When summer rolls around, you may start to notice a ruby red, rough textured fruit being sold at your local supermarket. This crisp, fragrant fruit is a lychee – also spelled litchi – and it originates in China.
Lychees are sweet, delicious fruits, often found in desserts, but best eaten fresh. As soon as you peel into a lychee, you’ll notice a distinctly sweet aroma, and so will your dogs. And of course, your dogs will probably want a taste. But is it safe to feed your dog lychee? Let’s find out!
What is lychee?
Lychee is a tropical fruit and the only actual member of the soapberry family. It’s also known as a lychee nut or alligator strawberry. The fruit has three layers – the husk, flesh, and seed.
When lychees are ripe, they’re round in shape and pink or reddish-brown on the outside, with leathery skin. Some have described them as bumpy-looking strawberries!
On the inside, lychee flesh is a white, creamy color, soft and juicy in texture, and with a flavor that for me approximates a combination of grape and pear. Within the flesh there is a single, brown seed.
Lychees have an alluring aroma, and their floral scent makes them great for drinks – lychee martinis are my favorite!
Can dogs have lychee?
Good news – yes, your dog can eat lychee! Plus, they’ll probably love them.
As with any fruit though, you’ll want to feed your dog lychee in moderation and introduce the fruit slowly to ensure your dog has no adverse reaction to it.
There are, however, some downsides to lychee that you should keep in mind. For starters, the lychee should be ripe before either you or your dog dig in.
You should also be careful to ensure that your dog only gets ahold of lychee flesh – the skin and seed should be discarded and kept out of paw’s reach. That means refrain from ever giving your dog a whole lychee! You have to remove the skin and seed beforehand.
Read on to learn more about the dos and don’ts of feeding your dog lychee.
Is lychee bad for dogs?
The truth is, lychee can be bad for dogs, but only if you’re not careful.
Each fruit contains a big brown seed that, if consumed by your dog, can pose a choking hazard. The seed and leathery rind can also cause issues if ingested, and lead to blockages and other gastrointestinal problems.
Too much lychee is also bad, since the fruit has a high sugar content. It should be an occasional treat. That is, only given in moderation. Overindulging can lead to dental decay, stomachaches, and obesity.
Another potential hazard arises when lychees are not quite ripe. You can tell if a lychee is not ripe by the color; an unripe lychee is green in color, while a ripe, ready-to-eat lychee is red.
Keep these things in mind before serving your dog lychee.
Is lychee toxic to dogs?
Lychee seeds contain a toxin called MCPG, which has been known to cause hypoglycemia in animal studies. A 2013 investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that unexplained outbreaks of encephalopathy in India were linked to the consumption of lychee.
The investigation linked the illness to hypoglycin A and MCPG toxicity, and to malnourished children eating lychees (particularly unripe ones) on an empty stomach.
The toxins in unripe lychee, combined with low blood sugar and/or malnourishment, resulted in even lower blood sugar, or hypoglycemia (by further blocking the body’s production of sugar). The sickness caused fever, convulsions, seizures, and even death.
To be on the safe side, ensure that your dog doesn’t eat unripe lychee, and that they don’t eat lychee on an empty stomach.
How many lychees can dogs have?
Even though lychee is a healthy snack, it should still only be given to your dog in moderation. This goes without saying, but always consult your veterinarian before introducing new snacks.
Lychees should be fed to your dog as an occasional treat, not a meal. Too much lychee can lead to gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea. Don’t forget that lychees are high in fiber and natural sugars!
I like to follow the popular 90/10 rule when feeding my dog – 90% of your dog’s calories should come from healthy, balanced meals, and 10% come from treats. Since fruits like lychee are considered a snack, they should make up no more than 10% of the calories in your dog’s diet.
Don’t give your dog lychee every day, and always serve it up safely – that means no rind, no seeds, and always ripe! Keep in mind that dogs should get all of their important nutrients from their dog food, and that adding lychees as a treat should be considered as a healthy (and tasty) bonus, rather than fundamental to your dog’s diet.
Are lychees good for dogs?
Lychees are popular amongst humans, in part because they’re low in calories and high in protein, making them a natural diuretic. But what about dogs? Do dogs benefit from the lychee fruit’s nutritional perks?
When fed an appropriate amount, lychees are a healthy snack for our canine companions. They’re also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Health benefits of lychee for dogs
Lychees, similar to cucumbers, contain lots of water! They’re over 80% water, and are rich in Vitamin C. Lychees also contain modest amounts of potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and magnesium, as well as Vitamin B, fiber, and calcium.
Here’s how each of these nutrients benefit dogs:
- Water: Lychee is about 80% water, making it great for hydration and healthy digestion.
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant boosts your dog’s immune system, supports healthy aging, and reduces inflammation.
- Vitamin B: This vital coenzyme is responsible for glucose generation, red blood cell and nervous system functionality, and hormone regulation, among other things. It helps change carbohydrates into glucose, providing energy to the body.
- Fiber: Promotes healthy bowel movements, colon health, and relieves your dog of constipation. It also aids in weight management.
- Calcium: Supports bone and dental health, muscle development and function, and a healthy nervous system.
- Potassium: Helps muscle development, supports healthy kidney and heart function, and aids in healthy bone density.
- Phosphorus: Important for healthy kidney function, muscle contraction and nerve function.
- Copper: Copper is critical to the formation of the skeletal system and assists in the prevention of anemia, since it helps the body metabolize iron.
- Magnesium: Promotes bone growth and helps the body produce protein and absorb vitamins.
- Iron: helps the body perform important functions like carrying oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells so cells can produce energy. Iron is also necessary for certain enzymes in the body to be able to function normally.
Can a dog be allergic to lychee?
While it’s highly unlikely, there is still a chance that your dog might be allergic to lychee, or have a negative reaction to it.
As a precaution, speak to your vet before introducing any new foods to your dog. If you’ve gotten the green light, start by giving your dog a small amount of lychee and then monitoring them to see how they react.
Allergies may manifest in your dog as itching, hives, facial swelling, indigestion, or ear and paw redness.
Can dogs eat lychee seeds?
No, dogs should not eat lychee seeds.
Lychee seeds are a choking hazard for dogs, especially small dogs and puppies. If ingested, they can get lodged in a dog’s digestive system and cause an intestinal blockage.
The seeds also contain saponins, a bitter-tasting plant-derived organic chemical that has a foamy quality when agitated in water. They’re used in soaps, medicinals, fire extinguishers, and in carbonated beverages, among other things.
Not much is known about how the saponins might affect your dog, but if eaten, especially in large quantities, they can cause issues.
Don’t let your dog eat a lychee seed, and be sure to keep them out of reach.
Can dogs eat lychee skin?
Lychee skin has a beautiful color and aroma, but a rough and bumpy texture. When humans eat lychee, they remove this exterior, and you’ll want to do the same for your dog.
There’s a number of reasons you shouldn’t give your dog lychee skin, also known as lychee peel. These reasons include:
- The skin is tough and can be hard for your dog to digest.
- The skin can pose a choking hazard, especially for small dogs and puppies, since it’s hard to chew.
- If ingested, the hard skin can cause an intestinal blockage.
- Unwashed skin may contain traces of pesticides, which are of course harmful for dogs.
Since the peel is thick, leathery, and sometimes thorny, some dogs probably won’t want to eat it. The taste and texture aren’t exactly appearling. Either way, keep the lychee skin away from your dog and compost it instead.
Can dogs eat canned lychee?
No, dogs should not eat canned lychee.
Canned lychees typically come peeled, seeded, and drenched in syrup. While they’re a delicious snack, they’re not particularly healthy for either dogs or humans. Canned lychees are full of preservatives, which are used to increase the fruit’s shelf life. There’s also a significant amount of added glucose and sucrose, especially in that syrup the lychee is swimming in.
All of the additives outweigh the nutritional benefits, making canned lychees a bad option for dogs. The excess sugar is a big no-no.
Save the canned lychee for yourself and stick to fresh lychee for your dog.
Can dogs eat lychee jelly?
Lychee jelly is a gelatinous dessert made with sugar, agar, and lychee or lychee flavoring. It’s high in sugar, and, if it’s not homemade, might contain other bad additives, like xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Lychee jelly is low in nutrients and high in calories. There’s no nutritional benefits for your dog, and eating too much might cause an upset stomach.
Your dog should skip the lychee jelly and stick to fresh lychee.
Can dogs eat lychee nuts?
A lychee nut is what you get when the white flesh of the fruit is allowed to ripen and dry. It’s served like a dried fruit snack or nut eaten out of hand.
Yes, dogs can eat lychee nuts, as long as it’s in moderation.
Can dogs eat the whole lychee?
No, dogs should not eat a whole lychee.
Dogs should only be given the white flesh of a lychee fruit. The rough exterior and the seed should be removed and discarded.
Can dogs eat lychee ice cream?
It depends. Is it store bought lychee ice cream, jam packed with sugar and chemical additives? Then no.
But if it’s homemade ice cream, using all natural ingredients, with no added sugar or other harmful ingredients, then go for it! At least a little won’t hurt.
Can dogs eat lychee juice?
Lychee juice, or litchi juice, is often made using just a few basic ingredients: lychee, sugar, ice and sometimes lemon juice.
Since there’s a good amount of added sugar, lychee juice is not suitable for dogs. Stick to fresh lychee!
Can dogs eat unripe lychee?
No, dogs should not eat unripe lychee.
Unripe lychee is not safe for either dogs or humans. This was discovered when for over two decades, children in a region of India suffered sudden seizures, lost consciousness, and died after eating lychee on an empty stomach.
A study suggested they were poisoned by the fruit. Urine samples found that two-thirds of the ill children showed evidence of exposure to toxins in lychee seeds, found in higher levels in unripe fruits.
Experts found that lychee seeds contain a toxin that deposits in the liver, which inhibits the body’s ability to produce glucose, causing low blood sugar that is dangerous and can even be fatal.
To be safe, only give your dog ripe lychee in moderation, and make sure your dog doesn’t eat lychee on an empty stomach. And of course, never allow them to eat the seeds.
You can tell if a lychee is unripe by reference to its color – unripe lychee is green in contrast to the reddish-brown of a ripe lychee fruit. If you aren’t sure whether or not a lychee is ripe, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Can dogs eat unripe lychee and recover?
It depends. Your dog’s well-being will depend on how much lychee they consumed, as well as their baseline health, their size, age, and whether they consumed the seed or peel.
The best course of action to ensure that your dog emerges unscathed is to act fast and contact your vet, who is the best person to advise on the situation.
Remember, it’s best to keep lychee out of paw’s reach to minimize risk. When you discard lychee peel and seeds, be sure they’re inaccessible.
My dog ate unripe lychee: what should I do?
If your dog has eaten unripe lychee, or a lychee seed, act quickly. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet may request that you bring in your dog to induce vomiting and prevent any fatal issues, especially if your dog is small or a puppy.
What symptoms should I look out for if my dog eats unripe lychee?
If your dog eats unripe lychee, or lychee seeds, call your vet.
Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Dark urine
How to feed a dog lychee:
If you’ve never introduced lychee’s sweet, aromatic flesh to your dog, they’re in for a real treat, literally! Just be sure to give your dog a very small amount to start, and to feed it to them slowly.
Keep an eye on your dog and watch for any sort of adverse reaction.
When in doubt, ask your veterinarian before adding anything, including lychee, to your dog’s diet. Most dogs won’t have a negative reaction to lychee, if they’re fed the fruit correctly, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When preparing the lychee, do the following steps:
- Wash: Rinse the outside of the lychee fruit to remove any dirt and debris.
- Peel: Remove the lychee skin. Be sure to compost it and keep it out of paw’s reach.
- Cut and remove the seed: Cut the lychee in half and remove the seed. Again, be sure to discard it in a place that your dog can’t access. The seed and peel can be harmful to your dog, so they should be totally out of reach.
- Remove the flesh: The white flesh of a lychee is roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Cut the white flesh into small pieces so they don’t become a choking hazard for your dog.
Serve the refreshing and sweet fruit to your dog, and watch them enjoy!
If you’re looking for additional ways to add lychee to your dog’s diet, try one of these ideas. Your dog will thank you for it.
- Juice it: Lychee juice is a refreshing, tasty snack. Liquify your lychee, add water, and let your dog have a lick or two. You can also freeze the juice to make popsicles, or add it to smoothies.
- Food Topper: Liven up any meal with lychee as a food topper. It’s a simple way to serve your dog lychee – sprinkle bite sized pieces in their food dish.
- Puréed: Puréeing lychee will make it easy for senior dogs, and those with few teeth, to eat. It’ll also make mixing the sweet treat with other foods – like yogurt or dog kibble – easy. Try it in a Kong!