Your dog stares at you longingly, eyeing that bright clementine you're about to peel. Is it OK to share a bite of this juicy and sweet little citrus fruit with your canine pal?
Unlike some fruits — like grapes, avocados and apricots — clementines and other citrus fruits are not toxic to dogs, and are not listed among the foods that can be dangerous to pets by the Pet Poison Helpline.
But that doesn't mean you should shower your pup in clementines. The fruit is high in citrus acid and experts are divided on whether enough of it can cause irritation in pets.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are varying amounts of citric acid that can found in the stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus fruits. (Clementines don't have seeds.) Citric acid, says the ASPCA, "can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts."
The ASPCA says that small amounts of citrus are unlikely to cause problems for your dog, other than maybe minor stomach upset.
Veterinarian David Dilmore, medical editor for Banfield Pet Hospital, says citric acid isn't a concern for dogs. However, clementines (as well as oranges and tangerines) are high in sugars, so they can possibly cause stomach issues if your pet eats too much, Dilmore says.
"I recommend that you only give 1 or 2 segments per day. Any more than that can lead to obesity or other issues," Dilmore writes. "These along with any other treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calories. If you feed treats their daily food intake should be decreased by 10 percent to prevent obesity."
A nutritional boost
Clementines, like so many fruits, are packed with vitamins and other nutrients. The tiny fruits are filled with vitamin C, with one clementine offering more than half of a person's daily vitamin C needs.
As far as dogs, "There is not really a limit to how much vitamin C a pet can have because it is water soluble and excess levels are urinated out and don't accumulate in the body," veterinarian Stephanie Liff tells PetMD.
Nutrients from citrus fruits may benefit a dog's immune system, so it might help to give your dog a nutritional boost.
"In some dogs, extreme exercise or stress can overwhelm the liver's capacity to make vitamin C," said veterinarian Christine Keyserling told PetMD. "In these cases, it may be beneficial to provide additional vitamin C supplementation. However, for most pets it’s not required."