Can dogs eat blueberries? How about strawberries or cranberries? Not only can dogs eat berries, you should share them with your dog regularly!
Berries have a huge amount of antioxidants that will help your dog live longer and better.
Dogs are Living Longer
You’ve heard people say that one dog year is equal to about seven human years of life. That may have been true at one time, but these days, one dog year is closer to five or six human years.
Thanks to advances in nutrition and veterinary medicine, dogs are living longer these days (Kraft 1997). It’s not uncommon to see even medium-sized dogs still getting around well at the ripe old age of fifteen.
How can you help your dog not just survive but thrive for many years? Start by promoting healthy living with plenty of exercise, good sleep, and great nutrition. As your dog ages, nutrition becomes even more important to balance all the physiological stresses he’s exposed to by living an average life.
Dogs Suffer from Free Radical Damage, Too
A dog’s normal body functions produce waste products called free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells if they are not detoxified by antioxidants.
Free radicals also come from the environment in the form of cigarette smoke, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, ozone, etc. The longer a dog lives, the more free radical exposure he experiences.
The term antioxidant has been a buzzword amongst health enthusiasts lately. You probably know that antioxidants are good, but what are they and where do they come from?
Antioxidants are compounds that detoxify free radicals. The body can make a few antioxidants, but the main source of antioxidants for humans and animals is plant-origin foods.
Some vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants. The big ones are vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and the minerals manganese and selenium. Plants contain antioxidants compounds called flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens.
Nature’s Delicious Antioxidant Pill
What if there were a pill you could give your dog that contained lots of natural flavonoids? These flavonoids have been found to slow memory loss in humans (Devore 2012), boost heart health (Roizen 2012), and decrease excess mortality (Rissanen 2003)?
What if your dog would eat this “pill” eagerly without you having to hide it inside a blob of cream cheese?
You’re in luck! You just need to offer your dog some delicious berries.
Researchers have found that free radicals are involved in the development of chronic diseases. The antioxidant in berries called anthocyanidin can protect cells from free radical damage. Berries of all types contain these antioxidants that may help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension and many other chronic diseases.
Although antioxidant research centers mostly on human subjects, it’s reasonable to assume dogs would get a similar benefit from eating berries.
- Acai berries
- Goji berries
- Pomegranate arils
The One Berry You Should Never Give Your Dog
Although most of us don’t think of them as berries, grapes are indeed in the berry family. Grapes are the one berry that should not be fed to dogs.
The toxic principle in grapes is not known, but eating grapes can cause acute kidney failure in some dogs. Never feed a dog grapes!
How to Feed Berries to Your Dog
Go ahead and share some berries with your dog. Fresh, frozen or (unsweetened) dried–they make a great treat with a big health benefit.
It’s OK to cook berries before you feed them to your dog. Heat will not significantly destroy the antioxidants contained in the berries.
Most dogs will gobble up a few berries as a treat or mixed with their regular meal. If your dog isn’t used to getting fresh foods, start with one berry a day and wait to see if it upsets his stomach.
After a few days of test-feeding with no digestive problems, you can gradually increase the amount depending on the size of your dog. Small dogs should be able to handle three or four small berries each day. Medium and large dogs can be offered up to 1/4 cup per day.
Organic Berries are Best
Berries are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” foods list. Dirty Dozen foods are likely to contain large amounts of pesticides unless they’re organically grown. It would be a shame to negate the antioxidants in berries by exposing your dog to lots of toxic pesticides.
Maybe fresh organic berries are out of season or are too expensive for your budget. Your dog will get the same benefits from frozen or dried organic berries.
Berries can make up a small but significant portion of your dog’s diet. Their natural antioxidants are an easy way to help your dog live longer and better. Best of all, your dog will think berries are just another tasty treat!
Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M. B., & Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology, 72(1), 135–143.
Kraft, W., & Danckert, D. (1997). Development of the age structure of a cat population compared with the dog. Tierarztliche Praxis. Ausgabe K, Kleintiere/Heimtiere, 25(6), 678-683.
Rissanen TH, Voutilainen S, Virtanen JK, Venho B, Vanharanta M, et al. (2003) Low intake of fruits, berries and vegetables is associated with excess mortality in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study. J Nutr 133: 199–204.
Roizen, M. (2012). The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study. Yearbook of Anesthesiology and Pain Management,2012, 24-25.