Sharing a snack with your canine companion is great fun, and dogs love sampling ‘people food’! It can also be quite difficult to eat something in front of your dog while trying to resist those begging eyes!
Unfortunately, not all ‘people foods’ are good for dogs—and some can be downright dangerous.
Knowing which foods your dog can and can't eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner, even if it seems like he’s able to eat anything and everything.
There are lots of foods out there that contain lots of great nutritional benefits for both humans and dogs. Some of them you can definitely share together! In fact, you might be surprised to find out how many different foods dogs can eat, especially if you’ve only known dogs to eat canned or packaged dog food.
Many of the foods you enjoy yourself are safe for your doggo, too, but some can cause anything from an upset tummy to serious health conditions.
Fruits are a tricky one because of the enormous variety out there. Fruits contain skins, pits, stems, leaves, and other parts that aren’t easy to digest. Of course, dogs don’t know this. While rich in nutrients, some fruits pose certain risks—especially if they contain stones.
Cherries, for example, are small stone fruits that are generally in two categories: tart and sweet cherries. They are delicious for humans and great fun to add to desserts, but can dogs eat cherries?
The answer here is yes and no. Generally speaking, cherries aren’t good for dogs and should be off-limits. Technically speaking, though, cherries without pits are ok to give your dog. Let’s explain further.
So, can cherries be bad for dogs? Unfortunately, yes—but only if you feed them the entire cherry, stone and all. The flesh of a cherry is actually quite safe for dogs to eat, and it even harbors a variety of important nutrients. Cherries are a good source of vitamins A and C, fiber, and antioxidants, which are highly beneficial for dogs. But remember, as with any fruit, eating large amounts of cherry flesh could cause gastrointestinal issues and upset stomach. Pretty much the same as when you eat too much fruit yourself!
The real problem with cherries is the stone (or cherry pit), the stem, and the leaves. All of these contain cyanide and pose a risk of cyanide toxicity. Like other stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and apricots, cherry pits contain this toxic compound that can be broken down into a poison in the body. Us humans can handle small quantities of cyanide compounds; our bodies know how to detoxify and flush them out. So, if you’ve ever swallowed a cherry pit in a pie or eaten an apple core, you have nothing to worry about. But large quantities of those cherry pits, stems, or leaves can be toxic to dogs. Although one pit or a small piece of stem probably won’t be enough to cause cyanide poisoning (or an intestinal obstruction), the risk—and the worry—isn’t worth it!
The good news is that if your dog accidentally wolfs down a couple of cherries—even with the pits—they probably won’t cause him any serious harm. At worst, he might have a sore tummy while the pit is being passed through his gut. But to be on the safe side, watch for signs of intestinal blockage, such as constipation, loss of appetite, or vomiting. Small dogs are much more likely to wind up with an intestinal blockage from a cherry pit, but large dogs may still be at risk. It may take 24–48 hours before any problems begin to surface, so keep your dog in close range.
Although rare, it’s important to know the symptoms of cyanide poisoning: labored breathing, bright red gums, and dilated pupils. Your dog would have to eat many cherries with pits to be at risk of cyanide poisoning, but it’s a good idea to take him to the vet anyway.
There are lots of different types of cherries out there, and some are safer than others. Maraschino cherries, for example, are preserved cherries that don’t contain a pit. While this rules out some of the choking hazard, the high sugar content of these particular cherries means they’re not particularly good for canines. Excess sugar can increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, digestive issues, or even cavities. Like other processed fruits, maraschino cherries also contain preservatives.
If you do want to try feeding your dog a fresh, ripe cherry, that’s fine—but be sure to remove the pit, stem, and any leaves first. Of course, that’s a bit of effort, and cherries are pretty small! So even though these little fruits contain some fantastic nutrients, your dog won’t be able to eat enough to actually reap any of the benefits.
That said, you might like to add some cherry flesh to your dog’s main meal. Make a ‘doggo smoothie’ by tossing a little cherry flesh into a blender along with goat’s milk and some greens (spinach or kale are great!), and then freeze into molds. This delicious treat can be enjoyed by both you and your pet on a hot day!
There are dozens of other fresh fruits and berries your dog can eat without all the extra precautions. Blueberries are a great choice, and they’re also one of the most nutrient-dense fruits on earth. Some fruits make for sweet treats as well as nutrient boosters—especially mangoes, apples, and bananas. Just be sure to peel the mangoes and apples, and remove the core and seeds.
If you’re worried about adding something new to your dog’s diet, it’s best to check with your veterinarian first. They’ll be able to tell you what your particular pooch can and can’t eat—and how much ‘experimenting’ is safe!
Learn more about foods that dogs can and can't eat