Trying to figure out if your dog can eat blueberries as a healthy snack? Blueberries are quite full of purple goodness. For humans, they’ve been designated a superfood. They are common in many dishes, which means that dogs may consume them intentionally or unintentionally.
Whether we are dreaming of Momma’s Blueberry Pie – that buttery, sugary crust hiding hot berries that just burst in your mouth – or adding them to a virtuous breakfast of flaxseed and oatmeal, we can feel good about putting them on our menu.
But are blueberries good for dogs to eat? Are they safe for your canine companion? In this article, we look at the various benefits that blueberries offer, as well as recommended feeding frequency. Let’s jump in!
Are Blueberries Safe For Dogs?
The simple answer is yes, in small quantities, fresh and frozen blueberries are unlikely to cause any harm and might even do your pet some good. You can read more below for advice on maximum amounts. Unlike grapes or onions, you most certainly don’t need to worry if you’ve just dropped a couple on the floor and they’ve been snaffled by your dog. Just remember everything in moderation.
Surprisingly, your dog may already be eating blueberries! A study in 2017 by the Dog and Cat Food Ingredient Center, which provides the American Petfood Industry with nutritional information, found that blueberries were found in more dry dog foods than any other single fruit, appearing in an amazing 29% of ingredient lists. Some brands include them in almost every formula.
Besides providing confidence in the safety of blueberries in a dog’s diet, this raises the question: why do pet food manufacturers go to the expense of including this “superfood” in a canine ration?
They Provide Vitamins and Minerals
Blueberries contain good amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin K. They contain small amounts of Vitamins E and B6, and the minerals manganese and copper. In the right amounts, these are all beneficial to canine health. They also help support the immune system, but this isn’t the principal reason for including them.
They Contain Anthocyanins
The wonderful purple color of ripe blueberries is directly linked to pigments within them called anthocyanins. Though these aren’t the only useful substances in the berries, they are considered to have the biggest impact in terms of their health-giving properties, with their benefits directly proportional to the density of their color.
As blueberries ripen, they change from green to a reddish-purple and then to dark purple – and that’s when they are wanted! The process of freezing freshly harvested berries is an effective way to capture that goodness.
They Help Preserve Dog Food
Two of the main reasons why blueberries are found in dog foods have to do with oxygen. We might think of oxygen as being in the air we breathe, but it is involved in many of nature’s processes.
Fats, which are an important source of calories and which supply essential nutrients in the diet, will turn rancid if exposed to oxygen – that is, they will oxidize – unless protected; they stay fresh for much longer if antioxidants are added. Blueberries are a natural source of these, so they are added to food as a safe way of preserving it.
They Protect the Body From Free Radicals
It’s about to get technical! Although oxygen is the very stuff of life for our pets – as it is for us – it also plays a part in some unwanted reactions inside the body. It can drive the creation of so-called free radicals, tiny molecules that can harm the body’s cells. If an unfavorable balance develops between these free radicals and our antioxidant defenses, we call that oxidative stress.
In humans, research has identified that oxidative stress is linked to several diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. Interestingly, and importantly, some studies suggest that the addition of blueberries to our diet may be of help in managing these conditions. They may even help in preventing them.
Blueberry Research in Canines
While we may be confident that this berry is one of the good guys, we need to be careful in assuming that what is proven for us will apply in just the same way to our furry friends. We are similar in many ways, but also different!
Specific research on the effects of the berries in dogs is limited. A trial studying working sled dogs showed they had better levels of antioxidants after exercise if their diet was supplemented with blueberries, implying that their bodies would suffer less damage or recover more quickly.
Sadly, our beloved pets can suffer some of the same problems that we do, such as diabetes or heart disease. And wonderful as it is to know that they generally live longer lives today, we may even see a form of dementia as they age.
It’s important to realize that, while blueberries might help, as yet that hasn’t been proven. We need more studies to be done in dogs to make confident recommendations about the role of blueberries in treating disease.
Can Blueberries Harm My Dog?
Almost anything in excess can harmful. This means you should err-on-the-safe side with your canine companion. So the answer here is definitely ‘Yes.’ But let’s look at some of the particular situations which could cause a problem.
Too many berries could cause diarrhea. If you have been overly generous with them or your dog has gotten hold of a supply, a digestive upset is a distinct possibility.
Moldy berries can also cause a problem. Rotting fruit (berries included), moldy bread, cheese, nuts… all kinds of decomposing food items can be seriously toxic to your dog. Keep such foods safely out of reach in locked containers. Call your veterinarian urgently if you discover your dog has gotten into a trash can or compost pile.
If that is the case, monitor your dog very carefully. Call your veterinarian if diarrhea persists beyond a couple of loose stools. You should contact your vet immediately if it’s accompanied by vomiting, or if your pet seems at all depressed. This is especially important if your pet is tiny, elderly, or suffering from a chronic health condition.
How Much is Too Much?
Note that a definitive guide for an amount to give our dogs is lacking. The recommended daily portion for a grown human is typically around 2 ounces (50 to 60 grams).
Using this as a basis would suggest that 2 ounces would be an absolute maximum daily amount for a giant breed weighing upwards of 120lbs! This might equate to less than an ounce for a 50lb dog or a half-ounce for a 20lb dog. It’s also a mere one or two berries for a 5lb Chihuahua, but consider all these as upper limits.
Remember that good quality, complete dog foods should contain antioxidants anyway; check out the label or contact the manufacturer to find out.
Always introduce new foods gradually. If you are planning to give more than a couple of berries, start small and monitor stools for any change while increasing the number over 3 to 5 days. It’s always recommended you start slow, especially when it comes to tropical fruit like bananas or mangoes.
More Than Just Blueberries
So far, we’ve referred only to uncooked, fresh or frozen blueberries. These are generally safe and probably beneficial. Other products containing blueberries could be actively harmful, as could berries that are going off:
Blueberry Jelly and Xylitol Sweeteners
Jellies and powders may contain the sweetener xylitol. While xylitol can be helpful as a sugar substitute for us, it is toxic to dogs; just small amounts can drop their blood sugar levels to a lethal low, causing seizures, liver failure, or even death.
There’s more than blueberries in a muffin! The added sugar outweighs any blueberry benefits. Too much excess sugar and carbohydrates can lead to weight gain, and other health issues. This means this is one naughty-but-nice treat for you to eat yourself without help from your pup.
There is always a tiny risk of choking, especially in smaller breeds or puppies. Any round, firm object could accidentally be inhaled to lodge in the windpipe, so feeding the berry thawed could be safer for your little ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Blueberries can be a safe and nutritious treat to add to your dog’s diet. As with any type of fruit, you need to remember that all things should be eaten in moderation. Test your pup’s tolerance for Blueberries by starting small. Gradually increase the amount you let them eat over time. They can even make a nutritious training snack if your pup seems to enjoy them as a treat.