Berry Good ...
Can dogs eat berries?
Yes, they can. Many types of berries are a nutritious snack for humans and dogs. But not all berries are safe for you or your dog to eat. There is an app you can download to your phone that will help you identify and determine whether a berry is safe to eat. It is called Wild Berries and Herbs LITE, and is described as the ultimate field guide to wild berries, fruits and herbs of Europe and North America. Lots of good information that fits in the palm of your hand!
Berries are small, pulpy, brightly colored edible fruits that contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your health and the health of your dog. They are generally juicy and have a sour or sweet taste. Berries have seeds or pips, but there are no stones or pits.
If you want to add berries to your dog’s diet, they should not comprise more than 10 percent of the total meal. The other 90 percent should be from a dog food that is complete and balanced. Remember to make sure the fruits are clean before adding them to your dog’s food. Wash them well in water to remove any remaining dirt or pesticides.
The size of berries makes them easy to eat. They can be fed whole, diced, mashed or pureed. Some dogs may be confused by the texture of fruit in their food, so you can try feeding them as frozen treats. Larger berries, such as strawberries, can be sliced.
Which types of berries are SAFE for dogs to eat?
Blueberries are native to North American and easily recognized by their indigo color. The blueberry plant is a perennial flowering shrub. There is also a smaller “lowbush” blueberry that grows in the wild. The unripened fruit has a pale green color that turns to a dark purple. The berries measure from .2 to .6 inches in diameter and have a flared crown at their bottom part.
These little berries are packed with helpful substances. Besides being low in calorie, blueberries contain essential vitamins and nutrients. They have antioxidants that fight free radicals, which cause damage to the cells in a dog’s body. Antioxidants boost your dog’s immune system.
Blueberries also contain phytochemicals that fight cancer, as well as Vitamin C, which will improve your dog’s white blood cells and produce antibodies to combat toxins, bacteria and viruses.
Blackberries are a relative of the raspberry. In botanical terms, these are aggregate fruits composed of small sections called drupelets. These berries are great additions to your dog’s diet. Blackberries contain Omega-3 essential fatty acids that keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy. They contain fiber, which helps digestion.
Blackberries also have antioxidants, as well as Vitamin A to help prevent dry, itchy skin and dull coats. They are full of other vitamins, including Vitamin C, which has anti-cancer properties, and Vitamin K, which helps blood clot correctly to avoid excessive bleeding. There is Vitamin E, which improves muscles and blood circulation.
While blackberries and raspberries are safe for dogs to eat, consuming too many can result in stomach upset and diarrhea. Blackberries contain a small amount of the substitute sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Your dog would have to eat a massive quantity of blackberries to be poisoned, but, still, you should limit your dog to a handful of blackberries a day to be safe.
Raspberries are one of the berries with the highest amount of naturally occurring xylitol, although it is a very small amount. For raspberries to cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a 20-pound dog would have to eat four to six cups of raspberries. To eat enough raspberries to be fatal, that same dog would have to eat at least 32 cups of raspberries.
Strawberries are technically an aggregate accessory fruit and not a real botanical berry. They are grown worldwide and easily recognized by their bright red color and sweet-tasting, juicy fruit. People consume strawberries in large quantities, whether fresh, frozen or freeze-dried.
This popular fruit contains lots of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, antioxidants, beta-carotene, phytochemicals and potassium. Strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties that can help your dog deal with joint and muscle pain, as well as relieve headaches.
Cranberries, fresh and dried, are also safe for dogs to eat. The drawback to cranberries is their bitter taste. These round, red berries got their name from the Pilgrims. They named it “craneberry” because the blossoms looked like Sandhill Crane heads.
There are many health benefits to eating cranberries. They contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and manganese for growth. Cranberries are also high in fiber and antioxidants, as well as quercetin for allergies and joint pain, and proanthocyanidins, which are polyphenols that help with urinary and gut health, heart disease and cancer.
Preventing and treating urinary tract infections is one of the best-known medicinal uses of cranberries. UTIs may be more common in females, both human and canine, but males can get them, too. Many UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria. Cranberries have anti-bacterial properties. One way they help is by stopping E. coli bacteria from sticking to the cells lining the urinary bladder. Cranberries can also stop recurrent infections if your dog is prone to them.
Which types of berries should NOT be fed to dogs?
Holly berries are familiar as Christmas decorations. The leaves of the holly plant are glossy green with spines on the edges. The berries are usually red, but can be dark brown to black or even yellow and green. These berries are toxic to both humans and dogs. Holly berries have substances like cyanogens, saponins and methylxanthines, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Eating the spiny leaves can cause damage to the intestinal tract from the mouth to the colon.
Juniper berries, despite their name, are not real berries. The fruit is more like a seed cone with fleshy scales that give it a berry-like appearance. Ancient civilizations used the juniper berry as a medicine and spice. The fruit is good for different cooking purposes, but the Juniperus Sabina species is poisonous due to its toxic compounds like ethereal oil. Ingestion of these berries may cause kidney problems, hypoglycemia and seizures.
Baneberries are seriously toxic. The small, round berries grow in clusters and are white or glossy red in color. The leaves of the plant have a jagged edge. The word “bani” in Old Norse means slayer and translates to “bane” in English. They are aptly named. As few as six baneberries will be fatal to a person or dog. The berry has glucoside and ranunculin compounds that cause poisoning. Baneberries have a bitter taste, and their high level of acidity can burn the mouth and throat. Signs of baneberry poisoning are skin blisters, bloody urine, heart and nerve damage, and sudden death.
Poke berries are the fruits of the pokeweed plant. This plant grows exclusively in North America. The berries are either purple or black and form in long clusters. Pokeweed grows wild since no farmer would cultivate this plant because of its toxicity. Some songbird species are not affected by the toxins, but ingesting poke berries can be fatal to dogs. Examples of poke-berry toxicity are low blood pressure, stomach and intestinal inflammation, diarrhea and bloody stool.
Mistletoe berries are bought by many of us for decorations at Christmas time. The mistletoe plant has waxy white berries that grow in clusters of six or more. Mistletoe berries contain lectins, polysaccharides and alkaloids, all of which are harmful to your dog’s internal organs. Eating large amounts of mistletoe berries can cause stomach irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, wobbly gait and seizures.
Adding moderate amounts of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries to your dog’s diet can be a good thing. Wild berries or decorative berries are another matter. You need to be aware of what your dog may be snacking on when walking in the woods or fields, and keep all ornamental berry plants out of reach.