t panic unless your dog shows an adverse reaction. However, watch out for signs of diarrhea, excessive gas, or stomach pain in your dog. Make sure your pup has access to plenty of water to ease their thirst. Take the dog to the vet if you must.
In conclusion, jalapenos can be consumed by dogs infrequently. In small amounts, your dog may be able to eat a piece of this hot pepper or a small amount of cooked jalapeno. However, avoid letting them eat the stems and leaves from this plant.
If they happen to have diarrhea from eating too many of these types of foods, call your vet immediately. They can provide medication for stomach pain and any other issues that may arise due to ingestion.
Furthermore, avoid giving your dog spicy food like jalapenos or hot peppers if you are unaware of what else is in the dish! Those street tacos probably have onions in them. Even though they don’t taste spiciness as we do, it still can hurt their health over time.