A staple dish on most holiday dinner tables, cranberries might appear to be a nice treat to share with your pet. The good news is, these tart little berries are safe for dogs and can offer a plethora of nutritional benefits, from disease prevention to urinary tract health. However, too many might actually be harmful. Discover how to safely add cranberries to your dog's diet.
Cranberries are a Safe Treat for Dogs
Cranberries are a tart, little super fruit that can provide your dog with a number of health benefits. These berries are a rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and manganese. In addition to boosting the immune system and improving heart health, cranberries also contain antimicrobial properties, which contribute to a healthy gut and urinary health.
Urinary Tract Benefits of Cranberries
You may be familiar with reports that cranberries can support urinary tract health; the same may be true in dogs. Some studies suggest that components of cranberry, namely proanthocyanidins, can help prevent the adhesion and development of certain bacteria strains that cause urinary tract infections.
It's critical to note that cranberry supplementation does not treat UTIs, as antibiotics are required to eliminate the infection-causing bacteria. However, cranberries could help as a preventive measure. If your dog shows any signs of urinary tract infection, see your veterinarian for appropriate treatment.
How Many Cranberries Can Your Dog Have?
Although cranberries are nutritionally beneficial, they should be given in moderation. Most experts recommend giving no more than a handful of berries -- fewer if they're dried. Start with a few and see how your dog likes them. Many dogs are averse to the tart and sour taste of cranberries, so there's a chance your pup may not even want to eat them.
But if they do like the taste, avoid overfeeding. Too many of these tart berries can lead to stomach upset or even the development of calcium oxalate urinary crystals. If your dog consumes a large quantity of cranberries, monitor them for vomiting, diarrhea, and signs of urinary problems, including incontinence, straining to urinate, or bloody urine.
How to Prepare Cranberries for Dogs
If you'd like to give your dog cranberries, there are various ways to prepare them.
- Raw: Fresh, raw cranberries are safe for dogs, but they can be a choking hazard, particularly in small dogs. Chop raw cranberries into quarters to prevent choking.
- Frozen: Dogs may enjoy frozen fruit as a cool snack or topping on their meal. As with fresh, raw cranberries, always cut frozen berries into quarters or smaller to prevent choking.
- Dried: Dried cranberries without any added sugar are a healthy treat for dogs in moderation.
- Cooked: Boil down cranberries into a dog-safe sauce. Do not add any sugar or flavorings. Always allow cooked dishes to cool before serving to a dog. You could also consider baking these berries into a batch of dog treats or cooking a few in your dog's homemade food.
Avoid Cranberry Sauce, Jelly, and Juice
Given the health benefits of this fruit, you might be tempted to share a holiday cranberry sauce with your dog. This is not wise. Canned cranberry sauces are loaded with sugar, which can be dangerous for pets. Many homemade recipes also call for high volumes of sugar and might even include brandy or raisins. These ingredients are toxic to dogs. Many cranberry juices also contain grape juice, which is dangerous. Avoid sharing cranberry dishes or products with your pup and instead prepare them some dog-safe cranberries.
Dried Versus Fresh
Both dried and fresh cranberries are safe for your dog to eat. However, it's important to note that dried fruits are more concentrated with calories and sugar. One cup of dried, unsweetened cranberries has about 120 calories, which is three times the number compared to a cup of fresh raw berries. This means that your dog will receive less volume and likely feel less satisfied when offered dried fruit pieces.
Unfortunately, dried cranberries are often packaged with other dried fruit varieties. Although most other fruits are safe, raisins are highly toxic and even fatal for dogs. Avoid these fruit mixes and instead purchase solely dried, unsweetened cranberries to keep your pup safe.
Cranberry Treats and Supplements for Dogs
If your dog doesn't like the taste of cranberries but you'd like them to reap the benefits of this tart fruit, consider giving them a supplement. Choose a canine-specific supplement that does not contain toxic ingredients like xylitol. Nutramax Crananidin is often recommended by veterinarians, but check with your vet to pick the best product for your dog. You can also add cranberries to your dog's diet through pre-packaged or homemade dog treats containing the berries.
Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?
Although cranberries might be an acquired taste that many dogs do not prefer, there are benefits to adding cranberry to your dog's diet. Consider a supplement with cranberry extract or bake these fruits into dog treats. Confirm with your veterinarian how much is safe for your dog, and if they consume a cranberry dish with toxic ingredients, seek urgent veterinary care.