Rich in nutrients like vitamins A and C, fiber, antioxidants, and melatonin, cherries are a sweet summer treat. But are these delicious, nutritious fruits safe to share with our pets?
While many summer fruits are healthy, refreshing, and safe to share with our four-legged friends, and cherries do contain some beneficial nutrients, they unfortunately can do more harm than good for dogs.
Are Cherries Safe for Dogs?
When it comes to cherries, while the flesh isn't necessarily toxic to our four-legged friends, they should only be offered with extreme caution. And that’s primarily because cherries come with an inherent danger to our pets—the pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide. This is true for all cherry varieties, including bing, rainier, and black cherries.
Cyanide is poisonous to pets and humans alike, and can be potentially lethal if consumed in large quantities. So while dogs can eat unprocessed cherries in small quantities, they have to be carefully prepared to ensure that the pits, stems, and leaves have been completely removed.
Pet owners should also be hesitant to offer any cherry-flavored foods to their dogs, as they are typically loaded with artificial flavors, chemicals, and sugar. In fact, even foods that are naturally flavored with real cherries will often have quite a bit of added sugar.
As far as potential health benefits, while cherries have been associated with everything from blood sugar control to reduced hypertension and even pain relief, unfortunately a dog would have to consume quite a few cherries in order to reap these benefits--and that's when the risk far outweighs the benefit. And, of course, you'll always want to check in with your veterinarian to get their OK before offering cherries (or any other human food) with your pooch.
The Dangers of Cherries for Dogs
Along with the risk of cyanide poisoning, cherry pits themselves also pose the risk of intestinal blockages, as they can easily become stuck in a dog’s digestive tract (which is life-threatening and may require surgery). This is especially true for smaller breeds, which are more susceptible to blockages from a small cherry pit. Pet owners should also be aware that puppies may be more susceptible to both blockages and cyanide poisoning, so take special care when offering cherries or any other human food with a puppy.
Of course, there are some cherries that are pitless, such as the super sweet maraschino cherries (the kind you'll often find in drinks). The problem with these cherries--as well as all canned, processed fruits--isn’t so much the pits but the amount of added sugar that’s used to sweeten them. The short-term dangers of too much sugar for dogs range from hyperactivity to tummy troubles like diarrhea, while causing more serious conditions like pancreatitis, diabetes, and obesity over time.
Generally speaking, if you'd like to share some fruit with your dog this summer, stick with safer staples like blueberries or watermelon (and, as always, keep an eye on Rover's portion sizes). If offering fruit with pits, always be sure to only offer the flesh; even if the pit doesn't contain cyanide, there is always the danger of intestinal blockages.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Whole Cherries
If your dog happens to swallow a whole cherry when you aren't looking, there’s no need to panic right away. One cherry pit won’t be enough to cause cyanide poisoning. However, there is still the risk of intestinal blockage, so you’ll want to be sure to monitor your pooch for at least 24 hours, looking for symptoms such as vomiting, constipation, or decreased appetite and decreased fecal production. Symptoms of acute cyanide poisoning may present themselves within 15 to 20 minutes of consuming the cherries.
However, if your dog has just scarfed down multiple cherries, that’s when you should call your veterinarian and start watching them for symptoms of cyanide poisoning, which can include gums that are bright red in color, difficult breathing, and dilated pupils. In more severe cases, your dog can go into shock. All of these symptoms require immediate veterinary attention. Your vet may determine that the best course of action is to induce vomiting, which can help prevent cyanide toxicity.