Pesto is a favorite Italian sauce that can make a pizza, pasta dish, salad, sandwich, or other food taste absolutely amazing. While we usually think about the green basil-based pesto or Genovese when we hear “pesto,” the truth is that there are other types of pesto as well.
The name pesto comes from the pestle, which is traditionally used to pound all ingredients together to form this magical sauce.
Genovese pesto and pesto Rosso are staples in Italian cuisine and essential elements of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
Many dog parents ask themselves: Is it safe to share this wonderful sauce with their furbabies, and can dogs eat pesto in general?
Read on to find out more about pesto and canines and which types of pesto can be good or harmful for dogs.
So, Can And Should Dogs Eat Pesto?
No, canines should not eat pesto, especially in large quantities or regularly. A tiny bit of pesto will hardly hurt your pet. But too much of it can lead to mild to severe adverse effects and health issues in dogs.
The traditional Italian green pesto originates from northern Italian Genoa and is thus also known as Genovese sauce. It has five main ingredients – basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil.
Tiny amounts of basil are safe and can even be beneficial to dogs because of the herb’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
But in larger quantities, basil can lead to digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhea in some pups.
Parmesan cheese has high sodium and fat content, which too are not suitable for canines, especially in large amounts.
Giving your furbaby too much salt can lead to dehydration and, in severe cases, sodium poisoning.
Too much fat can lead to weight gain, pancreatitis, and other serious health issues in dogs too.
The pine nuts in the pesto are relatively safe in small amounts but also high in fat. If the pesto contains other kinds of nuts, such as macadamia, you should never give it to your pet because this nut is highly poisonous to canines.
Olive oil is high in fat too. Since dogs are not as good at digesting too much fat as we can, you should be careful with the number of fatty foods you give to your furry companion.
The real problem with giving pesto to dogs is in the garlic. Garlic like onions, leeks, and other members of the Allium family can be toxic to dogs.
Why Can Pesto Be Dangerous For Dogs?
As mentioned above, the real hazard of your pup eating pesto comes from the garlic. You should never give your dog any foods containing garlic, garlic paste, or powder. The same goes for onions, shallots, leeks, and other plants from the Allium family.
The reason is that they all contain toxins that dogs cannot digest. These substances can cause digestive upsets or, in severe cases, can lead to toxicity, red blood cell destruction, and anemia.
Garlic contains more of these harmful toxins than the other plants in the family. So stir away from any foods and treats containing garlic when it comes to your dog’s diet.
Apart from the danger of garlic poisoning, pesto can be hazardous for canines due to other reasons too.
One is the high-fat content of olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Eating too much fat can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation of the dog’s pancreas.
The other is the high sodium content, which too can lead to mild to serious health issues. In more severe cases, it can cause dehydration and even toxicity in dogs.
Canines that have underlying health issues such as liver disease or kidney disease or have problems with their heart should eat low sodium diets. Too much salt can cause water retention, an added strain on the dog’s kidneys and liver, high blood pressure, and others. This means that you should avoid feeding them any salty foods and snacks.
Apart from these five main ingredients, different types of pesto can contain other ingredients, spices, and additives that can be harmful and even dangerous for your furry companion.
Can I Give My Dog Some Pesto Genovese?
We have explained in detail why the traditional basil-based pesto can be harmful and, in some cases, even dangerous for your furry companion.
To summarize it all, you should avoid giving your pup any basil pesto due to: too much fat from the parmesan cheese, the olive oil and the pine nuts, too much sodium, potentially poisonous garlic, and others.
Can I Give My Pup Some Red Pesto?
Red pesto or “Pesto Rosso” is a Sicilian sauce that is made with sun-dried tomatoes, roast red peppers, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
As you can see from the ingredients list, it includes all components used for the traditional green Italian pesto with some added dried tomatoes and roast red peppers.
So, it too should not be fed to dogs for the same reasons why basil green pesto should be kept away from them.
Some types of this delicious pesto also contain chili, which can also irritate your pup’s digestive system and cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other problems.
Is Vegan Pesto Safe For Dogs?
While pesto may sound very healthy, it does contain parmesan, so it is not vegan or suitable for vegetarians who do not eat dairy products. Some other types of pesto have other non-vegan products, such as Sardinian pecorino cheese and others too.
But many vegan pesto recipes are available for people who still want to enjoy these pounded sauces sans parmesan cheese.
These vegan pesto recipes usually replace the traditional cheese with vegan cheese. Some include more added olive oil or salt to substitute for the saltiness and fattiness of the parmesan cheese.
Vegan recipes may include different types of nuts, so you should be especially careful about the ones that are toxic for dogs, such as macadamia, black walnuts, and others.
There are vegan pesto recipes that call for the use of soybeans, which are known to be common allergens for many canines too.
As a whole, you should keep your vegan or any other pesto safely away from reach by your pup. The reasons are the high salt and fat content, the potential garlic toxicity, and the other possibly harmful ingredients and spices it may contain.
Can Pesto Be Hazardous For My Dog?
While a small blob of pesto will hardly harm your furry companion, larger amounts of this punchy fresh sauce can cause mild to severe adverse reactions and lead to health problems in canines.
This means you should refrain from giving your pup pesto regularly or adding too much of this sauce to your pet’s diet.
The problem can arise over time because garlic toxicity can be caused by the buildup of the toxin in the dog’s blood, which can increase to alarming levels if your pup is exposed to a lot of garlic or other Allium plant foods.
Garlic toxicity can destroy the red blood cells and lead to deadly anemia in dogs.
Puppies and small-size dogs are more prone to garlic toxicity than larger adult pups.
Pesto is also high in fat, so too much of it can lead to pancreatic flare-ups or obesity, both of which can shorten the lifespan of your furbaby.
The high salt content in this fragrant Italian sauce is also potentially hazardous for canines, as it can lead to fluid retention, hypertension, dehydration, and dangerous sodium toxicity.
Final Verdict – Can Dogs Eat Pesto?
While pesto is considered a healthy sauce for people, this Italian basil-based sauce can be harmful and, in some cases, even toxic for dogs.
If your pup eats a bit of pesto spread on a piece of pizza or bread, you shouldn’t worry about severe adverse effects.
However, larger amounts of pesto or pesto eaten on a regular basis can cause mild to severe health problems in some dogs.
The potential dangers of giving pesto to pups include:
- The high sodium (salt) content
- The high-fat content
- The toxins found in the garlic used for making this Italian sauce
So, to stay safe, keep any foods containing pesto or the pesto itself safely out of reach by your furry friend.