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Can dogs eat cranberries?

A pile of cranberries

Dogs can eat anything, right? Not exactly. While they might try to grab any bit of food they see, that doesn’t mean that it’s all good for them—or that it’s safe. And unfortunately, there have been plenty of instances where dogs ingest something that has negative consequences. Sometimes it was even fed by a well-intentioned owner.

With that said, there are lots of ‘human’ foods that dogs can eat safely and benefit from nutritionally. From fruits and veggies to meat and organs, your dog’s diet can become incredibly varied when you start incorporating more whole foods.

One food that many dog owners might not have considered giving their dog is cranberries. Cranberries are small, tart red berries from the same family as blueberries and bilberries. Raw cranberries are very sour, so they’re best eaten in their dried form or as juice. But are cranberries good for dogs?

Can dogs eat cranberries?

Yes and no. In general, cranberries are safe for dogs and may have some health benefits—but there are some precautions you must take before you feed your dog cranberries.

Dried cranberries vs. fresh cranberries

Dried cranberries have had their water content removed through sun drying, hot-air drying, freeze-drying, or other similar methods. One cup of fresh cranberries is generally equivalent to a quarter cup of dried fruit. However, it’s important to note that the drying method can affect their nutritional content. 

The heat used during the dehydration process can deplete the fruit of its water-soluble nutrients. Drying also concentrates the sugar content of cranberries.

Benefits of cranberries for dogs

Cranberries are packed with dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that are beneficial for both dogs and humans. 

Cranberries provide dietary fiber

Fiber is a very important part of your dog’s diet. It helps to maintain the health of the gastrointestinal system and keep your pooch regular. Fiber helps waste move through the gut facilitating smooth bowel movements. Daily fiber also helps in the prevention of certain diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and pancreatitis. A healthy dog diet should comprise between 2% and 4% fiber. This should include both soluble and insoluble fiber. 

Cranberries help prevent and treat urinary tract infections

Cranberries contain D-mannose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in the body and in some fruits and vegetables. It’s been found to inhibit E. coli bacteria from sticking to the cells lining the urinary tract. E. coli is a major cause of urinary tract infections in both humans and dogs. Research shows that D-mannose is as effective as some antibiotics in preventing UTIs, and can also improve UTI symptoms. Best of all, cranberry products may help reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs, and may also prevent dogs from developing resistance to antibiotics.

Cranberries contain powerful antioxidants

Like other berries, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. In fact, they rank just below blueberries in antioxidant potency. Research shows that consuming cranberries helps to boost levels of C-reactive protein, a blood marker of inflammation. This helps to reduce overall inflammation, which is a known trigger of premature aging, chronic illness, and cognitive decline.

Cranberries support overall health

Although dogs make their own vitamin C, a little extra is always helpful! The vitamin C in cranberries is great for their immune health. It’s required to make collagen, so it’s highly beneficial for the integrity of their skin and joints. Cranberries can also support the beneficial gut bacteria linked to digestive health. The fiber in whole or dried cranberries also helps prevent constipation and support digestive health.

Can cranberries be dangerous for dogs?

It’s best to avoid feeding your dog sweetened cranberry products such as cranberry sauce. Most forms of cranberry sauce are high in sugar, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and unnecessary weight gain. Take care not to confuse cranberries with grapes, raisins, or currants, which are toxic to dogs.

How to prepare cranberries for dogs

You can give your dog cranberries that are fresh, frozen, sundried, or freeze dried. Unsweetened cranberry juice is also an option, but keep the servings small! 

Of course, many dogs may not like the tartness of raw cranberries. Raw cranberries are also a little more difficult to digest in their whole form. Instead, puree or cook the cranberries first. You can then add them to his main meal, or make a smoothie with goat’s milk and other fruits and veggies, like blueberries and spinach.

Dried cranberries may be problematic in large quantities as they will absorb water in the gut, which can lead to tummy pain. Be sure to soak them before adding them to your dog’s food. 

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 23, 2020.

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