Fruits are chock full of nutrients, which is why doctors recommend having four to five servings of them every day.
Apples, oranges, bananas, berries–every fruit that forms part of a well-balanced diet has something to contribute to your overall wellbeing. Surely what works for humans can also work for their canine companions, right?
You might want to hold off giving that cup of cherries.
A dog’s digestive system works differently from that of a human, starting with the teeth. Since the common dog (Canis familiaris) descended from the gray wolf (Canis lupus), it has more teeth that can crush the toughest foodstuffs. Their stomach acids are much more corrosive, allowing them to break down bones more efficiently than humans.
A dog’s system also lacks some enzymes and functions inherent in human digestion. Ever wonder why you can’t feed your dog chocolate? This is because they can’t digest theobromine, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound that increases blood flow to the brain. Instead of being broken down, the chocolate will pile up until it starts giving the dog seizures (excess theobromine is even toxic to humans).
But take heart, dog’s best friend. Dogs can still enjoy a wide variety of foods; you just have to pick out the right ones. Fruits are fair game as long as their bodies can digest them promptly. With that titular question out of the way, here’s a guide on choosing suitable fruits to add to their diet.
People usually don’t think about toxins in fruits, given that they’re supposed to benefit their health. While toxins exist in virtually everything you eat, either there’s too little or the body is finely tuned to isolate them when digesting. Of course, moderation is still necessary; the body can only handle so much nasty stuff before it caves in.
However, a dog’s threshold against toxins is lower. It won’t take as much as ingesting fruit seeds or rinds, if not the fruit itself, to make it fall ill. Below are some fruits that can be dangerous to dogs, as per the American Kennel Club (AKC).
- Avocado – Experts advise against feeding your dog avocado because the skin and pit contain persin, which is known to cause diarrhea among dogs. Even the flesh carries its share of risks, as its high-fat content can cause digestive problems.
- Cherry – The cherry plant from top to bottom (except for the flesh) is rich in cyanide. As it prevents blood cells from getting oxygen, cyanide can cause breathing difficulties. The pits can remain stuck in a dog’s digestive tract for a long time.
- Grapes – Current research still can’t determine what makes grapes toxic to dogs, but there have been thousands of grape poisoning cases over the years. Raisins are also a no-no for the same reason.
- Tomato – The fruit itself is safe, but the green part contains solanine, a compound that can induce diarrhea and vomiting.
Granted, the fruits mentioned here can help with bowel movement in humans. An ideal alternative would be probiotics for dogs, which you can read this post here in detail. Probiotics may help with health conditions prevalent among aging dogs, including loss of appetite and bowel movement.
The good news is that dogs can eat most fruits that their human owners eat with proper preparation. Introduce them slowly into the dog’s diet to not upset the dog’s tummy in the first few meals.
Here are some of the best ones, again as prescribed by the AKC.
- Apple – Rich in fiber and Vitamins A and C, apples are a suitable snack for aging canines. Make sure to remove the core and seeds before serving.
- Banana – The plethora of minerals bananas contain, especially potassium, makes them an ideal snack. But they’re also high in sugar, so it’s best to offer them in moderation.
- Blueberry – Use blueberries in place of dog treats, especially when training them. They’re chock full of antioxidants that benefit both humans and canines alike.
- Orange – Citrus fruits are generally okay with dogs, though they may not like the citrusy smell. Remove any seeds and only offer the fleshy parts for a tremendous vitamin boost.
- Pineapple – Aside from vitamins and minerals, pineapples are rich in bromelain, helping absorb protein and fight off certain health conditions.
- Watermelon – With a water content of over 90%, watermelons can help keep dogs well-hydrated. Like other fruits, remove the seeds and only feed the fleshy parts.
It’s important to remember that fruits aren’t meant to substitute full meals. Compared to dog food, fruits don’t contain as many nutrients and are less filling. And, as with some of these examples, the sugar content can get to dangerous levels with consistent feeding. So, think of them as supplements to go along with their bowl of dog chow.
Furthermore, just because a fruit variant falls under the same family doesn’t necessarily make it a safe option. Grapefruits, for example, are citrus fruits but don’t offer much in the way of nutrition. They also taste bitter, so dogs might not like them. If unsure of what to give them, ask a local vet.
For dried fruits, the same rules apply. Raisins are basically dried grapes, so they’re also dangerous to dogs. On the other hand, dried mangoes and pineapples are acceptable. They also have the added benefit of saving you the trouble of peeling, decoring, and deseeding the fruits.
But keep in mind that dried fruits tend to contain more sugar than fresh ones, mostly added during processing. As everyone should know by now, too much sugar can cause a slew of problems–from tooth decay to diabetes. Never go overboard in giving them a fruity health boost.
On the matter of sugar, always settle for fresh fruits instead of canned ones. Canned fruits contain more sugar apart from the ones they inherently have, mainly present in the syrup.
Overall, as long as only the flesh is involved, most fruits are safe for dogs to consume. However, with the rinds and seeds containing the toxins that can harm them, it’s not usually worth the effort. A well-planned feeding schedule should provide the dog the nutrients they need to grow healthy. But if you want to serve some fruit with it, choose wisely.