Can dogs eat cherries?

Cherries are a popular summertime fruit included in many recipes, from pies to muffins. But, nothing is better than sitting down with a bowl of ripe cherries, and eating them one by one. However you enjoy cherries, we are willing to bet your dog will be nearby, sporting puppy dog eyes and hoping for a bite. Is it safe to share your bowl of cherries with your canine companion?

The answer to this question is two-fold: While cherry flesh is safe for your dog, all other parts, including the pit, stem, and leaves, are toxic. Sharing the flesh of a few cherries with your dog is OK, but he could experience cyanide toxicity if he accidentally swallows the pits or stems.

Cyanide toxicity in dogs

Cherry pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, a dangerous toxin that inhibits an enzyme needed for cellular oxygen transport. Dogs with cyanide toxicity cannot properly use oxygen, and inadequate cellular oxygen levels cause clinical signs, such as:

  • Pupillary dilation
  • Bright red gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shock

If your dog eats a few cherries, he is unlikely to suffer cyanide toxicity, but large quantities can be deadly.

If your dog eats cherry pits, leaves, or stems, call your family veterinarian immediately for emergency treatment, which may include making him vomit to prevent cyanide absorption. Inducing vomiting shortly after ingestion is critical, since food material quickly moves out of the stomach.

Additional concerns for dogs who eat cherries

Ingested cherry pits can also cause an intestinal obstruction in small dogs, and a few pits can cause big problems. An intestinal obstruction blocks food passage through the body, and can cause life-threatening complications, such as perforation and abdominal contamination.

Never feed your dog whole cherries. Store the fruit safely out of your pet’s reach to prevent accidental ingestion, and ensure he cannot get into any cherry pits in the trash. Eating hard pits may seem unappetizing, but your dog may be tempted to gobble up pits still covered with some leftover fruit.

Health benefits of cherry flesh for dogs

Cherry flesh, usually deep red in color, does contain a number of beneficial vitamins and nutrients, including:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants

If you want to share a few cherries with your dog, carefully remove the pits and stems beforehand. The labor-intensive preparation means your pet is unlikely to eat enough to reap many health benefits. Unfortunately, if your dog gets used to cherries as an occasional treat, he may help himself to whole cherries left sitting out, so it may be best to refrain from feeding him fresh cherries to avoid sending mixed messages.

Feeding your dog pitted cherries, such as dried or maraschino varieties, is also a bad idea. Although they have no pits, these cherries contain excessive amounts of sugar and are not healthy for your dog.

Safe ways to feed cherries to dogs

Check with your trusted family veterinarian to make sure homemade baked/pitted cherry treats are ok for your particular dog or if alternate fruit treats are perhaps a better option.

Feeding fresh cherries may not be wise, but baking your pup a homemade treat that contains pitted cherries is perfectly safe. Try this muffin recipe from dogtreatkitchen.com:

Cherry Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pitted, chopped cherries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, then coat each cup with flour.
  3. Combine oats, flour, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix buttermilk, egg, and applesauce in a separate mixing bowl.
  5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients.
  6. Stir the batter until moist.
  7. Stir in cherries.
  8. Fill muffin cups ⅔ full.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  10. Completely cool the muffins on a wire rack before serving one to your dog, who will be anxiously awaiting a taste.
  11. Refrigerate leftover muffins for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to three months.

Recipe yields 12 large muffins. A small muffin pan can be used, with adjusted cooking times.

Here’s another great recipe, from pawsitivelysweetbakery.com, you can share with your furry friend. It makes use of fresh cherries and blueberries, but frozen berries can easily be substituted if berries are not in season.

Cherry Berry Crunch Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup pitted cherries
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ¾ water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Combine flour and rolled oats in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Puree cherries until smooth.
  5. Mix pureed cherries, blueberries, honey, and water in a separate mixing bowl.
  6. Add berry mixture to dry ingredients, and mix well.
  7. Roll out the cookie dough.
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut out treats and place them onto a prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle cookies with ground cinnamon after removing from the oven.
  11. Completely cool cookies on a wire rack before sharing one with your dog.

Recipe yields 12 dog cookies. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.