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Can Dogs Eat Cranberries? A Vet’s Analysis of Risks and Benefits

Are you trying to figure out whether cranberries are safe to feed your dog? If so, is fresh or dried better? What should I watch out for when it is included in other foods? Our Veterinarian looks at the health benefits and risks that come with feeding this tart fruit to your pup.

Dr. Rebecca MacMillan

Last Updated: December 3, 2021 | 6 min read

Dog with bowl of food and cranberries

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not serve as a substitute for a discussion with a trained professional. If your dog ate this food and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Many of us enjoy cranberries for their flavor but also their health benefits. Cranberries are a versatile fruit featured in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, especially around the holidays.

You might be wondering whether your dog could reap any of the nutritional benefits of cranberries too.

Let’s  explore whether it is safe to give your dog cranberries and the things you need to be aware of before sharing these tangy treats with your furry friend.

Are Cranberries Safe For Dogs?

Bowl of cranberries
In moderation, cranberries are safe for dogs to eat.

This small red fruit is not toxic to dogs, but its intense flavor might put them off eating it in the first place. You can feed them the fruit raw if your dog likes them this way, or you can give them in their dried form, which tends to be a bit sweeter and more palatable.

It’s important to remember to only give your dog small amounts at a time, as excessive fruit (or vegetables) in the diet can cause digestive upset. You might notice pet food manufacturers using small quantities of cranberry, especially in festive treats during the holiday season.

Are Cranberries Good For Dogs?

Cranberries are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, with many calling them a superfood. They are high in vitamin C, which is essential to humans and guinea pigs, although other species actually manufacture their own source. Dogs, therefore, don’t really need an external source of vitamin C.

Cranberries also contain a range of B vitamins, vitamin E, and fiber needed for healthy digestion.

Studies indicate that Cranberries have the following health benefits in people:

  • May protect against certain cancers – the high level of antioxidants in this fruit may give some protective benefits against oxidative damage, which contributes to cancerous changes in cells.
  • Can help prevent urinary tract infections – cranberries contain compounds known as proanthocyanidins. These have antibacterial properties and may prevent the bacteria Escherichia coli from attaching to the inner surface of the bladder and urinary tract.
    Known to support heart health – some studies in humans have pointed to cranberries helping reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce something called homocysteine, which is known to damage blood vessel linings. However, other studies contradict this.
  • Possible protection against gastric ulcers – cranberries are thought to reduce the levels of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which contributes to stomach ulcers in people.

While some of these health benefits may also help dogs, further studies are required to prove it.

When Are Cranberries Bad For Dogs?

Bowl of dried cranberries
Cranberries can be unhealthy for dogs when fed in large amounts.

Too much fruit could cause tummy trouble, such as vomiting or diarrhea. As a general rule, any fruit or vegetable should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily rations (by weight). Any time you offer new food for the first time, you should give a small amount to check for any adverse reactions or allergies.

Cranberries can be unhealthy for dogs when given in the following ways.

Mixed Dried Fruit And Nuts

While dried cranberries alone are perfectly safe for dogs, they can become dangerous when mixed with other dried fruits or nuts. Many manufacturers add dried fruits to their nut mixes to add color, sweetness, and a festive feel.

Raisins (and grapes), another ingredient commonly found in fruit and nut mixes, can cause potentially fatal kidney failure. The exact mechanism of toxicity is unclear, so it is also hard to know exactly how many will cause problems. In some dogs, just a couple of raisins could cause problems, whereas others could eat several with no issues at all.

Certain nuts are potentially toxic to dogs, too. Macadamia nuts can be particularly dangerous. Animals that are affected usually have issues with their nerve and muscle function. Some dogs seem more sensitive to the effects of macadamia nuts than others, but it can be hard to predict in advance which those will be.

If your dog eats a dried fruit and nut mixture, call your veterinarian immediately.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is packed full of sugar, which is not healthy for dogs to consume. Some varieties may also contain toxic raisins or alcohol, so it is usually best avoided. The risks outweigh any benefits, so keep your cranberry sauce for your consumption only.

Cranberry Juice

While unlikely to be toxic to dogs, cranberry juice can be acidic and could cause an upset stomach. It’s generally not advisable to give your dog cranberry juice to drink. Some of these juices contain a lot of sugar, which is not healthy for your pet either.

Cranberry Stuffing

Many festive recipes include cranberries, and stuffing is one of those. Again, the cranberries themselves are unlikely to cause issues but other ingredients in stuffing could harm your pet.

Onions usually feature heavily in stuffing and sometimes garlic. These are members of the allium family, which can cause issues with your dog’s red blood cells. They can create oxidative damage, which causes these cells to become fragile and break. This means there are fewer red blood cells in your dog’s circulation, leading to anemia. Your dog may take a few days to develop symptoms but may show signs of weakness, pale gums, and elevated heart rate.

Stuffing can be fatty, especially if it contains sausage meat, which could cause tummy upsets. In some cases, a more severe condition called pancreatitis could occur, requiring veterinary treatment.

Cranberry Cookies and Cakes

Cookies and cakes contain little nutritional value for pets. Even if they include nutritious cranberries, you shouldn’t feed them to your dog. These treats are high in sugar, fat, and calories, which leads to weight gain.

My Dog Ate Cranberries – Should I Worry?

Not necessarily. If your pet has only eaten a small amount of raw or dried cranberries, he should be fine. However, if he has eaten a vast amount, then he could experience some digestive concerns. This is usually mild and self-limiting and shouldn’t require any intervention. However, if your dog is vomiting excessively or seems sluggish, you should contact a veterinarian for advice.

There are some instances when you would need to seek veterinary attention. One example is if your dog has eaten dried cranberries mixed with other fruits like raisins and currants, placing him at high risk of toxicity. In cases like this, you must call your veterinarian immediately.

Are There Other Fruits That Are Safe?

Close Up of Dark Super Fruit
Blackberries are among the fruits that are safe to offer your pooch, but only in moderation.

In addition to cranberries, there are a variety of other fruits that you could give your dog as a treat. Remember that dogs don’t require fruit as part of their diet, but some enjoy it as an occasional snack. If your dog is on a good-quality complete diet, he should be getting all the nutrients he needs.

Safe fruits to try include:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Melon
  • Pears
  • Mango
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries

Remember: Never give your dog grapes — they can be toxic.

So, Can I Feed My Dog Cranberries?

Yes, you can give your dog cranberries as long as you only give them in small amounts and only as an occasional treat. Too much of any fruit or vegetable could cause an upset tummy, so only give in moderation. Further studies are needed into the health benefits of cranberries or cranberry extracts in dogs. It is also worth bearing in mind that some of the nutrients found in this fruit are not required by dogs.

Always speak to your veterinarian if your dog has eaten cranberries and is showing any signs of being unwell or if he eats any products that contain other harmful ingredients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cranberries be poisonous?

No, cranberries themselves are not toxic to dogs. However, they are commonly found in snacks or dishes containing other harmful ingredients. So, you should only give your dog raw or dried cranberries on their own and in moderation.

Why do dogs love cranberries?

Do they? Some dogs love them, but some dogs don’t! Their tart, robust taste makes them a love or hate item for sure.

If your dog enjoys cranberries, try not to overdo it. Only give them as an occasional treat. Equally, never force your dog to eat cranberries if he doesn’t enjoy them.

Can dogs eat cranberries for a UTI?

More studies are needed into the use of cranberries or cranberry extracts in dogs that suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs). They are thought to be helpful as a preventative tool rather than for curing an existing infection. So, if your dog is suffering from UTI symptoms, don’t just feed him cranberries and hope for the best. Go and see your veterinarian!

What happens if a dog eats cranberries?

Most dogs are fine and show no ill effects after eating cranberries. This fruit is not toxic to dogs and so should be okay if eaten in moderation. However, if they eat a very large amount, they could develop an upset stomach, so try not to feed too many cranberries at one time.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you can give your dog cranberries as long as you only give them in small amounts and as an occasional treat. Too much of any fruit or vegetable could cause digestive upset, so only give in moderation. Further studies are needed into the health benefits of cranberries and cranberry extracts in dogs. Bear in mind that dogs do not require supplementation of all the nutrients found in this fruit.

Always speak to your veterinarian if your dog has eaten cranberries and is showing any signs of being unwell or if he eats any products that contain other harmful ingredients.

Health Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Food Safety Disclaimer: The information published on this website is for reference only. The only clear option for ensuring your pet’s health is to feed commercial-grade dog foods and treats only. Feeding human foods of any sort carries some degree of risk and is not under this website’s control.

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