It’s a barbecue weekend and Milo is drooling and wagging his tail constantly besides the hibachi. He cannot take his eyes off that juicy meat piece well-spiced with the universal combo of seasoning- salt and pepper. And you are wondering- salt is obviously not good for dogs but what about peppercorn? Well, dogs will eat practically anything you put in front of them, which is why it’s very important to think twice about what you serve them and to ensure the safety of their foods. Peppercorn is a killer ingredient for adding savory and pungent flavors to meals, but can dogs eat peppercorn? Let’s know about it!
Peppercorn varieties and fun facts
Did you know that the peppercorns we grind and use as a spice is actually a fruit? Not only that, peppercorns are the dried berries of a flowering vine – Piper Nigrum, commonly known as Black Pepper. Furthermore, the different colors of peppercorns come from the same plant, the only difference between green, red, white, and black peppercorns is their level of ripeness and spiciness.
You can look at any dinner table across the world, and you will likely find the two favorite seasonings: Salt and Black pepper. Black pepper is obtained from dried and powdered black peppercorns. Peppercorns are an ancient ingredient used as enhancers of flavors in food, and also as traditional medicines. It is the world’s most traded spice.
So, if you are a curious and devoted dog owner, you may be wondering – is pepper safe for your dog? Read on to know the nature of the various colors of peppercorns, and the effects they may have in your dog.
Black peppercorns: Black peppercorns are green peppercorns cooked, dried out, and made into black pepper. It is the most commonly used spice that adds a robust seasoning to some of our favorite foods like: meats, eggs, salads, fries, soups and more. The darker the pepper, the higher the amount of piperine (the element that makes a peppercorn spicy) in it, and hence, black pepper is the strongest, most pungent and aromatic in all peppercorns.
Thankfully, most dogs will naturally avoid black pepper which has a potential health risk of respiratory issues, sometimes choking to death. The pungent aroma is highly irritating to a dog’s sense of smell, and most dogs will refuse to eat foods with black pepper, or even being next to it. In fact, many dog owners use black pepper as a deterrent for their naughty dog’s chewing habit. They sprinkle a little black pepper on an object to discourage them from chewing on it, and pretty often it works. So, imagine how much your dog would enjoy having this spice added to his food — hardly.
White peppercorns: White peppercorns are simply black peppercorns without the outer black skin. One major difference is that white peppercorn has less of a noticeable taste than black peppercorn. Hence, dogs can eat white peppercorns, but in a very small quantity and reasonable intervals.
Red and pink peppercorns: The red peppercorns are from the same vine like all peppercorns. When the green peppercorns are left to fully ripen on the vine, they turn into a beautiful shade of red. Some red peppercorns are a lighter in shade and appear pink. The red peppercorns are rare to find as they are typically dried to develop a black coat, or dried and removed of their coat to become white peppercorns.
Green peppercorns: Green peppercorn is the unripe fruit of the flowering vine. To put it in simple words, green peppercorns are raw black peppercorn berries. Though it has a very mild peppery flavour, it still doesn’t have much nutritional value. However, it is not harmful for dogs. Dogs may eat green peppercorns in dishes like pepper steak or vegetables, but again, in small amounts and under proper supervision.
Pink peppercorns: The bright hued pink peppercorn is not a peppercorn, but a dried berry of the shrub commonly known as the Peruvian Peppertree. It has a mild peppery and sweet flavour. Since the pink peppercorns are usually too soft to be crushed, they are mixed with black, white and green peppercorns while grinding.
Warning, dogs should not eat pink peppercorns. It is recommended to keep your dog away from pink peppercorns and the peppertree on which they grow. Though it is not poisonous for dogs, it can cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs leading to vomiting, diarrhea, heaving, or a general feeling of being sick. Likewise, the sap and juices from the pink peppertree can cause skin irritation as well.
Sichuan peppercorns: Sichuan peppercorn, also known as Szechuan pepper, is a common spice used in many Chinese dishes like Szechuan Chicken and Dan Dan noodles. Though it is not really a pepper at all, it creates a mouth-numbing and punchy sensation. So can dogs eat Sichuan peppers, it is a big NO-NO. It engages with nerve receptors on the dog’s tongue and causes a feeling of numbness which can be very uncomfortable for a dog. With a bit of kick and natural warmth, it may also upset your dog’s digestive system, so it is best to avoid it.
Health benefits of peppercorn for dogs
Peppercorns have an active element- Piperine, which is responsible for the pungent flavour in black peppers, just like Capsaicin spices up the Chili peppers. Piperine makes the peppercorns a potential irritant to your dog’s sense of smell as well as their stomach lining and digestive system. Hence, black pepper offers no real health benefits for your dog.
Peppercorn really has very little health benefits for humans too, and people generally use it to spice up a meal. It has virtually no calories, proteins, carbohydrates, or fats. Peppercorn doesn’t contain more than one milligram of any vitamin or mineral.
Overall, peppercorn is basically a net zero for your doggo. As long as it’s given in small portions and at moderate intervals, it shouldn’t cause any harm or endanger your dog’s health. Having said that, it is better to avoid feeding your dog this common household spice. Moreover, with no health benefits, it’s not the best new addition to your dog’s food.
Reasons why peppercorn is not safe for dogs
With black pepper, moderation is key. Although a small amount of black pepper is generally considered to be safe for dogs, large quantities of black pepper can cause stomach troubles in dogs.
Needless to say, just because a small amount of pepper is likely to be safe for dogs, it doesn’t mean dogs like eating peppercorn. In large amounts, black pepper is spicy—a flavor most dogs do not enjoy. If your dog inhales black pepper, for instance if it spills on the floor, it might cause a very uncomfortable feel in his nose, making him sneeze frantically.
Usually, dogs and pepper don’t go well together, especially when there is a lot of it. Too much pepper can have several side effects in dogs, which include:
Burning sensation: Some people suffer with severe burning in the stomach after they eat too much pepper, this can happen to dogs as well. In some circumstances a dog that has swallowed large amounts of black pepper will suffer from burning sensations in the stomach causing damage to the lining of his stomach. Given the spicy nature of peppercorn, it is best to avoid feeding your dog foods with pepper in it.
Respiratory problems: When we accidentally smell pepper, we sneeze uncontrollably. The same can happen to dogs, but with more harm. Inhaling excessive amounts of black pepper can lead to deprivation of oxygen supply, or hypoxia in dogs, especially if the dog is a puppy or a small breed of dog. In severe cases, it can also lead to obstruction of the nasal airways, and can ultimately result in death. Inhaling black pepper in moderate amounts can also irritate the soft lining of the lungs and airways, and cause the development of asthma or bronchitis in dogs, both serious conditions.
Diarrhea: When black pepper is eaten in larger amounts, it causes diarrhea (loose runny stool) in both humans and dogs. Black pepper causes irritation in the digestive tract and ultimately leads to painful loose stools. That’s why, using larger amount of black pepper is harmful as it leads to serious health problems like haemorrhoids. So, it is a smart choice to stay on a safe side and avoid giving your dog pepper.
Haemorrhoids: A haemorrhoid is a swelling of veins in the lowest part of your dog’s rectum and anus. If you habitually feed your dog foods with lots of pepper for months and years, it can bring symptoms of haemorrhoids by irritating his rectal lining. Initially it will cause diarrhea and a series of it, and in severe cases of this condition it will lead to a cycle of haemorrhoid flare-ups. Haemorrhoids are very serious, and can be very painful for your dog. This is the last thing you want your dog to suffer from.
What to do if your dog ate pepper ?
It is really important to remember, that even with the best of intentions, accidents may happen and dogs can easily eat things they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, even if those accidents aren’t harmful, they can result in huge, unexpected veterinary expenses.
For instance, if you’re cooking a dish that includes black pepper as an important ingredient, such as grilled chicken, your dog will definitely stare at you while you cook or eat, and beg for some with his adorable puppy eyes. Being mesmerized you may definitely end up feeding him a few pieces or more. Remember, tidbits are fine, but too much is definitely a no-no. So, it is wise to keep your dog full before dinner time, avoid feeding him human food, and also to dispose of the leftovers properly.
However, if Milo escapes his room and manages to wolf down scraps of spicy barbecue chicken he found in the trash, watch him for a few hours to make sure he doesn’t experience any stomach upset (vomiting and/or diarrhea). If he begins vomiting or has a lot of diarrhea after consuming a lot of that black pepper seasoned barbecue chicken, immediately contact your veterinarian for advice.
Alternatives to black peppercorn
Not all spices or seasonings are bad for dog. Yes, that’s a breather! There are some spices and herbs that are safe for your dog for example: basil, cilantro, ginger, parsley, turmeric, and cinnamon. They offer a new taste for your doggo while including at least a few essential vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, these good spices and herbs contain essential compounds such as carotenes, lycopene, flavonoid, and antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk for stomach upsets in dogs. They can also ease the symptoms of arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBB). It is perfectly safe, and can even be beneficial, to feed your dog food that contains turmeric, basil and parsley.
As a responsible dog owner, you must ensure the safety of the food you’re feeding your beloved furry friend, as they will definitely eat anything you put in front of them without knowing any better. Make sure you keep a note of the spices and seasoning in the food you give your dog, so you can look out for allergies or reactions, and prevent any harmful effects that may occur.
Even though peppercorn is a safe spice for your dog when given in limitation, still it is better to exercise caution and avoid it. In this way, you could keep your dog away from any stomach issues, skin irritations, or related health problems. We know that dogs usually don’t care much about what they’re eating, and anything that is put in front of them, they’ll chow down. Remember, Milo can’t talk and exactly tell his problems to you, so he needs a child-like care, attention, and love. Hence, before sneaking your dog a bite of your peppery food, ensure it’s safe for him, and, if you wish to spice things up, name him ‘Pepper’.
Share this very interesting article with all the dog lovers out there.