Dogs and Blueberries: The Good, Bad and the Berry
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Can Dogs Eat Blueberries?
As a conscientious pet caregiver, you may ask yourself: Can I give my dog blueberries? The answer is, a resounding, yes. Blueberries are a healthy, low-calorie snacks for dogs.
Veterinarians and canine nutritionists have determined that blueberries are safe for dogs to eat. The tiny fruit contains many antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins that are essential for dog and human health. Fresh or frozen, blueberries (and strawberries too) are a nutritious snack for you and your dog.
Are Blueberries Good for Dogs?
Blueberries offer powerful nutritional bonuses to dogs. Phytochemicals that occur naturally may combat cancer. The phytochemical compound polyphenol supports cardiovascular health. Antioxidants also fight inflammation and cancer-causing free radicals, such as pollution, in both humans and dogs. Reducing inflammation can minimize brain aging in dogs and lessen arthritis pain.
Vitamins in blueberries, such as C and K, promote a stronger immune system. Blueberry fiber contributes to digestive health and regular bowel movements. Trace elements such as calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, which aren’t always available in the meat, are present in blueberries. They are often added to commercial food and treats. However, the actual number of blueberries added may not be enough to have a positive effect on your dog’s health.
Are Blueberries Bad for Dogs?
In general, no. However, blueberries are small and can present choking hazards, especially to dogs who eat fast. Dogs who binge on any food they find could end up with indigestion or an adverse reaction. Use caution if your dog has access to blueberries in a garden.
Consumed in large amounts, the fiber in blueberries can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. The sugar can cause cavities. When present in people food, like pancakes and muffins, wheat flour and sugar can result in gastritis and tooth decay. Artificial blueberry and fruit flavorings and sweeteners can contain chemicals that can harm dogs. If you have questions, always refer to your vet.
How To Feed Your Dog Blueberries
Blueberries provide excellent snacking food that contains antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. Most dogs tolerate fresh blueberries well, and they can take their place beside blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries as fresh fruit treats. Serve them fresh, frozen, dried, or blended with other ingredients.
Even though blueberries are perfectly healthy for your dog to eat, consider the following pointers on safety, quantities, and preparation.
- Be Safe: When feeding something new, especially human food, always consult your vet to ensure those choices are suitable for your dog’s unique constitution. Some foods that are fine for humans to consume, such as chocolate and grapes, can be poisonous or fatal to dogs.
- Feed Blueberries in Moderation: Always feed your dog a 100 percent complete and balanced diet and take into account snacks and treats. No matter what food you offer, consider your dog’s breed, size, age, and lifestyle. Also, consider monitoring your dog while he’s eating the berries. Because they’re small, some people think they are easy for dogs to eat; others consider blueberries a choking hazard.
- Picking and Preparing Berries for Your Dog: If possible, buy sustainably-raised blueberries to avoid pesticides and herbicides. For fresh berries, discard old, dried out, or moldy berries. Wash them carefully to remove dirt, germs, manure, and herbicide and pesticide residue.
- Gradually Introduce Blueberries: As with any new food, gradually incorporate blueberries into your dog’s diet. Give him two to three and watch for any negative reactions, stomach upset, vomiting, itching, or loose stools. If he seems fine, try giving two to three berries a couple of times a day. Work up to a handful a day or up to 10-12 berries.
Blueberry Recipes for Dogs
Fresh, raw, individual berries are delicious, but why not explore other tastes and textures with your dog?
- Frozen berries make a frosty treat on a warm day, and the frozen fruit provides a unique texture. Freeze fresh fruit yourself or buy bags of sustainable frozen blueberries.
- Dried blueberries are a sweet, chewy snack.
- Add a few dried berries to a Kong along with nut butter or in a busy ball with crunchie treats.
- Puree blueberries with yogurt to make a dog-sized smoothie.
- Mash the blueberries and add them to regular food.
- Sprinkle whole blueberries on food.
Dog biscuits offer something more substantial for the dog to chew on and eliminate the risk of choking that can occur with small foods. Grain-free fresh or baked treats are also great for dogs whose primary diet includes grain.
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¼ coconut flour
- ½ can pumpkin
- ½ cup blueberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix ingredients until smooth, then gently stir in blueberries to avoid breaking them. Drop a tablespoon of the mixture onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Coconut milk and coconut cream are fine for dogs to eat in moderation. Make these treats in fun ice cube molds or plain trays for hot summer days.
- ½ cup coconut cream
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 banana, mashed
- ½ cup blueberries
Mash the banana, then combine with coconut cream and coconut milk. Pour mixture into ice cube molds or trays, filling to half. Add a blueberry. Cover the blueberries with the banana mixture to the top of the mold. Freeze for 20 minutes before serving. Freeze any leftover treats, and thaw on the countertop for five minutes or until the treats release easily from the molds.
Everybody loves a donut as a reward, including Fido. These dog-friendly treats are likely the easiest donuts you ever made.
- ½ cup applesauce
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- ½ cup blueberries
- Plain Greek yogurt to frost, if desired
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix first three ingredients until smooth, then gently stir in the blueberries to avoid breaking them. Spoon mixture evenly into a large donut baking pan or a mini-donut pan.
The Benefits of Blueberries for Dogs
In addition to being a superfood that you can share with your dog, blueberries make excellent treats. Since they are low in calories and sugar, blueberries work well for training and as a snack for dogs on a diet. Even dogs with diabetes can enjoy blueberries but ask your vet first.
How Many Blueberries Can I Give My Dog?
Most dogs can tolerate about a dozen or fewer blueberries at once. Feed petite dogs even less. Too much of any food, including blueberries, can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. If you grow blueberries, overconsumption may be problematic. However, a few self-serve berries occasionally are fine.
When Should Dogs Eat Blueberries?
Dogs can eat blueberries as a treat for good behavior, a snack, or even as part of their meal.
How Many Blueberries are Appropriate for a Dog Treat?
Limit treats of any type (including blueberries) to 10 percent of your dog’s diet. As with other training treats, save the dog’s favorite treat for last, and let them sniff it as a reward for correct responses.
Blueberries are easy to carry in a small container or bag, so they’re a natural addition to on-the-go training tools.
Does Dog Food Contain Blueberries?
Some commercial blends contain blueberries. The addition of fruit and vegetables aims to mimic the ancestral canine diet, as found in raw food blends like Darwin’s. An ancestral diet eliminates grains and includes mostly meat, but also grasses and some fruits, vegetables, and berries.
Poisonous Fruits and Other Toxic Foods for Dogs
Cherries, grapes, and raisins are toxic to both cats and dogs. These fruits can cause kidney damage, pancreatitis, or even death. Dangerous wild berries include holly berries, baneberries, juniper berries, pokeberries, and mistletoe berries. Also, ensure your dog doesn’t consume any of the following: avocado, dark chocolate, garlic, mushrooms, nuts, and macadamia nuts in particular, and onions.
Here’s a list of other items that can cause your dog discomfort:
- Stomach Irritants: Citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, grapefruit, and persimmons, can upset a dog’s stomach.
- Choking Hazards: When fed singly, blueberries present a possible choking hazard if consumed too fast. Small dogs especially may also choke on frozen blueberries. Cherry, peach, and plum pits also present choking hazards and contain amygdalin, a substance that breaks down into the poisonous hydrogen cyanide during digestion. If your dog tends to hoover up food, feed them blueberries or another fruit one at a time.
- Fruits to Avoid: The flesh of peaches and plums are safe for dogs to eat. However, the pits present a choking hazard and contain hazardous substances. So, some people think it is better to avoid feeding dogs these fruits because a dog might scarf down a whole fruit if he finds it in the yard or trash.
Signs of Grape or Raisin Poisoning
Grapes and raisins are extremely toxic for dogs, even in small amounts. Signs of grape or raisin poisoning include:
- Vomiting or diarrhea within hours of consuming the substance. Vomit and feces may contain pieces of grapes or raisins.
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Limited urination or no urination
- Bad breath
- Tremors and seizures
What to Do if a Dog Eats a Forbidden Fruit
If you suspect your dog has eaten grapes or raisins, or any other dangerous substance, call your vet immediately. Explain the symptoms and what you think the dog ate, how much, and his size, age, and breed. The vet may ask you to perform specific steps to counteract the toxin.
Are Dogs Allergic to Blueberries?
If a dog overeats anything—even in blueberries—it can cause a gastric or allergic reaction. Signs of an intolerance or allergy include excessive licking and scratching, vomiting, diarrhea, skin hot spots, and skin and ear infections.
Stop feeding blueberries or restrict your dog’s access to blueberry plants and consult your vet.
What Other Fruits are Good for Dogs?
As nutritious and delicious as blueberries are, your dogs may find them bitter. That’s okay. Plenty of other natural fruit treats exist to tempt your dog. Try feeding a sweeter fruit, such as strawberries or bananas. Strawberries have the added benefit of a naturally occurring enzyme that cleans dog teeth. Blackberries, raspberries, and even cranberries are all chock full of antioxidants. Banana peels are not toxic but can present a choking hazard and cause digestive blockages.
But why give them just bananas and berries? Dogs can safely eat cut up apples, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, pears, pineapple, pumpkin, and watermelon. Be sure to wash the fruit carefully and remove any seeds.
Unlike cats, some dogs may enjoy eating oranges, and similar fruit, such as tangerines and clementines. Oranges contain a lot of sugar, so limit how many your dog eats. For example, half of an orange or one tangerine is probably enough for a small dog. Observe your dog for stomach upset and use caution if your dog has diabetes.
If you want to branch out to other plant-based snacks, look to vegetables: offer your dog asparagus, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumber, green beans, or zucchini. Again, be sure to wash the vegetables thoroughly and consider cutting up larger vegetables for smaller dogs, or according to your dog’s preference.
How to Source Fresh and Organic Blueberries Where You Live
Although most fruits and vegetables can be fresh or fresh frozen, some produce should also be organic or sustainably-raised to eliminate the risk of eating non-GMO food and herbicides and pesticides. Two fruits on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of pesticide -prone fruits are strawberries and blueberries. These fruits are not peeled, so it’s especially important to avoid pesticides.
You may find organic berries through the fall in farmer’s markets or at a sustainably u-pick farm. Consider joining a CSA community supported garden that offers blueberries. Smaller natural markets will offer fresh berries when available, and now, many grocery chains also stock a range of organic items, sometimes even in winter.
Are Blueberry Plants Toxic to Dogs?
Blueberry bushes aren’t toxic to dogs. But the plants receive regular supplements of 10-10-10 fertilizer with either ammonium sulfate or potassium sulfate. Although safe in small amounts, extensive contact with ammonium sulfate can cause lethargy and breathing and mobility issues in dogs.
Consider choosing a fertilizer with potassium sulfate, which is safe and is even added to commercial pet food. The plants may also be troubled by insects or funguses. Pesticides that combat these problems can be toxic to dogs. Isolate the shrubs from your dog if you use toxic options. Fortunately, sustainable, non-toxic pesticides are also available.
Blueberries grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones three through eight—in other words, in most of the lower 48 states and parts of Alaska. Dogs can adversely affect blueberry bushes if they urinate on or near them. The nitrogen in urine can soften berries and predispose them to rot or cause lush leaf growth with few berries.
Dogs are opportunistic eaters, who may eat a cookie crumb from the kitchen floor or found fruit in the garden. For that reason, you may need to fence off your blueberry and other bushes to keep your dog from gorging—and to ensure you get fruit for yourself.
How To Encourage a Dog to Eat Blueberries?
To discourage bad behavior, such as eating any food they find, you have to encourage good behavior. Offer healthy foods as rewards when the dog does something right, such as patiently sitting through his bath. Eat a bowl of blueberries or other food, and sound enthusiastic about it. Your dog will be intrigued because whatever a person is eating is always more interesting than what’s in their bowl. Drop a blueberry on the floor. If your dog doesn’t think he’s supposed to have it, he’ll be excited about stealing a forbidden treat. You can also add blueberries to food your dog already likes.
What About Cats? Can Cats Eat Blueberries?
If you can get your cat to eat raw fruits and vegetables, the selection is largely the same as for dogs. Cats can’t eat a vegetarian diet, even if they wanted to, because their bodies can’t manufacture certain amino acids. For cats, veggies and fruits are best served as treats, not as the main meal. Cats may enjoy cooked vegetables such as peas, broccoli, carrots, and even brussels sprouts. However, cats usually like it when they come from a human’s plate, and the vegetables are covered in butter or meat or poultry juices. Some cats enjoy zucchini. Try grating some veggies in your cat’s bowl or over food.
Complement a Raw Diet with Blueberries
Interested in feeding your dog a healthy diet of food found in nature? Consider a raw diet that we deliver right to your door. At Darwin’s Pet Products, our number one goal is to help keep your pets healthy and active for as long as possible and a diet consisting of hypoallergenic dog food can help. To help accomplish this goal, we provide a library of articles in the hope of providing consumers with useful information to help their pets. And, primarily, we produce affordable, high-quality raw dog and cat meals which we ship directly to consumers, so they are as fresh and convenient as possible. Our meals are high in protein, gluten-free, wheat-free, and are created to provide complete and balanced nutrition. We encourage you to learn more about our meals for dogs and meals for cats.
If you think you might want a trial of Darwin’s pet food (at an introductory price), we would love to send you our meals and hear how much your dog or cat loves them. We also offer free menu consultations with our team if you have any questions.