Can Dogs Eat Cherries? 

Health & Wellbeing
January 5, 2024
Author: 
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
Dr. Farshad Goodarzi - Animal Nutritionist
5 minute read

Ever caught your furry buddy eyeing those shiny, red cherries in your fruit bowl? While delicious and nutritious for us humans, cherries come with a bit of a question mark when it comes to our canine companions. 

So before you reach for that cherry to share it with your eager pooch, pause for a minute and consider: are cherries safe for dogs? Keep reading to see if these fruits are a yay or a nay for your four-legged friend. 

Can Dogs Have Cherries or Not?  

When it comes to the question, "Can dogs eat cherries?", veterinarians generally lean towards caution. While the flesh of a cherry isn’t toxic to dogs, the pit, stem, and leaves are. They contain cyanide, a chemical that can be harmful in large quantities. The pits also pose a choking hazard and can cause intestinal blockages if ingested.

Considering the many risks, vets will usually advise against feeding cherries to dogs. The small amount of nutrients dogs can get from the cherry flesh does not outweigh the potential dangers — and you can get most of the same benefits from other, safer fruits like apples (without the seeds), blueberries, and bananas.  

Are Cherries Good For Dogs? 

Cherries are a nutritional powerhouse for humans. These small fruits are rich in vitamins A and C, which are essential for maintaining good health. Vitamin A plays an essential role in supporting vision and skin health, as well as helping the immune system. Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, helps in fighting free radicals and boosting overall immune function. 

Cherries are also a good source of dietary fiber, which helps digestive health, and melatonin, known for its ability to regulate sleep cycles. Cherries are also loaded with antioxidants, which help in reducing inflammation and combating oxidative stress.

For dogs, however, the benefits that these nutrients offer are overshadowed by the risks of poisoning, choking, and obstructions. 

What about maraschino cherries? Can dogs eat cherries without pits? While maraschino cherries are typically pit-free, they are still not a recommended treat for dogs, as they’re heavily processed and sweetened with significant amounts of sugar. Excessive sugar can lead to dental issues, obesity, and even diabetes and pancreatitis in dogs

Effects of Consumption  

Properly fed and prepared, cherries can be a nutritious treat for dogs, offering antioxidants, melatonin, vitamins A and C, and fiber. These nutrients can contribute to a dog’s overall health, helping to reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and support the immune system.  

However, the benefits of cherries come with significant risks. Their high sugar content can be problematic for dogs, causing everything from an upset stomach to diabetes, obesity, and related hip and joint problems. This means dogs with weight issues or diabetes should stay away from cherries.  

So, can a dog eat cherries? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. While the flesh of the cherry is not toxic, the pits pose a real danger. In addition to cyanide, the hardness of the pits can cause dental damage and pose a choking hazard. They can also lead to gastrointestinal blockages, particularly in smaller breeds or puppies. 

All things considered, it’s usually better to keep cherries, in all forms, away from dogs to prevent any accidental ingestion of the toxic parts.  

Toxicity Level  

The main danger cherries pose to dogs comes from cyanide in the pits, stems, and leaves. Cyanide is a well-known poison that, even in small quantities, can be harmful. When dogs chew and swallow cherry pits, cyanide gets released into their bodies. This toxin prevents the cells from using oxygen, leading to cell death and, in severe cases, organ failure.

How badly cherry pits affect a dog can vary. It depends on things like how big the dog is, how many pits they've eaten, and their overall health. Smaller dogs are at a higher risk because it takes fewer pits to cause harm due to their smaller size and lower tolerance levels. The ingestion of a single cherry pit may not cause immediate or severe poisoning in a larger dog, but multiple pits can accumulate and lead to significant health risks.

Even if the ingestion of cherry pits doesn't lead to immediate symptoms, the potential for toxicity and other complications like intestinal obstruction makes cherries a risky choice for dogs.

Symptoms  

If your dog eats the pit, stem, or leaves of a cherry, keep an eye on potential signs that might point to cyanide poisoning. The severity of these symptoms can differ based on how much the dog ate and their size. 

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Difficulty breathing: Cyanide inhibits the body's ability to use oxygen, leading to respiratory distress. Dogs may experience rapid, shallow breathing or panting excessively.
  • Bright red gums: Their gums might look brighter red than normal. This happens because there's too much oxygen in their blood that their body can't use properly.
  • Dilated pupils: The pupils might be more dilated than usual, a response to the body's increasing desperation for oxygen.
  • Lethargy and weakness: A lack of oxygen can quickly make your dog very tired and weak.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: These are common symptoms in cases of gastrointestinal upset, which can occur if a dog ingests cherry pits.
  • Convulsions or seizures: In severe cases of cyanide poisoning, dogs may experience convulsions or seizures, which are a sign of significant distress and toxicity.
  • Collapse or coma: In the most severe cases, especially if a large number of pits are ingested, a dog may collapse or even fall into a coma due to the overwhelming toxicity.

Symptoms typically occur within 15 to 20 minutes of ingestion and can rapidly progress over the next few hours. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate veterinary attention. Acting quickly is crucial for effectively treating cyanide poisoning in dogs.

First Aid and Treatment 

If your dog has swallowed the pits, stems, or leaves of cherries, acting quickly is key. Here are some basic first-aid steps to follow:

  • Remove any remaining cherries: If your dog can still get to any cherries or cherry bits, make sure to pick them up right away to stop them from eating more.
  • Check for symptoms: Observe your dog closely for any signs of distress or symptoms of cyanide poisoning, such as difficulty breathing, bright red gums, or lethargy.
  • Rinse their mouth: If you catch your dog eating cherries, gently rinse their mouth with water. This can help remove any remaining pieces and reduce the amount of toxins they might absorb.
  • Do not induce vomiting: It's best not to try to make your dog throw up unless a vet tells you to. Doing this could actually make things worse, especially if your dog is already in distress.

Home care after ingestion can be tricky, as the severity of the situation depends on how much and what part of the cherry your dog has eaten. If your dog consumed a few cherry pits, keep a close eye on them for any developing symptoms. In general, however, it’s best to err on the side of caution and consult with a veterinarian, even if your dog appears to be fine initially.

When to Seek Vet Support

Immediate veterinary intervention is critical if your dog shows any symptoms of cyanide poisoning, such as difficulty breathing, bright red gums, lethargy, vomiting, or seizures. Even if the symptoms seem mild at first, they can quickly escalate, making prompt action essential.

If you know or even suspect that your dog has eaten cherry pits, stems, or leaves, don't wait for your dog to get sick. Symptoms can show up quickly after your dog eats something they shouldn't, so getting them to the vet fast can really improve their chances of getting better. In cases like these, it's always better to be cautious. Acting swiftly and calling your vet right away can make a huge difference, giving your furry friend the best chance for a quick recovery. 

A Final Word

The dangers of cyanide toxicity from the pits, stems, and leaves, along with the potential for gastrointestinal upset due to the high sugar content, make cherries a risky choice for dogs. Always remember to prioritize your pet's safety and health, opting for dog-safe fruits and snacks.

At Cola’s Kitchen, we understand the importance of feeding your furry friends with only the best. Our foods are carefully prepared with fresh, high-quality, and safe ingredients, ensuring that your pet's diet is both nutritious and delicious. Responsible pet ownership means being aware of what foods are safe for your pets and which ones to avoid. By keeping informed and vigilant about your dog's diet, you ensure they remain healthy and happy.

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