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 play a significant role in keeping dogs healthy--for example, they can improve cognitive function and alleviate allergies and other skin issues--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 can help with everything from warding off heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, as well as helping to prevent certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Additionally, whole cranberries (when offered in moderation) can improve your dog’s bladder health, fight bacteria, and help prevent cancer, and all while improving their doggy smile with reduced tartar and plaque buildup. 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. But cranberry juice is laden with sugar and other ingredients that aren't Fido-friendly, so any potential benefits they may reap from the cranberries themselves can 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. Cranberry juice's natural diuretic nature works by boosting the level of acidity in the urine, making it harder for bacteria to adhere itself to the wall of your dog’s bladder and allowing the bacteria to be flushed out of their system. In fact, some studies 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 since bacteria multiplies the longer urine sits in the bladder.
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, pet owners should should consult with their 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. While some studies have shown that 200 mg of unsweetened cranberry juice can be effective in the management and prevention of UTIs, pet owners should keep in mind that too much cranberry juice can increase your pet's chances of developing kidney stones. In some dogs, it can also lead to bladder irritation due to the acidic nature of cranberries.
If you'd like to provide your dog with the benefits of the juice without actually having him or her drink it, a fast and easy way to administer cranberry is with tablets--a 3,000 mg capsule is equivalent to about 24 ounces of cranberry juice. As a general rule, smaller dogs could receive 1/8 of a 3,000 mg capsule and medium-sized dogs 1/4 of a capsule. Large and giant breeds can safely consume between a half to one full capsule. If tackling the symptoms of a UTI, the dosage can be offered up to three times daily until the symptoms disappear.
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.