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Can Dogs Eat Olives?

You already know that pizza is bad for dogs, and you’ve done well to keep your take-away out of reach from those pleading puppy eyes. 

Now somebody ordered Papa John’s ‘The Works’ with its fat black olives sprinkled liberally among the toppings. But what if you’re not a big fan of olives? And they’re just sitting there, deserted on the plate, while your pup drools.

In this case, you may be wondering if dogs can eat olives? Are they bad for dogs? Have they joined the ever-growing list of human foods that have become canine taboo, along with raisins and chocolate? Should dogs eat black olives rather than green ones, or vice versa? And what’s the deal with olive oil?

Sorry, in this case, the answer is not cut and dry. But since we all want the best for our pets, it’s always good to take a thorough look at anything we may feed them to ensure optimal health.

After all, dogs usually don’t pay much attention to what they eat, so it’s up to us as owners to be discerning about their nutritional intake.

So, can dogs eat olives?

Today, many articles recommend olives, particularly in the form of olive oil, as beneficial to a dog’s health. The problem is that most of the articles written on the subject tend to cite research that is focused on humans and apply it to dogs.

It’s not news that dogs and people’s physiology are different. What’s suitable for one isn’t necessarily right for the other. So while olives and olive oil may have all kinds of therapeutic effects for humans, the answer about what they really do to dogs simply hasn’t been widely studied.

So to get a better idea of whether dogs can eat olives, we need to ignore all the hype and really investigate what olives are made up of.

To do this, we will first focus on the ordinary olives we buy in the store to avoid the complications that can come with stuffing, pickling, or other processing methods. We will also not bother looking at raw olives since these are incredibly bitter and not great for either you or your dog.

Keep in mind that there is little difference between a black and green olive, nutritionally speaking. A green olive was simply picked from the tree before it ripened. 


 Olive Nutritional Breakdown

Macronutrients

100 grams canned black olives

100 grams canned or bottled green olives

Tablespoon of standard olive oil

Calories

116 calories

145 calories

119 calories

Protein

0.84 g

1.03 g

 

Total fat

10.9 g

15.32 g

13.5 g

Of which Monounsaturated:

74 %

74%

9.85 g

Of which Polyunsaturated:

 

 

1.42 g

Of which are

Saturated fatty acids

 

 

1.86 g

Carbohydrate

6.04 g

3.84 g

 

Fiber

1.6 g

3.3 g

 

Minerals

 

 

 

Calcium

88 mg

52 mg

 

Iron

6.28 mg

0.49 mg

0.08 mg

magnesium

4 mg

11 mg

 

potassium

8 mg

42 mg

 

Sodium

735 mg

1556 mg

 

Zinc

0.25mg

0.04mg

 

Copper

0.22mg

0.12 mg

 

Vitamins

 

 

 

Vitamin C

0.9 mg

 

 

Niacin

0.04 mg

0.24 mg

 

Vitamin B-6

0.01 mg

0.03 mg

 

Vitamin A

17 micrograms (µg)

20 µg

 

Vitamin E

1.65 mg

3.81 mg

1.94 mg

Vitamin K

1.4 µg

1.4 µg

8.12 µg

 

The benefits of olives for dogs

Fiber

Looking at the nutritional breakdown above, we can see several macro and micronutrients that are great for dogs. For one thing, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of green olives are a good source of fiber.

However, there is no specific guideline for how much fiber your dog should have according to its size and daily intake. This is because fiber is not seen as essential for dogs and should usually only take up a fraction of their diet. 

Still, the National Research Council suggests that fermentable fibers could regulate blood glucose and support a dog’s immune system. In contrast, non fermentable fibers can decrease the number of calories an overweight dog eats. 

So, the small amount of fiber in olives is probably within the healthy zone for your dog.

Minerals

There are several very promising minerals in olives. Firstly, there is probably the most important one in your dog’s diet, which is iron. 100 grams of canned black olives carries 6.28 mg of iron.

That is very close to the full recommended amount of 7.5 g for an average-sized adult dog that weighs about 33 pounds.

It also has magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper. All of these are useful minerals for dogs in the right amounts. 

In fact, zinc is one of the most common deficiencies dogs experience. But, the recommended daily amount of zinc for dogs that weigh around 33 pounds is 15 mg, and we can see that 100 grams of black olives are still nowhere near that. Even so, every bit counts.

Vitamins

While there are definitely vitamins present in olives that dogs need for a healthy body. But most of them are in too small quantities to really affect your dog’s nutritional needs.

A notable exception is vitamin E. 100 mg of green olives contain almost 4 mg of vitamin E, nearly half the average dog’s daily allowance. That’s impressive!

 

But should I feed my dog olives?

With all that iron and vitamin E, you may be wondering if it isn’t worth adding a handful of olives to your pup’s supper. Indeed, many people already add olive oil as a source of fatty acids in homemade meals for their dogs. 

But here comes the crunch. The bad stuff in olives mostly undermines the good stuff. 

Let’s start with the fat. There’s a lot of hype about good fats and bad fats, and olives are usually praised for being full of monounsaturated fats, aka omega-9, aka oleic acid. 

Oleic acid is typically hailed as good for one’s skin, heart, blood sugar, and so on, and has multiple studies supporting these claims.To be clear, these studies are done on humans. 

The problem is, it’s not clear what it does for dogs. In fact, some argue omega-9 has no real value for dogs.

On the other hand, omega-6 and omega-3, given in a ratio of 5 -1 to 10 - 1, are strongly advocated as essential fatty acids for dogs. Good sources of these essential oils for dogs include krill oil, fish oil, chicken fat, and flaxseed oil. 

Unfortunately, olives and olive oil aren’t very high in either omega-6 or omega-3.

So, are olives actually bad for dogs?

The short answer here is, pretty much

While the olive has some redeeming features that your dog can benefit from, there are several dangers in feeding olives to your dog.

The first is the sodium content. 

The recommended amount of salt in a dog’s diet is between 0.25 – 1.5 g per 100 grams of food. This means that just 100 g of green olives have the maximum amount of salt a dog can have for that amount.. 

While a dog would have to eat a lot more than that to be poisoned, it still isn’t great. Too much salt can lead to dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. 

The second issue is what may come with the olives.

Olives are cured in a variety of ways. These include water, brine, saltwater, and lye. Obviously, lye and saltwater or brine should be avoided because of the high sodium content.

On the other hand, unsalted olives cured in water can be perfectly fine for your dog. Although there may be better sources for the nutrition that they do contain. 

The other potential danger is the pit. A swallowed pit could choke a small dog or get stuck in a pup’s digestive tract. 

What about stuffed olives?

While dogs can definitely eat both black and green olives, so long as they are unsalted and the pit is removed, fillings can be hazardous to your furry friend’s health.

Allium toxicity is common in dogs who eat too much garlic or onion. In fact, the AKC warns the owner to stay away from both. So, it’s best to stay away from any garlic or onion olive stuffing to prevent your pup from being poisoned. 

On the other hand, green olives stuffed with pimentos are perfectly safe for your dog to eat. But be mindful of feeding them in moderation only.

What happens if a dog eats olives?

If your dog managed to get hold of a packet of olives and liked them enough to eat them all, it is probably not the end of the world. Olives that are free of garlic, onions, and pits, as well as unsalted, are perfectly fine for your dog. 

However, if your dog did swallow a pit, examine the teeth to make sure there was no chipping first. Then keep an eye out for signs of intestinal trouble, such as vomiting or refusing to eat. 

Likewise, if you suspect your dog got a bit too much garlic and onion out of your Mediterranean platter, make sure to call your vet and ask for advice.

Conclusion

Olives are a tasty treat for humans, but they’re not really nutritious for dogs. Nevertheless, if they are plain, unsalted, and pitted, a few olives are safe for your dog to eat. However, ingredients associated with olives, such as salt, garlic, and onions, are best avoided for your pet. 

As with all things to do with your dog and life, the key is moderation.


References

Bauer, J. John E. “Essential Fatty Acid Metabolism in Dogs and Cats.” Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, vol. 37, no. spe, 2008, pp. 20–27. Crossref, doi:10.1590/s1516-35982008001300004.

Brazier, Yvette. “What Are the Health Benefits of Olive Oil?” Medical News Today, 18 Dec. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266258.

Cox, Megan. “Role of Dietary Fatty Acids in Dogs & Cats.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, 22 Oct. 2019, todaysveterinarypractice.com/role-of-dietary-fatty-acids-in-dogs-cats.

Heinze, Cailin Vmd R. “The Skinny on Fat: Part 2 - Essential Fatty Acids and Inflammation.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 2 Apr. 2018, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/04/essential-fatty-acids-and-inflammation.

National Research Council. 2006. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10668.

“Why Do Dogs Need Essential Fatty Acids?” Primal Pet Foods, primalpetfoods.com/blogs/news/why-do-dogs-need-essential-fatty-acids. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.