Can Dogs Eat Red Pepper Flakes?

Whilst red peppers flakes aren’t poisonous for your dog, neither do they add any nutritional value to a dog’s diet. 

And as with humans, the heat and spice from these flakes might give your dog some unpleasant side effects-such as watery eyes or a touch of diarrhea. 

It is best to keep the two things (dogs and red pepper flakes) well away from one another. 

What are red pepper flakes?

It seems to me that red pepper flakes are a real heady mix of the flesh from different peppers and the seeds from different peppers.

Most of the mix will be seeds but there is lots of crushed flesh in there too. 

And I mean peppers in the broadest sense– cayenne, bell, jalapeno, fresno and anaheim peppers. 

The main ingredients are the seeds and the flesh of the cayenne pepper. 

Although the exact blend of pepper flesh and seeds differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, the aim is to give these red pepper flakes a consistent heat.

Which on the pepper scale of things is moderately hot

What makes red pepper flakes so spicy? 

Peppers and chiles contain a substance called capsaicin which is an irritant to all mammals

This compound causes a burning sensation to any tissue that it comes into contact with.

The more capsaicin a pepper has, the greater its level of heat or spice. 

This chemical fools our brain into thinking that we have eaten something hot.

What is interesting when it comes to capsaicin and dogs is that scientists have long thought that capsaicin was a defense mechanism evolved by peppers over thousands of years in order to stop them being eaten by mammals (such as rodents.) 

And so, in this article we have almost come full circle!

What are the side effects of a dog eating red pepper flakes?

Most of us know just how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is but their sense of taste isn’t nearly as strong.

It is thought that a dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between ten thousand to one hundred thousand times better than humans…

Their sense of smell is worse than ours- with only about a sixth of the taste buds that we have in our mouths.

So where does this leave a “red pepper flake” eating dog?

The honest answer to this is that taste is only one factor in eating spicy food.

Sure, their tongue might not tingle or burn like ours will but a strong mix of pepper flakes might make a dog’s eyes water and the strong acids in the flakes could still turn a dog’s stomach upside down and inside out!

My dog has eaten red pepper flakes, what should I do?

If your dog has just eaten some of these flakes and is looking less than happy there are a few things you can do.

The good news is that the burning sensation which might be felt by your dog isn’t a real burning sensation.

Your dog’s tongue or stomach won’t be physically burned but the body responds to the capsaicin in the same way that it would a real burn.

One of the responses might be an increase in the heart rate– let’s hope that your dog has a strong and healthy heart.

In order to stop the burning sensation, the capsaicin needs to be dissolved.

Although your immediate reaction with your dog might be to grab them a fresh bowl of water, this won’t really help.

Only fat can help to dissolve this chemical- so consider giving your dog a small bowl of milk.

Can dogs eat red bell peppers? 

Hopefully, this article isn’t coming across as an all out war on any red pepper.

Red bell peppers are perfectly safe for your dogs to eat because they don’t contain high enough levels of capsaicin for any mammal to feel discomfort.

To restate what I said earlier, it is likely that some of the flakes in your jar of red pepper flakes are from a red bell pepper.

But they would just add a sweetness and a depth of flavour- not any heat or spice as such.

And so without any spice, we can just look at the nutritional value of red bell peppers

These peppers are low in calories, contain some fibre and some vitamin C and B6.

As well as being a good source of copper and potassium. 

How are red pepper flakes used with dogs?

The only deliberate way that I have read about using red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper being used with dogs is as a repellent.

I would like to say that it is used by people who want an organic, safe and chemical free way to deter a dog from using a patch of grass or even a patch of dirt as a toilet.

But in reality it tends to be used by disgruntled property owners who are sick to the back teeth of a dog using their land as a public toilet.

The idea is that as a dog walks on to a patch of grass and starts to sniff (in readiness to poop or wee) the pepper will irritate their eyes and ward them off.

The idea is to deter the dog but if too much pepper is used then dogs can end up suffering from burns

Three reasons your dog might eat red pepper flakes

There are a whole variety of reasons that your dog has eaten red pepper flakes.

[1] Irresponsible prank

Come on admit it, you have watched YouTube videos of dogs doing stupid things when they pop up on your Facebook feed?

It usually involves a few too many drinks, a few friends and trusting and a loveable dog.

Oh yes and a bloody smartphone..

[2] Accidental and naive

Do you feed your dog table scraps? 

Do you sometimes not think about the food that you are just about to give to your dog before you throw it?

And before you know it, that bite of pizza seasoned with red pepper flakes or that left over fish smothered in pepper flakes has been swallowed by Fido.

And you’re a bit suspicious because Fido reacts as if they really didn’t enjoy that bite.

And that’s when the penny drops.  

[3] Momentary lapse of reason

The third reason why your dog might ingest some pepper flakes is because they were listening to a Pink Floyd album.

Momentary Lapse Of Reason?!

No? OK then.

The third reason that your dog might have eaten some red pepper flakes are that they were accidentally left out on the kitchen counter overnight or when everyone was out during the day and your dog decided to snack on it.

None of these scenarios ends well for your dog- or for you for that matter.

Which begs the question, is there a dog friendly alternative to red pepper flakes?

Is there a dog- friendly alternative to red pepper flakes?

Realistically, the answer to this question is a simple no.

People use these flakes to add spice to food and it is this spice which causes a bad reaction in dogs.

There isn’t a safe level of spice that you can opt for which will guarantee that your dog will be OK.

Using ground or crushed pepper will cause a similar reaction within your dog as could switching to using mustard. 

Any other option would involve you not having any spice seasoning on your food.

Will you be happy just using ketchup, for instance? I doubt it.

The only option I can think of, and I’m clutching at straws here, is to switch red pepper flakes for pickled gherkins. 

Pickled gherkins have a level of spice and seasoning but they are also an example of a probiotic that your dog can eat

How are red pepper flakes different to chile flakes?

Red pepper flakes and chile flakes are subtly different.

But from the get go, I want to say that as far as your dog is concerned the differences between these two types of flakes are irrelevant- they shouldn’t be added to your dog’s diet. 

As I have already said, red pepper flakes are made from the flesh of a variety of different red peppers and their seeds.

Whereas chile flakes tend to come from one sort of chile.

The easiest way that I understand it is to think of it like coffee.

Most of the coffee beans or ground coffee that we buy is a blend- the coffee beans come from a variety of locations but they are then roasted together to create a bag of beans that are described as French roast or dark roast.

This is what our red pepper flakes are.

In the world of coffee, there is such a thing as single origin coffee- this is when all the beans come from the same geographical area or even the same farm.

These are our chilli flakes which aren’t a blend of different sorts of peppers (or chillies) but a jar of one sort of pepper which has been dried and crushed. 

So if you are fanatical about the flavour provided by one specific pepper, buy some chile flakes but if you like a mixture and can pick out the different flavours of different peppers, stick with red pepper flakes.