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Can Dogs Eat Pesto? Vet Approved Facts & Safety

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Can Dogs Eat_pesto

Can Dogs Eat Pesto? Vet Approved Facts & Safety


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Pesto is one of those delicious sauces that can completely transform the taste of any old dish into something magical and sumptuous. If you like using pesto when baking bread or serving pasta, you’re probably wondering if it is okay if your dog has a little taste. The answer is no.

Pesto contains garlic which is toxic to dogs. Keep reading to learn about the dangers of garlic toxicity and why there are better people foods you can offer your pup instead.

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What Is Pesto?

Pesto is a sauce traditionally made with crushed garlic, pine nuts, basil leaves, salt, and hard cheeses. This typically bright green sauce originated in Italy, but many variations are available now. Some companies swap out expensive pine nuts for almonds or walnuts. Others use spinach or kale instead of basil. Red pesto is made with sundried tomatoes.

What’s the Problem With Pesto?

Pesto sauce in a blender

Though the ingredients for pesto will vary from recipe to recipe, the sauce’s base is typically always the same. The biggest issue with feeding your dog pesto is that it contains garlic. While garlic is a very healthy ingredient for humans, it can have devastating effects on dogs since they metabolize some foods differently than we do.

Garlic, and other foods in the allium family, like onions, contain a compound that can damage a dog’s red blood cells. This compound, thiosulfate, can cause oxidative damage to your dog’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia.

Signs of anemia to be on the lookout for include:
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice

Garlic poisoning can also result in symptoms of gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea, dehydration, and abdominal pain.

Aside from garlic, pesto contains a lot of salt and fat, neither of which is good for your dog. While dogs need both in their diet, they should come from balanced canine-friendly meals, not pesto.

Can Pesto Be Healthy for Dogs?

Brown bulldog eating from a bowl
Image By: Rawpixel

If you make a garlic-free pesto at home or find some at the store without garlic, it should be okay to offer your pup in very small quantities.

Let’s take a closer look at the other main ingredients in this tasty sauce.
  • Basil is the main ingredient in pesto and is safe for pups in small amounts. Basil acts as an anti-inflammatory and may have a calming effect on anxious dogs.
  • Pine nuts are safe for dogs but are very high in fat, so they shouldn’t be offered too often. However, they’re a good source of protein and essential fatty acids that can improve the skin and coat.
  • Parmesan cheese is often used in pesto and isn’t the healthiest cheese option for dogs. This is because Parmesan goes through an aging process that makes it naturally higher in sodium. This can be a problem in healthy dogs, especially those with heart or kidney disease.
  • Olive oil is a key ingredient in pesto. It is also a safe ingredient for dogs with some redeeming health benefits, but it should only be offered in very small quantities.

What Do I Do If My Dog Ate Pesto?

A small lick of pesto will likely not result in garlic poisoning, but it’s best to avoid the chances altogether.

However, if your pup has ingested a large amount of pesto, check the ingredient list. If your pesto is made with garlic, determine how much your dog ate, as your vet will ask this question. Next, contact your vet immediately. They’ll ask how much your dog ate and the size of your pup to determine whether your pup needs to be seen in person. If not, you’ll be asked to monitor for any signs of anemia or behavioral differences.

What People Foods Can I Offer My Dog?

sliced apple
Image By: Piqsels

We know how hard it can be to look at your dog’s pouting puppy dog eyes as it begs for a taste of your meal at the dinner table. They make it practically impossible to say no! While your dog’s diet should consist primarily of food made specifically for dogs, there are some human foods your pup can eat on occasion.

Some foods you can offer your dog in moderation include:
  • Low-fat cheese like mozzarella
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef
  • Salmon
  • Cooked eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Peanut butter
  • Pork
  • Quinoa
  • Shrimp

Final Thoughts

Pesto is not a food you should be offering your dog. While the tasty sauce is great in many human dishes, there are no benefits to providing it to your canine pal. You can offer your dog many other human foods with more health benefits and fewer repercussions.

If your dog has already tasted pesto, check the ingredients to see if garlic was used in its production. If so, we recommend calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line at (888) 426-4435 or your veterinarian to determine if your pup needs to be seen by a professional.

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