Can you name a dish made with eggplant? (Eggplant parmesan doesn’t count) Not everyone can. This dark purple plant isn’t the most widely used from the produce aisle. This is a shame because the list of vitamins and minerals stretches every bit as long as many others. And you find plenty of different varieties. Similar to zucchini, you can eat the seeds and skin without a problem. Which begs the question: can dogs eat eggplant? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t black and white. Oh, eggplant isn’t toxic. But it’s safer for some dogs to consume than others. And if you don’t know your dog’s health history? Well, testing your dog eating eggplant may lead to a vet visit.
The eggplant is part of the nightshade family (so are tomatoes). Their scientific name reflects this: Solanum melongena. How? Easy. All nightshade plants contain an alkaloid known as solanine. The higher the concentration of solanine, the worse the toxicity (deadly nightshade’s the worst). Eggplant doesn’t carry a ton of solanine, except in the leaves. But it IS there (and we’ll get to why that’s a problem).
Most groceries shelve eggplants with the vegetables. But it’s actually a fruit (this happens with so many fruits; it’s kind of sad). The plants grow out of a flower, and you find seeds inside. By definition, that makes it a fruit. But most people feel the lack of a sweet taste renders it a vegetable. Either way, the plant’s one of the most healthy out there for people to consume. When you eat 1 cup of unpeeled eggplant, you get all of these amazing benefits:
- Calories: 132g
- Carbohydrates: 31.5g
- Calcium: 49.3mg
- Iron: 1.3mg
- Magnesium: 76.7mg
- Phosphorous: 137mg
- Protein 5.5g
- Sodium: 11mg
- A: 3%
- B6: 23%
- C: 20%
- E: 8%
- K: 24%
Eggplants also contain phytonutrients. These natural chemicals provide that stunning purple color. But phytonutrients pack in antioxidants, too. And they don’t stop there. Eggplants have a specific phytonutrient called nasunin. Nasunin is believed to help enhance brain function. Eggplants also contain additional pigments known as flavonoids. One in particular – anthocyanin – lowers blood pressure. When you keep blood pressure in a healthy zone, you stave off some of the early precursors to heart disease. And, last of all, these purple fruits contain chlorogenic acid. The natural compound protects the plant from bacteria and viruses, and it helps lower BAD cholesterol in humans. That’s a lot of work for one plant! But does it do all of this when dogs eat eggplant? It certainly can.
Can Dogs Eat Eggplant?
With so many health benefits, you’re probably reaching for the keys to run to the grocery store. Who wouldn’t want to add this fruit to their diet – or their canine’s diet? But can does eat eggplant safely? It’s a touchy topic. Even with that association with nightshade, eggplant isn’t toxic. So – in theory – yes, it’s safe for dogs to eat. But the answer isn’t as simple as that. Because the solanine presents a problem. And so does one other component of the plant – if your dog has specific health conditions. You may want to hold off on that grocery run until you have all of the information.
Precautions for When Dogs Eat Eggplant
No one’s going to deny that eggplants are healthy. They lower unwanted cholesterol and help protect the heart. Plus, they’re low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals. Why not add them into the fruit rotation of treats for your pup? The problem comes in with the extra compounds you find in eggplant that you may not in other fruits (or vegetables): solanine and oxalates.
As long as your dog isn’t devouring eggplant leaves by the bushel, the chances of them having a toxic reaction to solanine are slim. However, that isn’t the problem when dogs eat eggplant. Unfortunately, many canines are ALLERGIC to solanine. And if you’ve never encountered other members of the nightshade family, you’ll never know until you introduce this treat.
Common allergy symptoms include:
- Swelling – particularly around the face
If you offer your dog a piece of eggplant, and they show any of these signs, contact your vet right away. And then AVOID further treats from the nightshade family. While packed full of health benefits, there’s no reason to make your dog miserable in the process. And while allergy-testing IS available, solanine isn’t a common compound on the list.
Oxalates are compounds found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. They bind to calcium in the bloodstream. For people (and dogs) with certain health conditions, ingesting TOO MANY oxalates causes you to develop calcium oxalate kidney stones. The result is a painful urinary obstruction. The prevention? Avoiding foods that contain oxalates. (And as a person who needs to do this, you quickly find yourself with reduced dietary options)
Eggplant happens to contain oxalates. And when dogs eat eggplant AND have pre-existing bladder or kidney issues? You’re courting a trip to the vet. Even the “every now and then” plan is risky. Because trying to gauge how much oxalate goes into their system is impossible. You won’t know until your dog’s struggling to urinate that you have a problem. These dogs should NEVER eat eggplant.
Safe Ways for Dogs to Eat Eggplant
If you have a healthy dog – who isn’t allergic to solanine and doesn’t have issues with their bladder or kidney – you have the green light to offer eggplant. However, you still need to offer this purple fruit properly. Unlike other fruits, eggplant has more restrictions in how you present it to canines. And if you’re not careful, you’ll make even the healthiest hound sick.
No dogs should eat raw eggplant. It presents the most risk. You have your choice on whether to break out the grill or tuck slices into the oven, but cooking eggplant works best. When you cook eggplant, you break down the natural compounds. This includes most of the oxalates (most but not ALL). If you want to keep things safe, only allow dogs to eat eggplant that’s gone through SOME kind of cooking process. Even boiling’s better than nothing.
But skip the fryer. Yes, it IS cooking, but there’s too much oil and fat involved. You’re trying to offer your dog a HEALTHY snack, remember? When you pop eggplant into the fryer, you undo all of the health benefits of the plant. No matter how much your dog may beg (after all – fried food’s delicious), stick to healthy options.
The Purple Maybe
Plenty of people have never heard of eggplant (or even aubergine, as it’s sometimes called). This is a shame because the purple fruit offers a lengthy list of health benefits. But when it comes to dogs eating eggplant? Things are kind of murky. Some canines are allergic to the solanine compound found in all nightshade plants. And others? The oxalates can spell trouble to their kidney or bladder. It’s NOT a toxic plant, but it’s also NOT for every dog. You’ll want to proceed with caution. Because no one wants treat time to turn into vet time.