All of America loves Ranch salad dressing. If the average veggie-hating American reportedly uses salad dressing 38 times a year, 15 out of those 38 salads will have Ranch dressing on it. (That’s not even counting the times we sneak Ranch into our chip dips!) And each time we snack in front of that TV or computer screen, our pet dog will be watching us… getting more and more curious about that bowl of creamy white goodness, and longing to have a taste…
But wait. If Ranch dressing is that guilty pleasure we aren’t supposed to eat too much of, is it safe for our dogs? Can dogs eat Ranch dressing, Ranch dips, or Ranch chips?
What might be toxic for dogs
Yup, Ranch salad dressing is safe enough for a few dog licks. Some dogs I know have learned to like it so much that they hang around the living room sofa or game console, hoping to catch a fallen drop or morsel of the stuff from their ever-munching “hooman.”
However, if your dog eats lots of it (i.e., anything more than 1 tablespoon of Ranch dressing or dip ) or an amount equal to what we humans would consume, he gets a hefty serving of ingredients he shouldn’t be eating.
These ingredients are either toxic to your dog or difficult for him to digest. And they are:
Ranch salad dressing or Ranch dips always come with lots of chives, onions, and/or garlic. (It’s what defines the Ranch flavor!)
Unfortunately, these are all herbs from the Allium family of plants. All alliums are toxic to dogs. These cause gastroenteritis and anemia when consumed in significant amounts that are greater than 0.5% of a dog’s body weight. (Example: if your dog weighs around 13 kilograms or 30 pounds, he can’t eat 2.5 ounces or 70 grams of alliums.)
And the toxicity isn’t limited to fresh onions, garlic, or chives. Dogs can still suffer the same harsh side effects if the Ranch dressing or dip is flavored with dried or powdered allium herbs.
2. Saturated Fat and Salt (Sodium)
There’s so much saturated fat and salt from the buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream in Ranch dips or dressings, whether homemade or store-bought. They’re enough to make doctors tell human patients to cut Ranch dressings or dips out of their diet. So imagine what regular consumption of Ranch can do to a dog.
Too much fat and salt in a dog’s diet leads to the same host of problems that crop up in humans: obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, and kidney problems.
3. MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Monosodium glutamate or MSG occurs naturally in ingredients like tomatoes and meat, and in fermented or preserved food like cheese and soy sauce.
Nowadays, MSG is also manufactured as a crystal or powder concentrate, which we can add to commercial food products to enhance their “umami” flavor. Lots of commercial brands for Ranch salad dressings and dips contain significant amounts of MSG.
But manufactured MSG (as an additive) is still a controversial ingredient in food. Despite having no conclusive scientific proof, people around the world have claimed that they and their dogs have suffered various worrying side effects from consuming too much of that MSG additive. Claimed side effects range from heart palpitations and nausea (in humans) to liver inflammation and dysplasia (in dogs and other animals). There are even claims that 1-2 tablespoons of MSG granules can kill a dog.
4. Lemon or citrus juice
A typical Ranch dressing or dip formula includes lemon juice. Occasionally I see other recipes using other citrus fruits like lime or calamondin, but it’s mostly lemon juice.
All these fruits contain natural compounds called psoralens. Now, a dog that sniffs or licks a bit of lemon pulp or juice will be fine. But if he consumes around a teaspoon of it, the dog might have an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.
There are about 1 to 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in every 1 to 1 1/2 cups of Ranch dressing. If a curious and hungry dog were to consume about a third of that, it’d be enough to ruin his stomach for the rest of the day.
5. Extra avocado
Some newer “diet” Ranch variations I’ve seen include avocado (instead of buttermilk and sour cream) and yogurt — sort of like a Ranch-meets-Guacamole concoction.
While this might be better for your health, the avocado flesh still carries some amount of persin. Persin is a natural fungicide which the avocado tree produces to protect itself from fungal infections. It’s not poisonous, but it does tend to cause stomach upset in some dogs.
So no matter how often your dog might sniff at that bowl of Ranch-drizzled nachos or that bag of Ranch-flavored chips, remember how toxic some of the ingredients can be for dogs in general. Resist the urge to now and then give your dog a bite of anything dipped in Ranch.
If your dog tends to put on weight, forget about Ranch. Just stick to dog food and treats that will help him maintain a healthy weight.
And don’t leave your Ranch-flavored snacks lying around within easy reach of your dog — unless you don’t mind another trip to the veterinarian with your rascally pooch!