Are Citrus Fruits Dangerous to Pets?

By Betty Lewis

There are many uses for citrus in your kitchen; a juicy grapefruit provides a refreshing start to the day and a spritz of lemon juice will spruce up your salad. When you're working your magic in the kitchen, it's best to keep your citrus to yourself because it may have toxic effects on dogs and cats.

Citrus Problems: Psoralen and Essential Oils

When you're trying to figure out what fruits you can share with your pup, play it safe: Stick to bananas and avoid citrus. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals considers lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit to be toxic to dogs and cats. The offenders in the citrus fruits include essential oils and psoralen, a naturally occurring compound in some plants. The seeds, leaves and skin of citrus are the potentially dangerous parts of the plants since they contain the bulk of the essential oil and psoralens.

Effects of Citrus

If your dog snags a section of your orange, chances are he'll be fine. Banfield Pet Hospitals notes that a section or two of orange, tangerine and clementine won't harm a dog, however since the citrus is high in sugar, he may experience some gastrointestinal upset. If he snags an entire orange, he'll likely experience more than a bit of a tummy ache; the ASPCA notes ingesting citrus can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea and possible photosensitivity.

Dangerous Citrus Oil Extract

You can't see citrus oil, but you probably can smell it on your fruit's skin, where it's highly concentrated. You may detect its presence in a host of household products, including shampoos, insecticides, fragrances and cleaners. Ingesting any of these products can cause serious problems for your pup, according to Citrus oil extract can be particularly dangerous, causing depression, drooling, falling, trembling, weakness, hypothermia and low blood pressure. Veterinary treatment may include fluid therapy, stomach flushing and activated charcoal.

Keeping Your Dog Safe

Generally, citrus isn't the first thing in the fruit bowl a dog is drawn to. However, if he decides to snack on your grapefruit, watch for any signs of gastrointestinal upset. If he gets into any of your household products using citrus oil, call the vet immediately. Child-proofing your kitchen cabinets and keeping citrus temptations out of his reach is your -- and his -- best protection. Keep dog-friendly fruit such as bananas, blueberries, watermelon and strawberries on hand if he wants to enjoy some fruit.