Can Dogs Eat Blueberries? What Veterinarians Want You to Know
Blueberries are a superfood for humans...but is it safe to share this plump purple powerhouse with your pooch? Here's what veterinarians told us when we asked whether dogs can eat blueberries.
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Food is your dog’s love language
Out of all the fruits and veggies, berries are reportedly a top food that makes people happy—85% of Americans said that eating berries boosts their mood and they associate them with joy, according to a survey done by Driscoll’s. It makes sense (and not just because Driscoll’s grows berries): Dark berries like blueberries and blackberries have so many powerful physical and mental health benefits that they are considered a superfood—but that’s for humans.
So when your dog is gazing up at that berry bowl on your lap, can you share? Your dog wants to eat everything you eat (plus some foods you definitely wouldn’t!). Efrem Hunter, DVM, MBA, a veterinarian and director of Veterinary and Scientific Affairs at Blue Buffalo, says it’s up to you to know what your dog can eat and be vigilant about keeping them away from foods that will harm them.
For starters, you should never give your dog any food that contains chocolate or even the tiniest amounts of the sweetener Xylitol (now often disguised with a few less synthetic-sounding names, like “birch sugar”). Also know that grapes and raisins are toxic to some dog breeds, says Jacqueline Brister, DVM, a veterinarian and consultant for Embrace Pet Insurance.
Even if a food doesn’t actively make your furry friend sick, some human food is basically just “junk food” for dogs—they love it, but it doesn’t improve their overall health and wellbeing, adds Dr. Hunter.
“Many pet owners consider their pets to be true members of their family so paying attention to ingredients helps prevent unnecessary pain and suffering and can help them live longer,” Dr. Brister says.
So what about that tempting bowl of luscious berries? Are blueberries a safe snack for dogs? Here’s what licensed veterinarians told us, including Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC)—one of the premier authorities on best practices for raising canines.
Can dogs eat blueberries?
Thankfully, you can rest easy on this one. Eating blueberries is generally safe for most dogs, our vets say. Not only are they delicious, but blueberries offer many nutritional benefits too. “They are rich in antioxidants, preventing ailments such as cell damage and strengthening the immune system,” says Dr. Hunter. “They are also packed with vitamins A and C and potassium and fiber, which are all beneficial nutrients for dogs.”
That’s in reasonable amounts for your pooch’s stomach, of course.
The one health risk of blueberries to dogs all pet owners need to know
Feeding your dog blueberries is generally safe, but there are a few considerations you should think about: First and foremost is choking, says Dr. Hunter.
“Due to the size of blueberries, they can serve as a choking hazard for dogs, especially those [dogs] that are smaller or may have trouble chewing their food,” he explains.
Should dogs eat blueberries? Vets fetch the answer
Yes, our vets say, dogs can have blueberries, but another layer to the question is whether or not they should indulge in these tiny berries. The health benefits of blueberries are well-documented in people and may extend to our furry friends.
There is some research suggesting that antioxidants like those found in blueberries may slow brain aging in dogs, according to the AKC.
But keep in mind that berries have a relatively high sugar content, which can be an issue for overweight dogs. “The sweeter the berry, the more sugar and calories they contain,” says Dr. Klein. Eating too much fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit, can cause pooches to pack on pounds and may cause health problems.
How to feed blueberries to dogs
Dr. Klein says you should feed berries to a dog like you would any other snack, offering them in moderation and keeping portions small. “[Treats] should make up no more than 10% of their total calories for the day,” he adds.
Our experts say to only feed dogs fresh or frozen blueberries. As with all fruits and vegetables, blueberries should be thoroughly washed to remove pesticides or other chemicals before they are fed to a dog.
If your dog is a smaller breed or has dental problems, cut the blueberries in half or quarters, says Dr. Hunter. Another option is to make or buy soft dog snacks with berries.
He advises that dog owners should always read through the entire ingredient list and buy snacks made with whole foods and without a lot of additives and preservatives. Be sure to follow the serving size listed on the package as eating too much of anything can cause stomach upset (and dogs are notoriously bad at self-regulating with snacks!).
Can dogs eat blueberry ice cream?
Most adult dogs have some trouble digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk, per the AKC. Ice creams and heavy creams in particular contain a lot of lactose.
Puppies naturally produce more of the enzymes that break down lactose, called lactase, allowing them to drink their mother’s milk. But once they have weaned, or stop drinking their mother’s milk or formula, dogs produce less lactase.
So all adult dogs are lactose intolerant to some extent. Depending on how sensitive a dog is to lactose, and how much they have of it, several mild symptoms can occur, such as:
- loose stools or diarrhea
- stomach cramps or pain
As a rule of thumb, the experts say to avoid giving dogs ice cream of any kind. Aside from lactose, some dogs are allergic to or cannot digest proteins found in milk.
Ice cream is also a good source of things dogs should not overeat, like sugar and fat.
Ice cream alternatives
If you want to give your dog a refreshing treat, experts recommend feeding them frozen blueberries. You can also puree blueberries and freeze them to create a low-calorie, low-sugar sorbet.
Frozen, blended, ripe bananas also make a delicious frozen treat, called “nice cream.” Some companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, also offer nondairy, 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 that break down the sugar.
Yogurt is fine for dogs and can be a healthy treat, says Barbara Hodges, DVM, the director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. But she suggests staying away from yogurts with fruit flavors or fruit in them. Those tend to contain lots of sugar. You should also read the list of ingredients to make sure you’re feeding your pup all-natural yogurt. Watch out for added sugar or any chemical ingredients.
“If you want to supplement your dog’s diet with yogurt, I recommend plain yogurt with live [bacterial] cultures to make sure your dog gets the digestive benefits from these types of bacteria,” says Dr. Hodges. “You could always throw some blueberries in plain yogurt for some extra flavor and nutrition.”
Can dogs have wild blueberries and blueberry leaves?
Wild blueberries are safe for dogs as long as they haven’t been sprayed with any type of chemical. It is best to carefully wash and rinse wild berries before letting a dog eat them.
Always remove non-berry plant parts from wild or store-bought blueberries before giving them to a dog.
This is another reason not to allow a dog to eat them off a blueberry bush—they can easily eat these plant parts and inadvertently harm themselves.
“Dogs should not eat any plant parts of the berries. Leaves, stems—it is just unnecessary,” says Dr. Hodges.
She says leaves and stems are virtually indigestible, meaning eating them is likely to cause some 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 the experts agree that when it comes to feeding dogs berries, steer clear of blueberry-containing or flavored products.
Products like blueberry juices or preserves, canned or stewed blueberries, and other processed blueberry products usually contain loads of sugar.
They can also contain chemicals and other additives not listed on the package, including ingredients 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 nutrition.
“To be frank, I would hope a dog is [only] getting dried, cooked, canned, preserved, or juiced varieties by accident,” says Dr. Brown-Bury.
She says there is simply no need to give dogs these products, especially considering the health risks they may pose.
Aside from excess sugar and other additives, blueberry products may be mixed with or exposed to foods toxic to dogs, particularly grapes and raisins, says Dr. Brown-Bury.
A word about xylitol
Never let dogs eat blueberry-flavored products with low-sugar labels or artificial sweeteners, experts say.
They carry the risk of containing xylitol, a compound toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar levels and liver failure in dogs.
What to do if you think your dog is having a bad reaction to something they ate
Even though most dogs will be fine eating blueberries, it may not agree with your particular pup. So pay attention to any signs that your furry friend is in distress after eating berries:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Marked changes in behavior
Talk to your vet about any specific dietary concerns you have for your individual dog. And if you’re worried about something specific they just ate, just give your vet a call.
“If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to reach out! We get these kinds of calls all the time and we will be able to tell you whether the food or item eaten is concerning and what the next steps should be,” says Dr. Brister. “Never try to treat a potentially toxic ingestion without a veterinarian’s advice.”
Another great option is to call the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison hotline (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Hotline (855-764-7661).
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With additional reporting by Charlotte Hilton Anderson.
- Jacqueline Brister, DVM, veterinarian and Consultant at Embrace Pet Insurance
- Efrem Hunter, DVM, MBA, veterinarian, and chief of Blue Buffalo Veterinary and Scientific Affairs
- American Kennel Club: "Fruits and Vegetables Dogs Can or Can't Eat"
- American Kennel Club: "Can dogs eat blueberries"
- Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club