Fruit may seem like a healthy snack for dogs, but not all fruits are created equal. When fed to dogs, there are some fruits that can cause anything from an upset stomach to fatal poisoning. And unfortunately cherries, those small, round, fleshy little balls of goodness, fall into the dangerous category.
Unlike their berry counterparts, blueberries and strawberries, cherries actually do more harm than good when it comes to your canine companion.
But how can something so small and mouthwatering be unsafe for your dog? Read on to learn all about dogs and cherries.
All about cherries
Cherries come in two types – sweet and tart/sour. Both sweet and tart cherries originated in trees of Europe and western Asia.
Both varieties of cherry contain Vitamins A and C, fiber, melatonin, and antioxidants. Cherries are a stone fruit, similar to plums, apricots and peaches, meaning they have a fleshy exterior that surrounds a single, hardened pit with a seed inside.
Fun fact: Sweet cherries are 82% water, 16% carbohydrates, and 1% protein, whereas sour cherries contain 50% more vitamin C per 100 g and about 20 times more vitamin A.
Can dogs have cherries?
The short answer is no, dogs should not be fed cherries. The risks of this fruit greatly outweigh the benefits.
Are cherries safe for dogs?
No, cherries are not safe for dogs.
While it’s true that the flesh of a cherry is generally safe for dogs to eat, they should only be offered with extreme caution – but really, why take the risk?
In terms of health benefits, although they are nutritious, dogs would have to consume a large amount of cherries to reap those benefits. That’s where the risk comes in.
Cherry pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide. If ingested in large enough quantities, they can poison your dog, causing severe illness and even death.
Moreover, the pits can easily cause an intestinal blockage. The fruit ends up doing more harm than good for your dog, so they’re just not worth it. More on this below.
Why are cherries bad for dogs?
There are a few ways in which cherries pose a risk to dogs, and several reasons why you should avoid feeding them to your dog.
Toxins: Cherry stems, leaves, and pits contain a trace amount of a toxin called cyanogenic glycoside, more commonly known as cyanide. The toxins are released and activated when your dog chews, cracks, or crushes the seeds and stems.
High sugar: One of the reasons cherries are so delicious is because they’re sweet. But that sweetness comes from sugar. There’s 18 grams of sugar per cup of whole cherries, or about 1 gram of sugar per cherry. That’s a lot of sugar! This means that even the safe part of cherries, the flesh – free of stems, leaves, and pits – isn’t really worth it for your dog to eat.
Gastrointestinal obstruction: If your dog swallows the cherry pit and/or stems whole, they might build up and cause a blockage in their intestines. Smaller breeds and puppies are especially susceptible to pits getting lodged in the digestive tract.
Blockages can lead to some unpleasant complications, require a trip to the vet, and might even call for surgery.
Fermentation: Your dog might feel like they’ve won the lottery if they find themselves under a cherry tree. Gobbling up scattered, windfallen cherries sounds delicious!
But fallen fruit ferments rather quickly, meaning that ethanol (alcohol) production has started. Your dog could get drunk, sick, or, if they eat a crazy amount of cherries, they could suffer from alcohol poisoning. If you suspect your dog has eaten fermented cherries, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Tooth damage: Cherry pits are hard, and if your dog chews them, they’re at risk of hurting their teeth.
What to do if your dog eats a whole cherry
The truth is, if your dog eats only one single cherry, they will most likely be fine. A single cherry pit often isn’t enough to cause cyanide poisoning. That said, there is the risk of an intestinal obstruction if your dog swallows the cherry whole, and the fruit could be a choking hazard, depending on the size of your dog.
So if your dog eats a single cherry, don’t panic. Keep your eye on them and look out for symptoms of an intestinal blockage, which include vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, and decreased fecal production.
These symptoms may appear up to 24 hours after your dog swallowed the cherry pit. Also, keep in mind that smaller dogs and puppies are more likely to suffer intestinal blockages from the pit.
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased fecal production
The bottom line is there’s no need to risk poisoning your dog or causing an intestinal blockage. There are plenty of healthy alternatives to cherries that can have the same great taste.
What to do if your dog eats many cherries
If your dog has gotten into your bowl of cherries, or gotten loose in a cherry orchard, they are at risk of cyanide poisoning or intestinal blockage. Call your vet or pet poison control immediately, and decide on the best course of action.
Your vet may request that you bring in your dog to induce vomiting and prevent any fatal issues, especially if your dog is small in size or a puppy.
Should your vet recommend monitoring your dog at home, then be prepared for your dog to have an upset stomach or diarrhea, even if they weren’t necessarily poisoned.
Symptoms of cyanide poisoning in dogs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Bright red gums
- Dilated pupils
Symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage include:
- Decreased appetite
Symptoms of acute cyanide poisoning may present themselves within 15 to 20 minutes of consuming the cherries, while symptoms for gastrointestinal blockages can take up to 24 hours to appear.
Another issue with cherry ingestion is the potential for throat damage. The pits can damage or tear the esophagus lining on their way down.
Signs of esophagus damage include:
- Refusal to eat
How many cherries would kill a dog from cyanide poisoning?
You would need to eat a lot of cherries, and your dog would need to chew them up, for them to die of cyanide poisoning. Your dog would need to ingest several cherries, and crunch them, for poisoning to be an immediate concern.
Yet still, there are other things to take into account: cherry stems and leaves also contain cyanide, and even if your dog ingests the pits whole, there is the danger of intestinal blockage, which can lead to surgery, or worse, death.
Are there any safe cherries for dogs?
There are many different types of cherries out there, and they come in a range of colors, from yellow to red to black. There are bing cherries, black cherries, wild cherries, birch bark cherries, rainier cherries, and even more.
Unfortunately, it’s best to keep all varieties of cherries away from your dog. While they might be delicious and fun for you to sample, they all have attributes that can be damaging to your dog’s health.
Are there safer alternatives?
Just because dogs shouldn’t eat cherries, doesn’t mean they can’t indulge in other fruits, including other berries! There are plenty of other fresh fruits out there that don’t pose such a risk. Our favorites include blueberries, apples, and bananas.
Check out this list of other fruits your dog can try!
Safe ways to offer your dog cherries
If, for some reason, you want your dog to experience the taste of cherries, here’s what to do.
- Always follow the guidance of your vet, especially when giving your dog new and/or potentially dangerous foods.
- Use fresh cherries that have been thoroughly washed and rinsed, with the pits, stems, and leaves removed.
- Use extreme caution when preparing the cherries! Be sure that all cherries that have not been pitted remain out of reach.
- Cut the cherry flesh into pieces that will not pose a choking hazard.
- Feed them only the flesh of the cherry, and in moderation. Remember: cherries are high in sugar.
Once you’ve done the above, you can either feed your dog the pieces straight, or mix them into plain yogurt or with other fresh fruits.
Can dogs eat Maraschino cherries?
When someone utters the expression “with a cherry on top” I always picture a deliciously sweet Maraschino cherry! A Maraschino cherry is a preserved, sweetened cherry, typically made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties.
Yes, Maraschino cherries are real cherries, but ones that have undergone a major transformation – they’re preserved, bleached, dyed, and sweetened with sugar.
Maraschino cherries have been pitted and have had their stems removed, so you can eat them whole. They get their name because originally, they were made using sour marasca cherries from the Dalmatian Coast that were soaked in maraschino liqueur.
Even though Maraschino cherries have no pits, stems, or leaves, they’re still not great for your dog. They’re made using loads of sugar, and like any other canned, processed fruits, they’re not exactly healthy.
The short-term dangers of feeding your dog too much sugar range from hyperactivity to stomach problems like diarrhea, while the long-term dangers can include more serious conditions, like pancreatitis, diabetes, and obesity.
Besides the sugar, they often contain artificial flavoring and chemicals. Skip the Maraschino cherries and stick to other fresh fruits.
Can dogs eat cherries without pits?
The flesh and skin of the cherry are not toxic, so if a dog gets a piece of cherry, with no pit, stem, or leaves, you shouldn’t be too worried.
However, that requires properly preparing the cherries, including washing and rinsing, de-pitting, and removing stems and leaves. It’s quite the process just to give your dog a tiny piece of fruit.
With that in mind, it’s best to just treat your dogs to other fresh fruits that pose less of a risk, like blueberries or watermelon.
Can dogs eat cherry flavored foods?
Many cherry flavored foods are processed, syrup laden, and/or include many additives like sugars, flavors, or dyes that are not safe for your canine to consume.
Skip them and stick to healthy fresh fruits that you can feed to your dog, guilt free!
Are cherry pits dangerous for dogs?
Yes, cherry pits are dangerous for dogs.
Cherry pits contain cyanide, which is released when your dog bites into them. Even when ingested whole, pits can cause an intestinal blockage.
Keep cherry pits far out of reach from your dog, and never let your dog lose in a cherry orchard.
Can dogs eat cherry pie?
Just hearing these two words together, pie and cherry, makes my mouth water. Everyone loves cherry pie! And while I’m sure your dog would probably love it too, they shouldn’t get any. Bummer.
Cherry pie, while delicious, is full of ingredients that are best to avoid in your dog’s diet, like sugar, butter, and flour. These ingredients contain no nutritional value for your dog, and could cause issues like an upset stomach or diarrhea.
It’s best to skip the pie, and leave it for the humans.
Can dogs eat cherry yogurt?
Store-bought cherry yogurt usually contains artificial flavors and preservatives, which can be bad for your canine companion. It might even contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which can be toxic for dogs. Those sugary, store-bought yogurts have little nutritional value.
If you want to feed your dog cherry yogurt, the best option is to prepare it yourself. Combine plain yogurt with organic cherry flesh for a dog-friendly version. Be sure to give your dog a little bit of yogurt first to see how they handle it.
Feed the homemade yogurt to your dog in moderation. You can have them to lick it, add it to a Kong, or freeze it in ice cube trays.
Can dogs eat cherry ice cream?
Give me a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or Häagen-Dazs Cherry Vanilla and I’m a happy camper. But the truth is, ice cream should only be an occasional treat for humans, and probably shouldn’t be given to your dog at all. The added sugar is bad for both your dog’s stomach, and their figure.
Even if you make your own ice cream at home, the recipe will most likely include additives, like sugar, that your dog shouldn’t have.
Skip the cherry ice cream and check out this dog-friendly ice cream recipe (with no sugar!) instead.
Can dogs eat dried cherries?
Dogs can eat dried cherries, but under certain conditions, and always in moderation.
Dried cherries offer all of the same nutritional benefits found in fresh cherries. They typically come in pieces with the stems, pits, and leaves removed, meaning they’re safe for consumption in reasonable quantities. Just be sure they’re an appropriate size to feed your dog, and cut them into pieces so they’re not a choking hazard.
Also, keep in mind that dried fruits are more concentrated in calories and sugar, and sometimes even contain added sugars. As a result, you should feed your dog less than you would if the fruit was fresh. And, if the dried fruit does have added sugar, consider skipping it altogether – who needs those extra calories!
If your dried cherries come in a bag of mixed dried fruit or trail mix, be on the lookout for dangerous additions. These mixes frequently contain foods that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate, raisins, and certain nuts. Skip the mix and eat it yourself.
And, as always, speak to your veterinarian before introducing your dog to any new foods.