Written by: Savannah Welna,Dogly Nutrition Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
Cherry fruit is a dark pigmented fruit that is not commonly used as adog treat. However, the flesh of cherries is loaded with beneficial compounds. Cherries can be an excellent addition to your dog’s food for ahealthy snack when fed responsibly. While dogs can eat the flesh of cherries, they must not eat thewhole cherry. Similar to the seeds of other fruits (such as those found inapricots oravocado),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 incyanide poisoning from cherries is not specifically known. Therefore, to avoid any risk ofcyanide poisoning, it is critical that only the flesh of cherries is fed. Cherries contain antioxidants,Vitamin A,Vitamin C, and fiber, but because of the amount of work required to ensure that the cherry does not cause harm to the dog, you may decide that another source of fruit (likeblueberries, raspberries, or cranberries), is easier and equally beneficial to feed.
Are Cherries Safe for Dogs?
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. As mentioned, do not feed any pits, stems, or leaves.
The type of cherry is also important.Maraschino cherries and othercherries without pits (the kind without a pit is often added to human beverages), are full of simple sugars and should not be fed. Cherries that are canned in syrup should not be fed either. It is safest to feed your dogfresh cherries without added ingredients likeblack cherries.
Because cherries contain fiber, the more yourdog eats the more the fiber may affect the gut depending on individual tolerance. While some fiber can feed the gut microbiome,large amounts may cause anupset stomach. If you plan on feeding the flesh of cherries, start with small amounts to see how it is tolerated. Dried cherries (and other fruit) are more likely to causestomach upset because the fruit is very concentrated. Like other fruit, cherries will have a relatively highsugar content. However, because only small amounts of cherries are fed, the amount of natural sugar is unlikely to be problematic.
Mashing the cherries (flesh only) or blending the cherry will prevent choking risk. Feeding a smalldog cherries whole can be unsafe as it can cause anintestinal blockage. Furthermore, thecherry pits can result inintestinal obstruction depending on the amount fed. Coupled with thecyanide poisoning concerns, it is critical that cherries be prepared safely so that poisoning or obstruction in thedigestive tract don’t occur.
What are theHealth Benefits of Cherries?
Cherries primarily provide calories from carbohydrates (90%) and are high moisture. They are also low calorie. Given that cherries contain much moisture and potassium, they make for a hydrating treat.
While cherries do contain essential nutrients, such asvitamin A, potassium, and vitamin E, you would have to feed a significant amount to make a difference. The primary benefits of cherries comes from phytonutrients and non-essential nutrients.
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A):Beta-carotene is a precursor to retinol. It is a type ofvitamin A found in plant foods. When adding cherries to an already balanced diet, beta carotene is likely not going to be used asvitamin A. When the body does not needvitamin A, it won’t use beta-carotene. However, this liberates beta-carotene to act uniquely as an antioxidant rather than fulfilling its traditional role as an essential nutrient.
Bacteroides:Tart cherries contain polyphenols 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.
There are other numeroushealth benefits to feeding fresh food to dogs, including cherries. Because many antioxidants in fresh fruits and veggies are fragile, commercial processeddog foods are low (or totally devoid) of these beneficial compounds. Also, because phytonutrients and non-essential nutrients (likeVitamin 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 enormously beneficial to yourpooch.
Feeding Cherries as a Healthy Treat to Dogs
Always introduce new foods to dogs in small amounts. The flesh of cherries can be blended and frozen with water or plain bone broth and then frozen in ice cube trays as a treat they can savor. The flesh can also be directly mixed into food prior to feedingor easily added into homemade treats such as thesePumpkin Cherry Dog Treats. You can try feeding ¼ gram ofcherry flesh per 1 lb of your dog’s weight. You can also mix this with other beneficial, dog-safe fruits and veggies likewatermelon (flesh only),blueberries, cooked beets, cooked broccoli, and cooked carrots. Again, remember to discard theleaves of cherries as well as thecherry pits and stems. Because cherries can be unsafe when not properly prepared, avoid feeding cherries to dogs who may be vulnerable (puppies or reproducing dogs).
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