Yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen table, doing some work, and enjoying the bowl of cherries I bought from the market a few days back.
As you might relate, it didn’t take long for Karma (my little Shiba Inu puppy) to sneak over and start staring with her small beautiful eyes, asking for a bite of that red, juicy cherry.
And it made me think – can I give it to her? Are cherries safe for dogs, especially small ones?
So I did a little research and here is what I found out.
Cherries are NOT safe for dogs. The flesh or pulp of the cherry is not dangerous and can be consumed in moderation, however generally not recommended due to high sugar content. The pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, which, even in small quantities, is poisonous and may harm your dog. You should especially watch that your dog doesn’t crack and eat the cherry pit because the most harmful compounds are inside the pit.
Here is the structure of the post, in case you want to jump straight to the question that bothers you:
- Why are cherries safe for humans and not dogs?
- What about cherries without the pits and dried cherries?
- What to do if my dog ate a cherry?
- What does the science say?
- What are healthy alternatives?
|✅DOGS CAN EAT (IN MODERATION)||❌DOGS CANNOT EAT|
|Fresh Cherry Flesh||Cherry Pits|
Can Dogs Eat Cherries? Why are cherries safe for humans and not dogs?
We, humans, have a much stronger digestive system than dogs and also due to the sheer mass of our bodies, we can take more of the ‘bad stuff’ without any significant harm.
Cherries are safer for humans because usually, we don’t eat the pit or other parts of the cherry. We are able to separate fleshy part from everything else quite easily and therefore avoid any significant harm.
However, it’s a different case for dogs.
Can dogs eat Cherry flesh
The flesh (pulp) of cherries is not toxic, but it does contain a relatively high amount of sugar. Which, as you may already know, can cause diabetes, obesity and in this way shorten your best friend’s lifespan.
Though, small amounts of cherry flesh are not the worst food you can give to your doggie.
Some good news is that the Glycemic Index (GI) Score of cherries is 22, which is considered low. It means that the effect on blood sugar level is not as adverse as foods, such as candy, with GI of 70 or higher.
Glycemic Load (GL) Score that takes the GI score, plus the grams of carbohydrates per serving of the food, for cherries, is 6, which is also considered low.
It’s a different case when we talk about cherry pits, stems, and other parts of the cherry fruit or tree.
Can dogs eat Cherry pits, leaves and stems
Cherry pits (or stones or kernels if you will) contain a poisonous compound called cyanide, which is extremely dangerous not only for dogs but for humans as well.
According to my Google research, an average pit of a single cherry contains 0.17g of cyanide, and the lethal dose for humans is 0.152g. If you do the quick mental math, you’ll notice that a single cherry pit contains more than enough cyanide to result in death.
And that’s only for humans, with a body mass of 150 pounds (70kgs). There is no exact research done on what’s the amount of cyanide that can kill dogs, but unless your dog is over 150 pounds (I hope not), the common-sense says that even one cherry pit can be enough for it to result in the worst-case scenario.
However, there is a caveat. The compounds which when digested, get turned into the cyanide are hidden inside the kernel, not in its shell. Meaning, if you don’t crush the pit or your dog doesn’t break it with their teeth, the pit will most likely leave the body the next time doggie goes to the bathroom for a number 2.
Cherry Leaves and Stems
When it comes to other parts of the cherry fruit, such as stems and leaves, it is generally known also to be toxic, thus should be avoided as well. According to PennState University, 0.18 to 0.72 pounds of cherry tree leaves may be the lethal amount to kill a 180-pound sheep. Meaning it would only take 0.03 to 0.12 pounds of leaves to kill a 30-pound dog.
I know it sounds super scary, and I don’t want to be scaremongering. I’ve checked a couple of forums, and people reported that their dogs or cats ate a bunch of leaves, and nothing happened. Thus reality might be not as scary as it sounds, but we don’t want to risk it, right?
What about cherries without the pits and dried cherries?
Our food industry has evolved so much that it became a norm to find fruits that have been modified from their original form or taste. Did you know that a first seedless watermelon was invented in the 1940s and seedless grapes in 1980?
Ok, I digress.
I want to talk about another similar invention – maraschino cherries, and are they suitable for dogs?
Can Dogs Eat Maraschino Cherries
Cherries also have their pit-less version, which is called maraschino cherries. Luckily, it’s not achieved through GMO methods, but rather by pitting them mechanically. Thus it starts as a usual cherry and then gets de-pitted.
That means maraschino cherries do not contain the most toxic part of the cherry – the pit. So you might be wondering – if it has no pit, is it still bad for dogs?
Well, unfortunately, yes. The reason is that the process of producing maraschino cherries is quite horrifying, and it results in a single cherry being an absolute sugar bomb, which is way more unhealthy than a fresh cherry. And that’s not only for dogs…
Can Dogs Eat Dried cherries
I love dried cherries. They are like nature’s candy.
But dried cherry is nothing else than a fresh cherry minus all the liquids. What’s left is a high-sugar content piece of fruit that is not good for dogs for the same reasons maraschino or fresh cherries are not good too. A cup of dried cherries contains staggering 100g of sugar, which is almost 20 teaspoons!
Oh, sweet lord, I sometimes wish sugar was the healthiest thing ever, and we could eat unlimited amounts of it.
What to do if my dog ate a cherry?
We all know that dogs are not so great in self-control or judging what’s right for them (neither am I if I’m being sincere). So the likelihood of your doggie eating a cherry throughout their lifetime is high.
Then, what to do if your dog ate a cherry?
First of all – don’t panic. As mentioned above, it depends on which parts of the cherry they ate and how much of it.
Still, you need to watch out for some symptoms for cyanide poisoning.
Cherry poisoning symptoms for dogs
If they did end up eating a cherry or more, you should watch out for symptoms of cherry poisoning:
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
- Inadequate oxygen levels
- Bright red gums
If your puppy experiences any of the above symptoms, I would recommend taking him or her to the vet as soon as possible. I keep my fingers crossed you will never have to do it though.
What does the science say?
I always want to make sure that whatever I’m reading and making decisions by is backed by science. Google Scholar is my best friend for these purposes, and when I looked for scientific evidence in regards to cyanide found in cherry kernels, here is what I dug up.
According to the research article published in Occupational Medicine Magazine, “Cyanide is present naturally in cassava and cherry laurel and the kernels of apricot, cherry, apple, and almond seeds.” Although the only more in-depth research, I was able to find, was done with apricot and peaches. In any case, it clearly states that cherry kernels do contain cyanide. Thus science confirms: dogs and humans should stay away from cherry kernels and never chew or try to break them.
What are healthy alternatives?
Lastly, what are some healthy alternatives to cherries that you could give to your dog?
Well, if you want to stick to berries, a great seedless and pitless alternative is blueberries.
Blueberries are high in fiber and vitamin C and are also quite low in calories. I remember my 2nd dog, Lucky (who sadly passed away before Christmas 2018 after 16 years with us), would always nimble on the wild blueberries when we were having a walk in the forest!
Also, here are som healthy veggie and fruit options for dogs:
- Watermelon (with seeds removed)
- Apple (without the core)
- Pureed pumpkin
- Steamed Brocolli
To go over it one more time – dogs cannot and shouldn’t eat cherries, especially the pits, stems, and leaves. The pulp itself is not toxic, but even a small amount of other parts of cherries can have a dramatic effect on your tail-waggers.
Furthermore, here is the video I found about it: