Cranberries are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that have been touted as playing a role in everything from boosting your immune system to decreasing inflammation in the body. But much like oranges, just because the fruit is healthy doesn't necessary mean the juice is—and that's often the case when it comes to offering cranberry juice to your pup due to the added sugar. Here's why cranberry juice is sometimes offered to dogs, and how to do so safely.
Is Cranberry Juice Safe for Dogs?
Although the antioxidants in cranberries can role in the health of various systems, the problem is that just because the berries have health benefits doesn't necessarily mean the juice does.
While the red, acidic berry is low-calorie while being full of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, cranberry juice is high in sugar and may contain other ingredients that can be harmful to your pup. For the same reason, you should also avoid offering your dog cranberry sauce. When consuming cranberries in juice (or jellied) form, both humans and animals are missing out on some of the key health benefits of the fruit, such as fiber, which may help with controlling blood sugar in diabetics and bowel health.
Additionally, whole cranberries (when offered in moderation) are thought to improve your dog’s bladder health and fight bacteria that cause bad breath. For that reason, the disease-fighting cranberry is used in some dog food recipes because of all the vitamins and minerals.
Can Drinking Cranberry Juice Benefit Dogs?
Like many fruits, cranberries are full of nutrients and antioxidants. Many available cranberry juices are laden with sugar and other ingredients that aren't Fido-friendly, so any potential benefits they may reap from the cranberries themselves could be cancelled out by the juice's not-so-healthy ingredients. That's why you'll always want to choose unsweetened cranberry juice, and be sure to read the label closely to identify any preservatives or other harmful ingredients.
The reason that some pet parents began offering cranberry juice to their dogs in the first place is due to its ability to help fight urinary tract infections (UTIs). These painful bladder infections can affect both dogs and humans alike, and can cause sharp pain in your pooch's abdomen and lower back as well as a burning sensation when they do urinate. The infection can progress to the kidneys, which can lead to other serious health conditions. If your dog is dealing with a UTI, you may notice symptoms such as straining or the appearance of pain or discomfort when they urinate.
However, cranberry has long been considered a safe remedy for this problem. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are compounds that may help prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and setting up an infection. In fact, some studies in humans have shown that drinking cranberry juice may even help prevent UTIs in the first place.
If your veterinarian diagnoses your pup with a UTI, he or she may prescribe medicine or antibiotics to help combat the issue. Other ways to prevent your dog from developing a UTI is to make sure they drink enough water, keep them well-groomed (particularly around the genital area), and allow your dog to have frequent potty breaks.
The Dangers of Cranberry Juice for Dogs
Even though cranberries aren't toxic to dogs, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll want to allow your dog to drink cranberry juice. A health concern with fruit is that the high sugar and acid content can cause gastrointestinal issues for your dog, including vomiting and diarrhea, and offering your dog juice (or any drink that isn't water) always carries that risk. If your dog experiences these symptoms after drinking cranberry juice, they should subside on their own; if they don't, your should should consult your veterinarian.
There's also a chance your dog could be allergic to cranberries, so if you're offering Rover some of the fruit or juice, you should always start off with just a very small amount and then monitor your pet for symptoms.
The best way to provide your dog with the possible benefits of cranberries without actually having him or her drink it is to use a cranberry extract supplement. This has shown some promise in helping to treat and prevent UTIs in dogs, but is not a proven therapy. The amount of the needed active ingredient (the proanthocyanidins) will vary in every product, so you should consult with your veterinarian about what formula and dose may work for your dog.
Of course, offering your dog cranberries in either juice or pill form should always be discussed with your veterinarian first, as each dog (and their health) is unique.