Can Dogs Eat Nopales?

By John Martin - August 30, 2022

Nopales in a market

If you have furry companions running around in a house adorned with exotic plants, you may have some concerns for the safety of your four-legged friends. Are these exotic plants safe for my dog?

Some plants pose no threat to your dog. However, some are risky to have around, especially if your curious pup decides to nibble on them.

In which category do nopales fall? Are the cacti-like plants safe for dogs, and can they eat them?

What Are Nopales?

Nopales are edible pads of the prickly pear cactus. They belong to the genus Opuntia. They are found throughout Mexico. They are part of a traditional Mexican side dish.

These cacti-like plants have gastronomic use as well as medicinal use. Indigenous to Mexico, you will find a total of 114 species of this plant in the country.

The most commonly used grown species on farms is the Opuntia ficus-indica.

Nopales are consumed raw or cooked. They will find their way in marmalades, soups, salads, and stews in the traditional cuisine.

They are sold fresh and sliced in the market after the thorns have been plucked. They are also canned and bottled. Sometimes, for export purposes, they are dried. They have a similar taste to green peppers.

Nopales are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They provide many health benefits to humans.

While they are safe for human consumption, how do they suit dogs?

Also Read: Can Dogs Eat Pomelo?

Can Dogs Eat Nopales?

Some people may have the cacti-like plant in their homes. They probably wonder if the plant is harmful to their beloved pooches.

The green prickly plant may attract your dog’s attention. Generally, nopales are not toxic to dogs, unlike some other cactus plants. However, they are not considered safe for their consumption due to various reasons.

Dogs love to explore. They may happen upon the plant and may be tempted to chomp down on it. You need to make sure the plant is out of their reach to avoid any unpleasant consequences.

While a small portion of the nopal is not likely to cause harm, it is not recommended for consumption. The plant’s fibrous material can cause stomach upset, irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.

Additionally, your houseplant may be covered in chemicals such as insecticides or fertilizers. These are usually very harmful to animals and will result in gastrointestinal distress.

There are several risks related to the consumption of the nopales. Nopales use thorns as a defense. These sharp spines can lodge themselves in your dog’s skin and cause injury.

As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to protect your furry companion and keep them away from harm.

In case your pet ingests the plant and displays symptoms of digestive distress, they may need immediate help.

Even without ingesting the plant, it can result in serious issues. Physical contact with the nopales and their sap can be dangerous.

It can lead to swollen eyes, blisters, ulceration, skin rashes and irritation, and temporary blindness. In severe cases, it can cause permanent blindness.

The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the age, size, and overall health of your pets.

What About Cooked Nopales?

Raw nopales usually pose a danger to a dog’s health. They contain oxalic acid, which is harmful to the kidneys. An excess build-up of oxalates in the system can be fatal in severe cases as it leads to kidney failure.

Cooked nopales are a slightly different story. In moderation, dogs can enjoy some cooked nopales. Some dogs like the taste of the edible pads. Their taste resembles green peppers or cucumbers, and they have the firmness of green beans.

They are full of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. However, even in the cooked state, nopales must be fed in small portions. Excessive consumption can lead to digestive issues in your dog.

The nopales must be prepared and cooked properly. It is important to remove the thorns and cook them well to destroy the harmful oxalates. Avoid offering seasoned nopales to your pet.

It is always tricky adding new food to your pooch’s diet. Not every human food has enjoyable side effects. Before you introduce an item to your companion’s diet, make sure to consult your vet and confirm whether it is safe or not.

Also Read: Can Dogs Eat Bok Choy?

What to Do If a Dog Ingests Nopales?

Always practice safety. Keep the plant out of your dog’s way. Make sure to perch them in a location that is inaccessible to their curious selves.

If the plant is out of their immediate sight, their curiosity will not rise, and there will be no accidental case of ingestion.

If they do make contact with the plant or ingest part of it, keep a close eye on them. Monitor them for any reactions. If they show signs of excessive salivation, stomach ache, vomiting or diarrhea, get in touch with your vet instantly.

If your dog rubbed against a plant, check their skin for any lodged thorns. The thorns will be easy to remove at home. Remove them carefully and immediately. If you leave them in, your dog may attempt to get rid of them and cause further harm.

Overconsumption of cooked nopales is also harmful to their digestive system. Monitor and seek help in case of any discomfort.

To be on the safe side, consult a vet the very instant you realize your dog has consumed raw nopales. Do not try to medicate them at home.

Also Read: Can Dogs Eat Canary Melon?

The Bottom Line

Nopales belong to the cactus family. They are highly beneficial to humans. However, despite their lack of toxicity for dogs, they are not recommended for their consumption.

Raw nopales pose many health threats for the four-legged creatures. They can cause gastrointestinal problems and skin irritation. While cooked nopales are somewhat safe to consume, they must be done so in very small portions.

In case eating nopales results in some health crisis, you must act upon it immediately. Even if you suspect your dog may have consumed the plant, reach out to a professional for safety’s sake.