Cranberries reportedly have many health benefits for humans. But what about for dogs? Can you – or should you – feed your dog cranberries? And, are all of those health claims true?
Cranberries are native to New England. Most of the cranberries in the world come from the United States, Canada, and Chile. Wisconsin and Massachusetts are the largest cranberry-producing states in the U.S. Cranberries are related to bilberries, blueberries, and huckleberries. Cranberry juice cocktail (not cranberry juice) is sweetened with one teaspoon of sugar per ounce making it more highly sweetened than soft drinks.
Are Cranberries Good for Your Dog?
Cranberries are not toxic to dogs. Given to your dog in small amounts, they do not pose a risk. They may even have some health benefits for your dog. However, cranberries and dried cranberries are generally tart (unless they contain added sugar) and many dogs dislike tart foods.
Cranberries are made up of 95 percent carbohydrates, 2 percent fat, and 3 percent protein. They are a good source of vitamin E and vitamin K; and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. However, even though they are tart in taste, like other berries, a large portion of the calories in cranberries comes from their natural sugars. This makes them problematic for dogs with diabetes and dogs with weight problems.
Many claims have been made for the health benefits of cranberries but most of them apply to humans. Research is lacking to support many of these claims for dogs. There does seem to be some evidence to justify the belief that cranberries can help with urinary tract problems such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). They may help lower the pH of your dog’s urine to make it more acidic which is better for your dog’s urinary tract. However, according to the site PetfoodIndustry.com and author Greg Aldrich, PhD, there is little evidence that cranberries are providing substantial benefit to the urinary tracts of pets.
Cranberries do have antioxidants since they contain high levels of ascorbic acid and Vitamin C. The fiber in cranberries may help with some issues but whether it is better for your dog than other kinds of dietary fiber in dog foods is not known. Cranberries in various forms are used in many dog foods today. For use in dog foods, cranberries may have some preservative function but they may also be just another trendy ingredient.
Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce or Have Cranberry Juice?
Dogs can eat cranberry sauce in very small amounts but you do need to use caution. Since cranberries are tart, most cranberry sauce is high in sugar. Giving your dog any food that contains lots of sugar can pose a risk of gastrointestinal upset. Some recipes for cranberry sauce can also include other ingredients such as raisins, grapes, or currants which are all toxic to dogs. You can give your dog some plain cranberry sauce but keep the amount small and make sure it doesn’t contain any other ingredients that might be harmful to your dog.
Dried cranberries are also safe for your dog to eat but, again, you need to be careful that there are not any rains, grapes, currants, or other possibly harmful ingredients included with the cranberries.
As for cranberry juice, you should not give it to your dog. Cranberry juice virtually always contains added amounts of fructose or sugar that are bad for your dog.
Since cranberries are so tart, it’s a good idea to check them to see how much sugar they contain. If you want to give your dog any kind of cranberry dish, keep the amount moderate since most of these foods have added sugar.
Are there cautions about cranberries?
While cranberries are not toxic, you should only give them to your dog in moderation. If your dog eats too many cranberries he will probably have an upset stomach or diarrhea. Cranberries are very acidic. Eating too many of them can lead to the development of kidney stones or calcium oxalate stones in your dog’s bladder. You should be especially careful if you have a small dog.
You also need to be careful about giving your dog cranberries, especially dried cranberries or trail mix, since other fruits such as raisins and grapes are sometimes included in packages. If you simply grab a handful of berries to give your dog you might not notice that it contains raisins or grapes – both of which are toxic to dogs. Be very cautious about the cranberries you purchase and make sure that any package ONLY contains cranberries.
How to Give Your Dog Cranberries
You can give offer your dog fresh cranberries or dried cranberries. You can also give your dog a little plain cranberry sauce.
Remember that cranberries are very tart so not all dogs will like them. If cranberry foods have too much sugar added they are not recommended for your dog since sugar is unhealthy for dogs.
Cranberries are not toxic so it’s safe to give them to your dog in moderation. Be sure that the cranberries do not include raisins, grapes, currants, or other ingredients that could be harmful to your dog. Avoid giving your dog any cranberry dishes that contain too much sugar.