Lots of recipes call for peppers. It’s an important part of cooking savory dishes because it adds flavor to them, therefore enhancing the taste of our meals. If you have a penchant for peppers, you will surely agree that a food seasoned with them tastes a whole lot better.
Now, what if you are in a household with pets? What if you have a dog who likes tasting anything you eat? Your instinct might tell you to not to feed peppers to dogs because they may cause gastrointestinal problems.
Your instinct is right. But no matter how careful we are, there are instances when dogs still eat the stuff we’re trying to avoid. What will you do if your buddy right there actually ingested some of your peppers or peppercorn? In today’s post, we will talk about peppers in general and their effects on a dog’s body.
Can Dogs Have Pepper?
The answer actually depends on the kind of pepper. There are so many types of peppers and each variety has a sub-variety. If we’re going to try to identify all of the types of peppers, we will end up a bit dizzy because there are around 50,000 varieties worldwide.
There are the sweet ones, the hot ones, the chili ones, and then there are bell peppers. And before we forget, there’s the peppercorn or the processed fruit of the pepper plant that we use for spicing up dishes.
Take note that each variety has a varying degree of spiciness, a chemical reaction that causes one to feel the burning sensation in the mouth. The level of heat or spiciness is determined using the Scoville scale. This measures the concentration of capsaicin or any heat-producing chemical in food.
Almost all peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that produces a burning sensation when it comes in contact with any tissue in the body. It is just one of the many pungent compounds found in chili peppers.
According to the study published by The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, capsaicin causes hypertension in dogs, having an effect on the peripheral vasculatures. The peripheral vascular system consists of the veins and arteries, not in the chest and abdomen.
Dogs cannot taste spicy food as much as humans do because they have a less discriminating sense of taste compared to us. They have around 1,700 taste buds while humans have roughly 9,000 taste buds. It may take a while before a spicy flavor hits the back of their tongue. In spite of the fact that they cannot taste it, dogs can still react to peppers. It’s possible for some dogs to love peppers. There are some dogs who can eat them without having any digestive problems but this is rare.
The only good thing about this is that a dog’s powerful sense of smell makes it easy for him to detect if there is pepper in your food. It’s easy to understand why some dogs, actually most dogs would stop eating as soon as they smell the pepper on food. It is normal for them to think twice before giving in to any spicy or hot food.
To help you identify the safe peppers from the ones you should avoid, below is a list of the most common types of peppers, as well as their effect on our fur babies:
Sweet bells/ bell peppers – they are the safest type of peppers you can feed your dog. Bell peppers themselves come in several colors and each one has its distinct taste. The healthiest among all sweet peppers are the red ones because they stayed on the vine for a much longer time, unlike other sweet peppers that had been picked before they matured. The less colorful ones, such as the green ones, contain more solanine or a poison contained in foods that belong to the Solanaceae family. If consumed in very large amounts, solanine can be toxic and can cause serious problems. In general, bell peppers scored zero in the Scoville scale because they don’t have capsaicin.
Banana pepper – this type of pepper is also referred to as wax pepper and is often being used for pickling. Due to its mild and tangy taste, banana pepper is best stuffed with more flavorful foods such as meat and cheese. Banana peppers are safe for dogs, as long as you only give them in small amounts. Do note that only the mild banana peppers are ideal for sharing with Fido. The hot banana peppers or the Hungarian wax peppers are hotter than jalapeños.
Cherry pepper– also known as pimiento, this type of pepper is best known for its aromatic and mild taste. Almost all cherry peppers taste sweet. They have a more succulent taste compared to red bell peppers but there are a few varieties that are hot so better check the kind of cherry pepper before sharing some with your pet.
Jalapeño – a common ingredient in Mexican food and salsa, this type of pepper can be mild to extremely hot depending on the color. The green ones are like the green bell peppers, and they were picked before they reached maturity. The red jalapeño peppers are left on the vine for a longer period. Unlike bell peppers, jalapeños have capsaicin. The longer a jalapeño stays on the vine, the more capsaicin it has. Apparently, the red ones are spicier than the green ones. Regardless of the color, jalapeños, in general, should not be given to dogs because they can cause stomach upsets.
Cayenne – several sources are claiming that cayenne pepper is toxic to dogs. Truth is, cayenne is not toxic to dogs but like most hot peppers, cayenne has capsaicin that can cause a tingling effect in Fido’s body. Cayenne has 30,000-50,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is enough to cause a burning sensation in a dog’s mouth and throat. Due to its spiciness, it is commonly used as an ingredient in making sauces. There are dog owners who put some cayenne pepper in their dog’s stool to prevent their pets from eating it. Vets do not recommend doing this and say the only way to help dogs stop this negative habit is to pick up the stool as soon as it was released.
Thai Peppers – these peppers can be internally hot because they have roughly 50,000-100,000 Scoville Heat Units. Thai peppers should be avoided because they can cause a short-term digestive upset. They are not really toxic but the level of spiciness is enough to wreak havoc your dog’s stomach.
Habanero – this type of pepper is ranked third as the hottest of all peppers, with 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units. Habaneros are often used in making salsa and sauces. Because they contain high amounts of capsicum, habanero peppers can cause a discomfort in a dog’s system. Even a small amount of habanero can create a burning sensation.
Ghost pepper – the most notorious of all hot peppers, ghost peppers scored 1.5-2 million on the Scoville heat units. This type of pepper should not be given to dogs at any cost because even humans cannot tolerate it so how could our pets who tend to be sensitive to an awful lot of human foods? In 2016, there was a man who almost died after eating ghost peppers for a bet. If you have a ghost pepper plant at home or know one nearby, make sure your pooch does not get there.
Ornamental peppers – these should be avoided at all cost because they contain solanine that can harm dogs in large amounts. This type of poison is also present in other plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. The glycoalkaloid substance can cause heart irregularities, paralysis, and even death in dogs. Ornamental peppers are not meant to be eaten in the first place. Their main purpose is to enhance the beauty of a garden or increase the palatability of salads. They can be safely consumed by humans, but it’s important to know that some varieties of them can be three or four times hotter than jalapeños. Aside from stomach disturbances, dogs can also suffer from seizures, depression, and shock after ingesting ornamental peppers.
How to Offer Sweet Bells or Bell Peppers to Dogs
When your pooch is not really used to eating bell peppers, it is ideal to offer them slowly. One small slice a day will be enough to feed a puppy or a medium-sized dog. If your pet wants more, you can safely share an additional smaller slice.
For adult dogs, it is fine to share half of a small bell pepper. Sweet bells are often served to dogs raw but you can also add it in home-cooked dishes. They can enhance the palatability of food because of their mild taste and pleasing aroma. Just make sure to chop them or grate in small, bite-sized slices.
Observe how your dog reacts after eating the sweet bells, especially if you are giving them for the first time. Adverse symptoms may not occur right away and could show 12-18 hours after consumption. If he vomits and has diarrhea because of the peppers, better stop giving them. There are a lot of healthier and safer options out there anyway.
What to Do If Fido Ate Hot Peppers?
One of a dog owner’s worst nightmares is when a pet eats something he should not be eating while he’s away or not looking. Hot peppers can produce a burning sensation in your buddy’s throat, stomach, and intestines.
Aside from the burning sensation inside the body, it could also irritate his skin if your pup was exposed to hot peppers. Avoid peppercorn or any spice as much as possible because it might irritate your dog’s eyes as well.
Spicy foods can leave your pet extremely thirsty. Make sure he gets access to fresh and clean water all the time. Give his stomach a rest by not offering food for a few hours.
Up to this point, the worst thing to happen is for your dog to experience gastrointestinal distress. A dog will likely throw up and experience bouts of diarrhea after eating spicy foods. If he ate ornamental peppers, a dog could experience more symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, increased body temperature, and seizures.
If your pet has been ill for more than a short length of time, it is best to already seek veterinary help. An immediate trip to the vet is necessary, especially if your pet is experiencing any other warning signs such as the lack of appetite and a painful belly. It’s rare but some dogs can be allergic to certain types of peppers such as jalapeños.
Your vet will conduct a series of examinations to determine if the sickness is due to allergies. Describe all the symptoms and let your vet know if the pet is taking any medication.
Dogs can eat peppers, but only the sweet bell variety. Hot or chili peppers are a big no-no for them. These kinds of peppers are not poisonous to dogs but their spiciness can cause ill effects in a dog’s body. Chili peppers can irritate their skin and also their mouth and intestines.
While the sweet bells are safe for them, it is still important to offer them in moderation. Too much of them can cause diarrhea because peppers are naturally rich in fiber. Raw vegetables, if eaten in large amounts, can be very difficult to digest. As with any new food in his diet, it’s possible for your dog to experience some changes in his bowel movements. If you are planning to add sweet bells in your dog’s usual diet, let your vet know.