Can Dogs Eat Oranges?
Written by: Savannah Welna, Dogly Nutrition Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
While some citrus fruits are off limits for dogs, dogs can eat oranges if they are prepared correctly. While dogs do like sweet-tasting things, not every dog will care for the citric acid found in fruits. If your dog does like oranges, read on to learn more about proper preparation and how this sweet treat in small quantities can provide numerous health benefits.
Is Feeding Oranges Safe for Dogs?
The flesh of oranges (and tangerines and clementines) is relatively safe to feed to dogs. The rind, seed, and pith (white lining) should not be fed to your dog as they contain toxic substances. Orange slices containing just the flesh in small amounts are safe, but higher amounts can cause an upset stomach as oranges contain higher sugar levels and fiber. Of course, any new food can cause an upset stomach- so start small! Large amounts of any new food, even when it is 100% safe, can cause a gastrointestinal disturbance.
Because of the high sugar content, this fruit would be inappropriate for overweight dogs. Feeding a diabetic dog oranges could potentially disturb blood sugar levels. Low starch veggies or low sugar fruits, such as blueberries or cranberries, would be better options as there are less natural sugars present.
Remember to cut up oranges to the correct size for your dog. Orange slices we may prepare for ourselves can be a choking hazard for smaller dogs. It is also easy to misjudge the correct amounts when feeding small dogs as we consume a lot more fruit relative to them.
While it may seem like orange juice would be the safest option, orange juice is very high sugar and depending on how it was made, may contain harmful substances. Many commercial products are also fortified with other nutrients that can cause a dietary unbalance. Stick to the whole fruit, flesh only.
Are Oranges Good For Dogs?
The health benefits of oranges are numerous- providing essential nutrients, fiber, and beneficial compounds- many of which cannot be found in commercial dog foods. Oranges are composed of nearly 88% moisture and combined with their potassium content, oranges make for a hydrating addition.
Vitamin C: While Vitamin C is not considered an essential nutrient for dogs, some amount in the diet can be beneficial. Dogs synthesize vitamin C, but some life circumstances (such as high stress and smoke exposure) can mean that the dog is not able to synthesize optimal amounts. Providing some amount of Vitamin C in the diet can spare the dog of resources typically used to synthesize vitamin C or simply just helps round out their daily intake and synthesis. Vitamin C is known for its role in supporting the immune system, but vitamin C has many other roles such as protecting the joints and protecting the body from free radicals. While oranges are known for their Vitamin C content, red bell peppers take first place and might make a good addition for dogs who do not have joint issues or other sensitivities to nightshades,
Soluble, Fermentable Fiber: While high amounts of this kind of fiber can cause loose stools and gas, small amounts are beneficial. Fermentable fiber is fermented in the colon producing short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids provide an energy source for the gut epithelial cells (cells that line parts of the digestive tract). Fiber also provides food to gut bacteria. When the bacteria in the dog’s biome is well fed and diverse, they are able to prevent bad bacteria from setting up camp.
Anticarcinogenic: While dog specific studies are lacking, citrus fruits, thanks to their flavonoid content, may be useful for cancer prevention as well as protective for dogs battling cancer (always ask your veterinarian first!). This also may be because they provide antioxidant nutrients that dogs often are lacking when eating kibble.
Neuroprotective: In humans, citrus fruits may play a role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases. Again, owed to their flavonoid and antioxidant content, additions seem to protect the brain. Because the brain is so prone to oxidation, extra antioxidant support for aging dogs or dogs eating dry foods is quite likely a fantastic idea. Some of the flavonoids in oranges have a higher affinity to the brain (while other foods, such as carrots, target the brain and skin).
Adding Oranges to Dog Food
As mentioned, you will want to remove all of the orange peel, seeds, and white casing. While many guidelines claim to aim for under 10% of daily calories coming from oranges, this range is quite wide. Providing 10% of calories from oranges can unbalance the diet and cause stomach upset. Even though oranges are a great source of nutrients, they are not rich in minerals, such as calcium or phosphorus, that your dog needs in higher amounts (even higher than humans!). To not overwhelm the digestive system, start by feeding ¼ gram per pound of body weight.
You can also choose to blend oranges with lower sugar fruits and veggies - such as blueberries and broccoli - and freeze with a liquid to make for a treat your dog can savor. Bone broth, dairy (if tolerated), or filtered water will work just fine. Portioning and freezing in an ice cube tray (or molds in fun shapes- such as paws or bones) allows for easy storage and feeding.
Vitamin C is stable in acidic mediums - such as oranges - but breaks down quickly when exposed to oxygen. Make sure to either freeze or feed immediately to reap all of the benefits of citrus fruits.
Just in case your dog decides that oranges aren’t a favorite, be sure to not mix it into food when first introducing it as you may end up having to toss the entire meal. After ensuring that your dog does enjoy and tolerate oranges, this citrus fruit can then make a regular appearance with your dog’s meals or as a snack!
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