Can Dogs Eat Blueberries? Vets explain:

A very healthy berry

Most dogs will eat just about anything, including things that can make them sick. That’s why it’s up to you as the owner to make sure your pup doesn’t gobble up the wrong treats. You may be wondering: Can dogs eat blueberries?

Not only are they delicious, but blueberries also provide many nutritional benefits. They are rich in antioxidants and may even provide health benefits such as immune support and, in humans, a boost to brain health.

But foods that are good for humans aren’t necessarily dog-friendly. Here’s what experts want you to know about feeding blueberries to dogs, including if it’s safe and if there are any good reasons to feed this fruit to your furry friend.

Why Some Foods Can Be Toxic or Dangerous to Dogs?

There are a few ways food can cause problems for dogs. Some foods contain compounds that are benign to humans, but can damage or destroy canine cells. Depending on how toxic something is, it can cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach upset to liver failure, coma and death.

Other foods may not be toxic to dogs, but they can pose a choking hazard. This applies, for example, to hard or large table scraps, cartilage or bone. Other foods may contain sharp parts (think spines and stems) that can damage the throat or other parts of the digestive tract.

Can dogs eat blueberries?

Yes, dogs can eat blueberries.

Jerry Klein, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club (AKC), says you should feed berries to a dog as you would any other snack, offer them in moderation and keep the portions small.

“[Treats] should make up no more than 10 percent of their total calories for the day,” he adds.

It’s also important to keep in mind that blueberries and other fruits contain different levels of fructose. Eating too much of this fruit-derived sugar can cause puppies to pack on pounds and cause health problems.

“The sweeter the berry, the more sugar and calories they contain,” says Dr. Small.

(Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?)

Do dogs benefit from a varied diet?

“Dog food is a balanced and complete diet, and a dog can do quite well with that as their primary food,” says Maggie Brown-Bury, DVM, an emergency and critical care veterinarian and Newfoundland and Labrador’s representative for the United States. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association council.

But while there’s no nutritional need to feed dogs blueberries, occasionally changing a dog’s diet can have other benefits, says Barbara Hodges, DVM, the director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

She says this is one of the biggest points she brings up with clients. “I ask them to imagine eating the same thing every day for our entire lives,” says Dr. Hodges.

Not fun, right? Your four-legged friend might agree.

“Variety is really the spice of life,” she says. “I don’t believe that people tend to sit down and calculate the precise nutritional value of each meal. We generally eat because we like the taste of things. Dogs are no different.”

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Should Dogs Have Blueberries?

So dogs can have blueberries, but another layer to the question is whether or not they? should enjoy these little berries.

“Berries have some natural features and nutrients that can be beneficial to your dog, such as fiber, vitamins, and natural compounds that can act as antioxidants, especially blueberries,” says Dr. Small. “Blueberries are sometimes included in commercial dog food.”

Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals, compounds created during regular body processes.

Low levels of circulating free radicals are normal, but if levels get too high, they can cause serious damage to cells. Free radical damage can contribute to the development of several diseases, including cancer.

What research says about the benefits of blueberries for dogs?

The health benefits of blueberries can extend to your furry friends.

Blueberries seem to be especially high in antioxidants. Some studies on the health benefits of feeding dogs blueberry extracts or powders have shown encouraging results.

In a small 2017 study in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, researchers fed 11 therapy dogs a high-quality commercial diet supplemented with antioxidants from a variety of sources, including dried blueberry extract.

They found that this helped neutralize excess free radicals and restore healthy cell metabolism.

Metabolism is the process of converting foods and drinks into energy. If the metabolism is too slow, it can lead to weight gain and health problems such as type 2 diabetes.

There is some research to suggest that antioxidants such as those found in blueberries may slow brain aging in dogs, according to the AKC.

Can dogs eat blueberry ice cream?

Most adult dogs have some difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk, according to the AKC. And especially ice cream and whipped cream contain a lot of lactose.

Puppies naturally produce more of the enzymes that break down lactose, called lactase, which allows them to drink their mother’s milk. But once they are weaned, or stop drinking breast milk or formula, dogs produce less lactase.

So all adult dogs are lactose intolerant to some degree. Depending on how sensitive a dog is to lactose and how much of it he has, several mild symptoms can occur, such as:

  • loose stools or diarrhea
  • vomit
  • gas
  • stomach cramps or pain

As a rule of thumb, the experts say not to give dogs ice of any kind. Aside from lactose, some dogs are allergic to or unable to digest proteins found in milk.

Ice is also a good source of things that dogs should not eat, such as sugar and fat.

Ice Cream Alternatives

If you want to give your dog a refreshing treat, experts recommend giving them frozen blueberries. You can also puree and freeze blueberries to make a low-calorie, low-sugar sorbet.

Frozen, mixed, ripe bananas also make a delicious frozen treat called nice cream. Some companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, also offer non-dairy, dog-friendly ice cream alternatives.

Can Dogs Eat Blueberry Yogurt?

Yogurt is much easier on a dog’s stomach than ice cream because it contains much less lactose, thanks to the fermentation process, which results in live bacteria breaking down the sugar.

Yogurt is fine for dogs, says Dr. Hodges, and it can be a healthy treat. But she suggests staying away from yogurt that has fruit flavors or fruit in it. They often contain a lot of sugar.

“If you want to supplement your dog’s diet with yogurt, I recommend yogurt with live [bacterial] cultures to ensure your dog gets the digestive benefits of these types of bacteria,” Dr. Hodges says. “You can always throw some blueberries into yogurt for some added flavor and nutrition.”

Can Dogs Have Wild Blueberries and Blueberry Leaves?

Wild blueberries are safe for dogs as long as they have not been sprayed with some type of chemical. It is best to wash and rinse wild berries carefully before feeding them to a dog.

Always remove non-berry plant parts from wild or store-bought blueberries before giving them to a dog.

This is another reason not to let a dog eat them off a blueberry bush – they can easily eat these plant parts and accidentally injure themselves.

“Dogs should not eat plant parts of the berries. Leaves, stems — it’s just not necessary,” says Dr. Hodges.

She says leaves and stems are virtually indigestible, meaning eating them is likely to trigger digestive symptoms. She adds that stems and other hard or sharp plant parts can also damage the gastrointestinal tract.

Can Dogs Eat Dried, Processed, or Preserved Blueberries or Blueberry Juice?

All experts agree that when it comes to feeding berries to dogs, you should not use blueberry-containing or flavored products.

Products such as blueberry juice or preserves, canned or stewed blueberries, and other processed blueberry products are usually high in sugar.

They may also contain chemicals and other additives not listed on the package, including ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as types of alcohol.

Blueberry juice is especially bad for dogs because it contains more sugar than fresh blueberries, but usually almost none of the nutrients.

“To be honest, I would hope that a dog [only] accidentally get dried, cooked, canned, preserved, or pressed varieties,” says Dr. Brown Bury.

She says there’s just no need to feed dogs these products, especially given the health risks they can pose.

Aside from excess sugar and other additives, blueberry products can be mixed with or exposed to foods that are toxic to dogs, especially grapes and raisins, says Dr. Brown Bury.

A word about xylitol

Never let dogs eat blueberry-flavored products with low sugar content or artificial sweeteners, experts say.

They carry the risk of containing xylitol, a substance that is toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.

Other Tips for Feeding Blueberries to Dogs

The experts say to feed dogs only fresh or frozen blueberries. As with all fruits and vegetables, blueberries should be washed thoroughly to remove any pesticides or other chemicals before feeding them to a dog.

Blueberries are usually already a suitable size for a puppy to swallow without risk of problems. But very small dogs or dogs prone to choking may need to cut or crush their blueberries before eating them.

As with any new food, you should introduce blueberries into a dog’s diet gradually to reduce the risk of minor or serious side effects.

“Always start a new food item for your dog slowly for a few days to see if your dog has any gastrointestinal problems or allergic reactions afterward, such as intense scratching or itching,” says Dr. Small.

Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables Dogs Shouldn’t Eat

Many fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs to eat in moderation. But according to the Humane Society of the United States, some of the foods that we humans enjoy are toxic or dangerous to dogs.

Avoid giving your dog these unsafe foods:

  • mushrooms
  • grapes and raisins
  • asparagus
  • onions, chives and leeks
  • garlic
  • chocolate
  • caffeine
  • avocado
  • cooking oil or butter
  • most spices and salt
  • cherries
  • tomatoes
  • sweets
  • gum
  • alcohol
  • hop
  • macadamia nuts, walnuts and almonds
  • yeast dough
  • potatoes
  • plant and fruit seeds, pips, cores, husks, leaves and stems
  • citrus fruits

Next, find out if your dog can eat strawberries.

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