Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?
And will your dog actually like them?
Some fruits come in so many different forms that it can be hard to know which ones are OK for dogs and which ones are dangerous. And if you love cranberries and want to share some with your dog, you may be wondering if there’s a difference between dried cranberries, cranberry juice, cranberry sauce and other preparations — and can dogs eat cranberries safely in the first place?
The good news is that dogs can eat plain cranberries and plain cranberry sauce in moderation — but there are some things you need to know first.
We spoke to Dr. Sada Grieve, a Fear Free-certified concierge veterinarian, and Dr. Zach Marteney, medical director at Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, to find out how to safely feed your dog cranberries.
Can dogs eat cranberries safely?
Dogs can eat plain cranberries in moderation.
“Dogs can eat cranberries without concerns for toxicity,” Dr. Marteney told The Dodo. “As with all treats, moderation is key. Too many cranberries can upset their stomach (and prevent them from wanting to eat their regular food).”
Benefits of giving your dog cranberries
There are a number of health benefits to feeding your dog cranberries.
“Cranberries are a great source of antioxidants, proanthocyanidins (helps prevent bacterial urinary tract infections [in humans]), dietary fiber and quercetin (helps enhance the immune system),” Dr. Grieve told The Dodo.
But while cranberries can help prevent UTIs in humans, research is unclear on whether they can be helpful for dogs, so you shouldn’t rely on cranberries to help if your dog has a history of UTIs.
“The jury is still out on whether this is helpful in pets,” Dr. Marteney said. “Some studies have shown a benefit … Other studies have shown no benefit. In a clinical study, it did not cause a statistically significant decrease in the number of E. coli urinary tract infections in dogs. While it's not likely to hurt, it hasn't been shown to be remarkably helpful for dogs with recurrent UTIs.”
So while there’s not a consensus yet on whether cranberries can help with your dog’s UTI, they have enough other health benefits that they’re great for an occasional, healthy treat.
Dangers of giving your dog cranberries
While cranberries can be healthy, there are some risks to giving your dog cranberries too.
Dried cranberries can often be sold together with raisins, which are dangerous for dogs.
“The only major risk with cranberries is that they may be sold packaged with raisins, which are toxic to dogs,” Dr. Marteney said. “Make sure to double-check the label and ensure there are no raisins in there!”
Similarly, cranberry juice can often be mixed with grape juice, even if the bottle is labeled “cranberry juice,” and grapes are also toxic to dogs (so you should assume anything with grape products in it is poisonous to your pup).
Raw cranberries can also be a choking hazard if they’re too big for your dog to swallow or if he eats too many at once. Smaller dogs are at greater risk for this (since they have smaller mouths and throats). You can help to avoid this by giving your dog cooked cranberries or by not giving him too many at once so he won’t have trouble swallowing them.
Sugar-free cranberry sauce or juice could also contain xylitol, an ingredient often used in sugarless products that is highly toxic to dogs.
Can dogs eat dried cranberries?
Dogs can eat dried cranberries, but they might not like them.
“Dogs can eat dried cranberries — if they like them,” Dr. Marteney said. “The tart flavor is not always enjoyable to dogs.”
Dried cranberries can often be loaded with sugar as well, so they’re not healthy to give to your dog all the time, Dr. Grieve said. If you want to give him dried cranberries, you can try to look for a package that has no sugar added.
And since dried cranberries can be sold with raisins, remember to check that the dried cranberries you give to your dog don’t have any raisins included.
“Just make sure the dried cranberries aren't packaged with raisins, as even a few raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs,” Dr. Marteney said.
Can dogs eat cranberry sauce?
Plain cranberry sauce is OK for dogs to eat in small amounts and as a very occasional treat, but many cranberry sauces are high in sugar, which can upset your dog’s stomach.
Some cranberry sauces can also have other ingredients added, such as other fruits, nuts or xylitol, so you should check that the cranberry sauce you have doesn’t contain anything that is harmful to your pup.
Can dogs have cranberry juice?
Cranberry juice can be tricky — it's often super sugary or can be mixed with grape juice.
“Be careful with cranberry juice — it often has either added sugars or is mixed with other fruit juices, which is not healthy for dogs,” Dr. Grieve said. “Grape juice is commonly added, which is toxic and should be avoided.”
You should also check the label to make sure there are no other toxic ingredients added to the juice. So it might just not be worth the effort since there are easier ways to feed your dog cranberries.
“While dogs can have cranberry juice, I recommend against it as a general rule,” Dr. Marteney said. “Check the label for synthetic sweeteners or other toxic ingredients, like grape juice!”
How much cranberry can my dog eat?
Talk to your vet to find out how many cranberries you can safely give your dog — but a good rule of thumb is it’s best to give them only as a small treat.
If you feed your dog too many cranberries, it could turn his poop red too. This isn’t something to worry about, but it could be surprising to see.
“The red coloration may make its way through the GI tract and give a red coloration to the stool,” Dr. Marteney said. “While this isn't a problem, it is something to be aware of if your dog is eating a lot of cranberries. If you have any concerns about the color of your dog's stool, please reach out to your family veterinarian for advice.”
Symptoms of xylitol and grape poisoning in dogs
If you give your dog cranberries, the main causes of symptoms of illness would be cranberry products that contain xylitol or grapes.
Symptoms of xylitol toxicity are a result of low blood sugar and include:
- Pale gums
- Liver failure (in extreme cases)
If your dog eats a cranberry product with grapes (cranberry and grape juice or dried cranberries with raisins, for example), symptoms would include:
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Abnormal urination
- Excessive drinking habits
- Kidney failure
But if you’re careful about which types of cranberry products you give your pup, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of these symptoms!
So dogs can eat cranberries, and plain cranberries can actually be healthy for your pup, but they should always be given in moderation.