Can Dogs Eat Pesto?

Dog eating a snack.

In a word, no, dogs cannot eat pesto. In theory, it is possible to make a dog-friendly pesto that is safe for your four-legged friend to consume, but you'd have to adapt the traditional recipe so much that you’d end up feeding them something that barely resembles the sauce you know and love. Let's look under the bonnet of traditional basil pesto to see which ingredients should be of most concern to dog owners.

Basil: Can dogs eat it?

Despite some pet owners being concerned that basil could be toxic for their dog, the good news is that dogs can eat basil. It's not in any way bad for them, and it could even come with some health benefits thanks to it being a great source of antioxidants. As it happens, though, most dogs don't particularly like the smell or taste of basil and will naturally avoid it. If your dog does like it, just be aware that consuming basil or any fibrous herbs in very large quantities can lead to stomach upsets, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Garlic: Is it toxic to dogs?

Garlic is a key ingredient in pesto, but just like other alliums, including leeks, chives, and onions, garlic should be considered a toxin for dogs. Some dog breeds are more sensitive to garlic than others, but as a rule, it should be avoided. At best, it can make them gassy; at worst, it can damage their red blood cells, which, in the worst cases, could lead to anaemia.

Salt: Should it be avoided?

Just like humans, dogs need a small amount of salt in their diet to keep their cells working properly. However, some pestos are incredibly salty, and in high quantities, this could mean that your dog experiences dehydration and vomiting. An excessive amount over a long period of time could even lead to salt poisoning.

Nuts: Are they safe?

Pine nuts are absolutely fine for your dog to eat. However, many pesto producers substitute pine nuts for less expensive nuts, and some of these may be toxic for your dog.

If you inadvertently feed the wrong kind of nut to your dog (almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts in particular), it can wreak havoc on their digestive system. Apart from anything else, nuts present a choking hazard, and because they are both high in fat and calories, eating excessive amounts can lead to obesity and pancreatic issues.

Cheese: Is it OK in moderation?

In moderation, some cheeses can be fed to dogs as a treat, although, just like humans, some dogs are lactose intolerant. Overconsumption can lead to weight gain, and blue cheese should never pass their lips. Unless you know your dog can eat certain cheeses without any adverse effects, it’s simply not worth the risk.

Oil: Can it lead to weight gain?

In small amounts, it is positively encouraged to allow your dog some olive or sunflower oil. It has been found to defend their immune systems, boost their energy, and improve brain function. If your dog is on a weight-loss diet, though, excess fat should be avoided.

Summary of why you shouldn't let your dog have pesto

For all of the reasons listed above, pesto is not something we recommend feeding to dogs, cats, or any domestic animal. In small quantities, it's unlikely to pose any immediate problems, but the toxicity of garlic, the risk of allergic reactions to some nuts, and the fact that pesto is high in both salt and fat make it simply not worth the risk. There's a plethora of other treats that are far better for your dog's health and which they would probably much prefer anyway.

What to do if your dog ate pesto

First of all, don't panic. Most of the negative side effects of dogs eating pesto only apply if it is consumed in large quantities or over a prolonged period of time. If you spot your dog hoovering up an accidentally dropped bit of pasta with a drop of pesto on it, it is highly unlikely to do them any harm. However, if you are concerned, there are a number of things to look out for.

Dogs and pesto: the symptoms

The main symptoms to look out for if your dog has accidentally eaten pesto are vomiting and diarrhoea. These should pass of their own accord without you having to intervene or change their food or water routine.

If, however, your dog appears to be suffering from abdominal pain, is fainting, having seizures, or appears uncharacteristically lethargic, then contact your vet immediately. They will ask you how much pesto your dog ate, its breed, age, and size, and then advise whether they want to see your dog in person.