Dogs and pickles have a complicated relationship. A vet explains why, and what to do if your dog eats one.

By Beth Ann Mayer
July 12, 2021
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As humans, we love to share things with our pets—especially yummy snacks. And some people food is actually good for dogs, including bananas and some nut butters.

If you love pickles, you may want to share one of these salty-sour treats with your pup. But are pickles safe for your dog to eat?

Are Pickles Good or Bad for Dogs?

"Pickles are not toxic," says Travis McDermott, DVM of Durango Animal Hospital. Pickles are made from cucumbers, which are a safe low-calorie treat. But just because dogs can eat pickles without getting poisoned doesn't mean they should. The truth is, dogs and pickles aren't exactly a match made in heaven. Unlike regular cucumbers, pickles have been preserved in water with high amounts of salt.

"[Pickles] just have a high level of sodium in them," says McDermott. "They won't kill them. Dogs can eat pickles, but it's one of those things that can cause some issues in high amounts because of the sodium."

The ASPCA says too much salt can cause excessive urination, diarrhea, vomiting, depression, tremors, seizures, and even death in extremely high amounts.

Pickles have some fiber in them, which may aid in a dog's digestion. But McDermott says there are better ways to add fiber to a dog's diet. For example, if they're having digestive issues, try canned pumpkin without sugar.

"It's all-natural and will help firm things up," he says.

McDermott also emphasizes that generally speaking a well-balanced dog food that is AAFCO-approved will give your pup everything they need to thrive.

dog pickle graphic
Credit: Braden Dexter / Victor Grabarczyk / SuckerPunch Gourmet / Unsplash

Can Dogs Eat All Kinds of Pickles?

There are many kinds of pickles out there, including dill pickles, sweet pickles, and pickle juice from the jar. Is it fair to paint all of them with the same brush?

Again, McDermott says it's best to find another treat for your dog. But if you have your heart set on giving your dog a pickle now and then, the first thing to do is ask your vet. Pets with kidney issues absolutely shouldn't have this food, even as an occasional treat.

If you get the OK from your vet to let your dog try a pickle, check the nutrition label to ensure it doesn't contain toxic ingredients like garlic or onion. Avoid sweet pickles like bread-and-butter, as they typically have onions, garlic, and sugar. The good news? Dogs aren't usually into sweet foods.

"They tend to prefer savory tastes," McDermott says.

Dill pickles fit that bill, so if you must give your dog a pickle, this is the least dangerous variety to let them taste.

Though be aware, dogs should not have straight pickle juice. In fact, if you're going to give your dog a dill pickle, you should run it through water first.

"If you wash off the pickle really well, you can decrease the sodium content," he says.

To serve, cut the pickle into a thin slice to avoid choking, and give smaller dogs just a pinch. A larger dog can probably eat a whole pickle. The seeds are not harmful, so there's no need to remove them.

My Dog Ate a Pickle. Now What?

If you see your dog eating a pickle, don't panic. Because pickles aren't generally unsafe for dogs, it's usually not the worst thing if they grab a bite off the floor.

Since pickles are high in sodium, ensure your dog has plenty of water. Look out for vomiting and diarrhea and call your vet if you notice your pup has these symptoms, McDermott recommends. The vet can suggest next steps including coming in for a check-up to help your pet feel better faster.