Cherries aren't usually used as a dog treat. But can dogs eat cherries? The short answer is yes. The flesh of cherries is loaded with beneficial compounds. Cherries can be an excellent addition to your dog’s food or a healthy snack when fed responsibly.
Cherries contain antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber, but because of the amount of work required to ensure that the cherry does not result in toxicity, you may decide that another source of fruit (like blueberries, raspberries, or cranberries) is easier and equally beneficial to feed. At the end of the day, it's completely up to you.
Can dogs eat cherries? Yes, but only when they’re given safely. Read on to find out what parts of the cherry are dangerous, what parts are safe, and how to prepare and feed cherries to your dog.
How Can Dogs Eat Cherries Safely?
While the flesh of cherries can be a great addition to your dog’s diet, it takes a little bit of work and research to understand how to safely feed cherries.
While dogs can eat the flesh of cherries, they must not eat the whole cherry. In this way, cherry pits are similar to the seeds of other fruits like apricots or avocado, which contain the toxic chemicals amygdalin and persin, respectively. Cherry pits, stems, and leaves should not be fed to dogs as they contain cyanide.
Symptoms of cyanide poisoning in dogs can include tremors, abnormal heart rate, dilated pupils, collapse, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, and even death. The amount of cyanide that could result in life-threatening cyanide toxicity from cherries is not specifically known. Therefore, to avoid any risk of cyanide poisoning, avoid feeding your dog any part of the cherry except the flesh.
The type of cherry is also important. Because maraschino cherries and other cherries without pits (the kind without a pit is often added to human beverages) are full of simple sugars, they should not be fed. Cherries that are canned in syrup should not be fed either due to their high sugar content. Too much sugar can result in an upset stomach and unhealthy weight gain, and it can even lead to diabetes over time. It is safest to feed your dog fresh cherries without any added sugars or ingredients.
Cherries contain fiber — the more cherries your dog eats, the more the fiber may affect the gut, depending on individual tolerance. While some fiber can benefit the gut's microbiome, large amounts may cause an upset stomach. If you plan on feeding the flesh of cherries, start with small amounts to see how it is tolerated. Giving your pooch ¼ gram of cherry flesh per 1 pound of your dog’s weight is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Dried cherries (and other fruits) are more likely to cause gastrointestinal upset because the sugar content in the fruit is very concentrated. Like other fruit, fresh cherries have a relatively high sugar content. However, because only small amounts of cherries are fed, the amount of natural sugar is unlikely to be problematic.
Can dogs eat cherries that are included in other foods? No. Never give your dog foods made with cherries, like cherry pie or fruitcake. The sugar, butter, fat, artificial flavoring, and other ingredients found in these foods aren't good for animals and could easily make your dog sick.
Mashing the flesh of cherries or putting them in a blender is a good way to prevent choking risk. Feeding a small dog whole cherries can be unsafe, as it can cause an intestinal blockage. Even medium- to large-sized dogs could choke or experience a blockage as a result of eating whole cherries.
Furthermore, the cherry pits can result in intestinal obstruction if your dog swallows one. Coupled with the cyanide poisoning concerns, it is critical that cherries be prepared safely to avoid poisoning or obstruction in the digestive tract.
To put it simply: Only feed your dog the flesh of fresh cherries, and never any part of the stem, leaves, or pit. Give Fido only a very small amount to avoid stomach upset, and consider mashing or blending the cherry to avoid any choking risk. Don't give your dog dried cherries, cherries in syrup, or processed cherries of any kind.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cherries?
Cherries primarily provide calories from carbohydrates (90%) and are high in moisture content. They are also low-calorie. Given that cherries contain a lot of moisture and potassium, they make for a hydrating treat.
While cherries do contain essential nutrients, such as vitamins A, E, and potassium, you would have to feed your dog large quantities of cherries to get enough to make a difference. The primary benefits of cherries come from phytonutrients (natural compounds found in plant foods that work alongside essential nutrients) and non-essential nutrients.
Beta-carotene (vitamin A): Beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A found in plant foods, is used in the body to make retinol, another type of vitamin A with various health benefits. If your dog eats a balanced diet, they probably already get enough vitamin A, and their body won’t convert beta-carotene into vitamin A the way it would otherwise. However, this frees up beta-carotene to act uniquely as an antioxidant rather than fulfilling its traditional role as an essential nutrient.
Bacteroides: Tart cherries contain polyphenols (micronutrients found in certain plant-based foods) that have been shown to increase levels of bacteria from the Bacteroides genus. These work to prevent harmful bacteria from setting up shop in the gut. This effect may be amplified by the prebiotic properties of cherries.
You can also benefit your dog's gut health by providing them with a probiotic supplement that promotes good gut bacteria such as Native Pet's all-natural probiotic for dogs.
There are other numerous health benefits to feeding fresh foods like cherries to dogs. Because many antioxidants in fresh fruits and veggies are fragile (meaning they’re largely eliminated when heat and other processes are applied to them), commercially processed dog foods are low (or totally devoid) of these beneficial compounds. Also, because phytonutrients and non-essential nutrients (like Vitamin C) are not required, dog food makers often do not add them at all in the first place. Safely feeding these fresh food items is a good way to give your pooch’s nutrition a little boost.
Feeding Cherries as a Healthy Treat
Have you ever asked yourself, "Can my dog eat cherries?" The answer is yes, but there are a few important points to remember.
Dog owners should always introduce new foods to dogs in small amounts, cherries included. This helps avoid the risk of gastrointestinal upset and choking, and it gives your dog's digestive system a chance to process the new food properly. Try feeding ¼ gram of cherry flesh per 1 pound of your dog’s weight. Again, remember to first discard the leaves of cherries as well as the cherry pits and stems.
You can place the flesh of cherries in the blender, freeze them with water or plain bone broth, and freeze them in ice cube trays as a treat your dog can savor. The flesh can also be directly mixed into food prior to feeding or easily added into homemade treats, such as these Coconut Pumpkin Dog Treats. You can also mix this with other beneficial, dog-safe fruits and veggies like watermelon (flesh only), blueberries, cooked beets, cooked broccoli, and cooked carrots.
Because cherries can be unsafe when not properly prepared, always avoid feeding cherries to dogs who may be particularly vulnerable (puppies or reproducing dogs). Make yourself aware of the signs of cyanide poisoning, just in case. And keep your veterinarian's phone number on hand to call in the event of an emergency.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 and behavior, and wellness to give you and your dog your best life together. And be sure to check out the Native Pet blog for more information about your furry friend's health and nutrition needs.