It’s always fun to slip your dog a little morsel as a treat or snack. And many fruits have the same benefits for our canine companions as they have for us. Have you ever asked yourself "Can dogs eat papaya?"
Papaya fruit is an excellent, safe addition to your dog’s diet and provides unique benefits to the digestive system. Since it’s often considered an exotic fruit, most dog owners don’t add it to their dog’s food. However, papaya is a great source of fiber, moisture and nutrients, and it contains a kind of enzyme that may help alleviate indigestion, excessive gas and occasional bloating (bloating here does not refer to the condition of Bloat, which requires immediate veterinarian attention).
So, can dogs eat papaya? Now that you know the answer is yes, read on to find out more about this tropical fruit and its many benefits.
Can Dogs Eat Papaya? Is It Safe?
While the answer to “Can dogs eat papaya?” is generally yes, dog owners should consider the pros and cons of each fresh food item they add to their dog’s food.
Additionally, make sure you feed papaya to your dog responsibly. For starters, do not feed your pooch papaya seeds or skin to avoid unwanted side effects. Too many seeds could cause intestinal blockage.
Papaya skin is also tough for your dog to digest and could also cause a blockage. And because the flesh of the papaya is rich in fiber, too much can cause an upset stomach, so you’ll want to feed in small pieces. That will help to avoid the risk of choking or intestinal blockage and to prevent any gastrointestinal upset.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow to feed your dog papaya safely: Give them half a gram of papaya per pound of their body weight. Lower this amount further if you already feed your dog other fruits or vegetables.
Note that dehydrated papaya will be extremely concentrated and can increase the risk of digestive problems. Stick to fresh papaya. Of course, any food can become a choking hazard if not properly cut small enough. Make sure that the size of the papaya prepared can be swallowed easily.
Papaya contains compounds that compete for the use of an enzyme called DAO. DAO is used to break down histamine. Therefore, dogs with histamine-related issues (such as mast cell tumors or environmental allergies) should avoid large amounts of papaya.
As with any new food, start by providing small amounts to test your dog’s tolerance. If you feed your dog papaya and notice any itching or loose stools, discontinue and consider a low-histamine-risk option. This could be a specialized prescription diet recommended by your veterinarian or simply foods like potatoes or rice that aren’t likely to cause histamine reactions.
One benefit of papaya is its sugar content is actually relatively low compared to apples, cherries, and even blueberries. This makes papaya an ideal choice for dogs who are prone to weight gain and do better with less natural fruit sugars. It may also be a good option for diabetic dogs. Check with your veterinarian to be safe.
What Are the Health Benefits of Papaya?
Papaya can help support your dog’s health. Papaya includes essential and nonessential nutrients-vitamins A, K and C. While nutrients are always beneficial, papaya stands out due to its incredible phytonutrient profile (natural compounds found in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes) and unique digestive support properties that are unlikely to be found in most commercial and homemade dog foods.
Here are some of papaya’s most helpful nutrients:
Papain: Papain is a digestive, plant-based enzyme that helps break down protein (proteolytic). Papain is heat-sensitive, so ensure you are feeding the fruit raw. Because commercially processed dog food (like kibble) is made with high heat, it is unlikely that most dogs are benefitting from any kind of heat-sensitive enzyme in their food, including papain.
However, the flesh of papaya is an excellent source for this enzyme. While papaya enzyme supplements are widely available for purchase, you can give your dog a gentle digestive boost by feeding whole, fresh papaya. This may be especially beneficial to older dogs who see a natural decline in digestive abilities with age.
Vitamin A (beta-carotene): Dogs will typically get enough Vitamin A from their normal kibble. However, papaya contains a precursor to Vitamin A called beta-carotene. Normally, beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the liver. When the dog is consuming enough Vitamin A, though, beta-carotene can be used as an antioxidant instead of becoming the essential nutrient form of Vitamin A.
Lycopene: Lycopene is a phytonutrient (a chemical compound produced by plants) that is classified as a carotenoid — a pigment from plants that acts as an antioxidant. But lycopene doesn’t turn into Vitamin A in your pet’s digestive system.
However, lycopene still functions as an antioxidant that can be beneficial for the heart, skin, lungs, brain, and eyes. Research has been looking at the role of lycopene in the prevention of Parkinson’s Disease in humans. There also is some association between lycopene and reduced risk of bladder cancer. Because lycopene is not found in food items traditionally fed to dogs, it is unlikely that most dogs are consuming any level of lycopene.
Lutein: Lutein is also a carotenoid and is known for its potential role in preventing the progression of macular degeneration. However, there is still ongoing research in determining its role in cancer prevention (particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and Parkinson’s Disease. There is also research being done regarding Lutein’s role in preventing an excessive decline in cognitive abilities that come naturally with age, making Lutein another excellent choice for older dogs.
Vitamin C: While most think of oranges when they think of sources of Vitamin C, papayas actually have 25% more Vitamin C than oranges per gram. Vitamin C plays a role in immune system support, but it is also essential in preventing free radical damage to the joints and can therefore be thought of as a food-based choice for preventative joint care.
While dogs can synthesize Vitamin C, not every dog can create enough. Moreover, making nutrients requires other resources. Providing dietary Vitamin C in moderate amounts from whole food sources can help free some of the resources used to create Vitamin C.
Vitamin K: Like Vitamins A and C, there is plenty of Vitamin K in papaya. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is good for your dog's liver and blood health. It's especially important for effective blood clotting.
Fiber: Fiber helps dogs maintain normal bowel movements and avoid constipation. Additionally, many fiber sources help support a wider diversity of good bacteria that live in the gut. Because papaya is not commonly fed to dogs, papaya may help support the gut microbiome. Of course, if a dog gets too much fiber or is sensitive to fiber, feed papaya in careful moderation.
Another good way to support the gut’s healthy microbiome is with the use of probiotic supplements. Ask your vet whether or not a probiotic would benefit your dog.
Potassium: Papaya also has an abundance of the mineral potassium. Potassium helps your dog absorb nutrients, aids in neural function, boosts bone health, and promotes good muscle growth and strength.
Calcium: Papaya is a good source of calcium, another important nutrient for your dog. Calcium contributes to your pet's growth, helps maintain healthy and strong bones and teeth, and aids in proper muscle building and function. Calcium also supports a strong heart and a healthy nervous system.
Magnesium: In a similar way to potassium and calcium, magnesium is used to create energy at the cellular level. Magnesium helps with your dog’s muscle function, heart health and function and the electrical signaling of the nervous system. And papaya is a good source for it.
Feeding Papaya as a Healthy Treat to Dogs
So, is papaya good for dogs? Yes. It’s a good source of fiber, Vitamins A, C and K. Plus, it offers plant-based nutrients like papain, lycopene and lutein. Papaya can be made into a healthy snack or added right into your dog’s food. Because of its lower sugar content, you can start by feeding half a gram of papaya per pound of dog weight. If you feed your dog other fruits and veggies, you may need to adjust this number down.
Given its antioxidant properties, papaya is best when fresh. Store cut pieces in an airtight container. Can dogs eat papaya when it’s dried or dehydrated? It’s really not worth the risk of digestive problems. It’s best to stick to fresh papaya.
Remember: Any food could become a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage if it's given in large bites. Always cut papaya and other fruits into small bite-sized chunks to make them easy for your dog to swallow.
If you want to add more healthy, whole-food-based nutrition to your dog’s diet, our all-natural supplements are a great way to keep your pet happy and healthy. Look for formulas with recognizable ingredients that you trust. That means a small amount of all-natural, simple ingredients without a lot of fillers such as meat by-products or corn.
For more nutrition advice, join my Community on Dogly where you can ask questions and get 24/7 access to me and other certified experts across nutrition, training, behavior and wellness to give you and your dog your best life together. And visit the Native Pet blog for more great articles on dog nutrition and wellness.