Are Tomato Plants Toxic To Dogs and Cats?

Keeping your pets safe from garden dangers is a top priority. If you’re afraid of your dog or cat munching on tomato plants, here is the science on whether or not tomatoes are toxic to animals, plus tips for keeping pets away from your tomato patch.

A large white Labrador sits on a raised bed in a garden with growing tomato bushes next to a white basket filled with freshly picked tomatoes.

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Raising pets and plants is quite an endeavor. Your pets can certainly harm your garden plants with trampling and munching, but it is even riskier to imagine that your crops could harm your pets. If you’ve noticed your dog or cat munching on your tomato plants, you may fear that the leaves could be toxic to your furry friend. 

Here is a veterinarian-backed explanation about the potential toxicity of tomato plants. Plus, we have several tips for keeping your pets safe from garden crops.

The Short Answer

A woman gardener cuddles her pets—a hare and a puppy—while sitting in the garden with a basket full of ripe red fruit.
Tomato leaves, stems, and unripe fruits are toxic to pets.

Dogs and cats should not consume tomato leaves, stems, or unripe green fruits. Tomato leaves and stems have a substance called solanine. Solanine is toxic to dogs and cats, potentially causing nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia (not wanting to eat). 

Fortunately, most pets are not attracted to the smell and texture of tomatoes. If they do take a bite of the plant foliage, it is unlikely to cause major problems unless they consume large amounts. Unripe green fruits are also harmful if consumed in large quantities, potentially causing gastrointestinal distress. However, ripened red tomatoes are safe in small amounts.

The Long Answer

It is pretty rare for a carnivorous cat or dog to seek out a smelly, leafy plant like a tomato. This classic garden crop is not nearly as attractive as fragrant catnip or blood meal fertilizers. Still, some adventurous pets may try to eat anything they can find. Luckily, a little sample of tomato foliage is unlikely to cause any severe harm to your pet. But, a large amount of leaves and stems can be toxic. 

Statistics About Tomato Poisoning in Pets

Before you panic about tomato plant ingestion, consider these statistics and science-backed facts about plant toxicity in pets:

Pet Poisoning from Plants is Fairly Rare

Close-up of a fluffy white cat with black spots and big green eyes sitting among bushes in the garden.
Despite fears, household plants cause only a tiny fraction of emergencies.

In one three-year study at Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, they found that only 12% of emergency calls were correlated with animals eating household plants. Of these plants, only about 18% included garden plants like tomato leaves and asparagus, but the most common problematic plants were lilies (bulbs are very poisonous to cats) and marijuana

When you do all the math, that comes out to less than 0.02% of total calls linked to plant toxicity! The greatest amount of emergency calls came from oral exposures to therapeutic drugs, household chemicals, or foods.

Household Items are Far Riskier

Close-up of a cute beige shaggy puppy with floppy ears sniffing a bunch of ripe and unripe fruit in the garden.
Household plants rank sixth in pet toxin exposures for 2023.

In the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Centre report, household plants and fungi were ranked number 6 on the Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2023. Plants accounted for 8.1% of reported exposures.

This list is based on over 350,000 calls to the Animal Poison Control Center in 2023. The other major risks for pets included:

  1. Over-the-counter medications
  2. Human food and drinks (e.g. grapes or alcohol)
  3. Human prescription medications
  4. Chocolate
  5. Veterinary products
  6. Plants and fungi (8.1% of exposures)
  7. Household products
  8. Rodenticides (e.g. rat poison)
  9. Insecticides
  10. Recreational drugs (e.g. marijuana)

Tomato Greenery is Unattractive to Dogs and Cats

Beautiful fluffy orange cat on a wooden raised bed.
Tomato leaves are unappealing to pets, but fruits attract them.

Of all the unique flavors and textures in your garden, tomato greenery is one of the least attractive to pets. The leaves of this plant are textured and sometimes itchy. They have a strong smell that is distinctively musky or grassy and not typically alluring to animals. 

On the other hand, the fruits of the plant can draw in hungry pets. Many people report dogs picking tomato fruits from the vine and eating them. We’ll explain below when this can be problematic, but most of the time it is perfectly fine. 

Solanine and Tomatine Poisoning Are Treatable

Pinscher sniffing a bunch of ripe cherry tomatoes in a garden with straw mulched soil.
Tomato poisoning in pets is extremely rare and treatable.

According to the Pet Poison Hotline, pet death from tomato poisoning is extremely unlikely and basically unheard of! In the very rare event that your pet eats a large amount of foliage or unripe green fruits, there is plenty of hope. Veterinarians can induce vomiting and monitor the animal overnight. 

Some dogs can have a rare allergic reaction, which causes hives, coughing, and difficulty breathing. In this case, there are still plenty of medications that a veterinarian can use to help the plant. 

Compared to other risky household substances, tomatoes are barely poisonous. Tomatine—the toxic substance—is only found in concentrations around 5% in leafy parts of the plant. Solanine is typically found in less than 1% concentration in unripe fruits.

Remember, your dog would have to eat a really huge amount of leaves or fruit to get to the point that it needs to be hospitalized. Still, it’s best to take your pet to the vet if they show any of these signs after hanging out in your tomato patch:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia (avoiding food)
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)

Can Dogs and Cats Eat Tomato Fruit?

Close-up of a gray kitten licking sliced ​​tomato pieces on a black tray indoors.
Some tomatoes are safe and nutritious for cats and dogs.

Ripe tomato fruits are safe for cats and dogs in small quantities. If your dog or cat munches on fresh fruits from the garden or kitchen, there is nothing to worry about. Only the young, green tomatoes and the foliage (leaves and stems) are harmful. 

Ripe red tomatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can be beneficial to dogs and cats. It is a common myth that all tomatoes are toxic to dogs due to a compound called tomatine. In reality, only unripe fruits pose a major risk. Tomatine is highest in green, unripe, raw fruits. The amount of tomatine in a ripe tomato is not enough to harm a dog or human. Moreover, pets are unlikely to want to eat green tomatoes.

Signs and Symptoms of Tomato Plant Poisoning

Close-up of a shih tzu dog sitting in a garden among bushes with ripe fruits.
Watch for signs of tomato plant toxicity in pets and seek care promptly.

A dog or cat needs to eat a lot of leaves and stems to face toxicity. Still, the solanine poisoning of a tomato plant is not to be underestimated. Here are the key clinical signs that your pet may need veterinary care ASAP:

  • Hypersalivation (excess drooling)
  • Inappetance (not wanting to eat)
  • Severe gastrointestinal upset (diarrhea)
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slow heart rate

Remember, ripe fruit is not toxic. It’s important to address all potential sources of poisoning, including other garden plants like lily-family bulbs, fertilizers, pesticides, and flowers.

What to Do If Your Pet Eats Tomato Plants

A Portuguese Podengo dog eats tomato leaves from a bush growing in an old car tire in the garden.
When your pet ingests something toxic, act promptly and responsibly.

If you fear your dog or cat has ingested something toxic from your garden, here is what to do:

  1. Document your pet’s symptoms every 30 minutes. Are they vomiting? Are they avoiding food or water? How are they acting?
  2. Assess how much of the plant you think they ate (one leaf or several unripe fruits).
  3. Take photos of the plant you think that they ingested.
  4. Consider other potential toxins, like fertilizer, pesticides, or kitchen foods.
  5. Take a look at the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List to learn about the details of exposure.
  6. Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435
  7. Take your pet to a local veterinarian.

How to Prevent Pets From Eating Tomato Foliage

Gardeners are always looking for ways to protect our plants from critters, but we must also consider how to protect our pets from potentially harmful plants. Here are a few tips for keeping your dog and cat safe in the garden:

Grow in Raised Beds

A close-up of a brick raised bed shows lush bushes with ripe, oval, bright red fruits, and a small wicker basket
These beds deter critters and offer healthier plants.

Raised beds are an excellent way to deter critters of all types, including dogs and cats. While cats may leap up to a bed, small dogs are less likely to access plants growing up high. A tall raised garden bed sits up to 29 inches off the ground. It is more difficult for animals to access plants that are growing up high. 

Raised beds also make it easy to attach protective covers like low tunnels or row fabric. You can use clamps, landscape staples, or brackets to secure covers to the sides of the bed. Moreover, a raised bed is easier on your back and provides a healthier growing environment for thriving plants.

Physical Plant Barriers

A white cat watches from a low tunnel with young tomato seedlings in the garden.
Use row fabric and netting to protect tomato plants effectively.

Row fabric, plastic low tunnels, shade cloth, and bird netting are just a few options for physically excluding pets from tomato plants. You can hang these materials on various structures, including tomato cages, A-frames, and arched low-tunnels made of PVC or metal pipe.

Fencing

An organic vegetable garden with wooden raised beds is protected from pets by wire fences.
Use chicken wire or fencing to protect your garden from pets.

Chicken wire and portable fencing are great ways to keep pets out of the garden. In extreme cases, a deer fence or electrical livestock fence may be necessary. If you have the space, it’s helpful to separate your grassy pet yard from your garden. Keeping dogs and cats out of the garden altogether will alleviate many risks.

Training

A young Hungarian Vizsla puppy runs in the garden against the background of a wooden raised bed with lush tomato bushes bearing ripe fruits.
Train pets to avoid plants with positive reinforcement and toys.

You can always train your pet to stay away from your plants. Deterrents like a firm “no,” a bird horn, or a spray bottle of water may be useful to signal to your pet that they should not enter your growing space. But a treat-driven pet is even easier to train! Use toys, treats, catnip, bones, or other pet-safe foods to lure your pet away from your crops. This will show them the areas that they are free to play in. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, tomato plants pose a fairly low risk to dogs and cats. The foliage and unripe fruits are mildly toxic, but pets are unlikely to eat them in high quantities. If you fear your pet has eaten too many leaves or green tomatoes, call the animal poison control center or take them to the vet. Rest assured, the condition is fully treatable and reversible. In the future, use raised beds, fencing, and physical deterrents to keep pets away from your garden crops.

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Close-up of a cherry tomato plant - one of the sweetest tomatoes, which features slender, slightly hairy stems, lush green leaves with serrated edges, and clusters of small, round, vibrant red and green fruits.

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