Can I give my dog cherries

Most of us love cherries, whether raw, prepared or as part of a dessert. But can dogs eat cherries too, and are cherries for dogs safe to consume?

What are the health benefits of giving cherries to dogs and are there any side effects?

Are cherries bad for dogs?

Let's take a look.

If you've been wondering, “can I give my dog cherries,” the answer is yes – dogs can eat cherries, provided they are prepared properly and given in strict moderation.

Cherries are chuck-full of great nutrients for both humans and dogs, but there are potential health consequences of giving too many cherries to dogs, or feeding cherries that are not prepared or otherwise appropriate to dogs.

That's all great, but why can dogs eat cherries and what benefits will they reap from it?

What are cherries?

What a tart cherry looks like?
Tart cherry (small, bright red)

A cherry is a type of summer fruit belonging to the family called Prunus, the same one that covers plums, apricots, and peaches.

There are two primary types of cherries most consumed by people – tart cherries (or Montmorency cherry) and sweet cherries (big cherries).

When not eaten raw, they are often used in pies and other desserts.

On the right, you see a Montmorency tart cherry.

On the left, you see a (big) sweet cherry.

What a big sweet cherry looks like?
Sweet cherry (big, dark red)

The difference between these two types of cherries is their sugar content and, subsequently, their taste.

Big sweet cherries are, of course, sweeter and tastier.

However, most of the health benefits have been studied only in Montmorency tart cherries, which are the ones we will cover in this article down below.

If you're going to give your dog cherries, it's best to go for tart cherries due to their potential health benefits and lower natural sugar content.

Let's get into the facts of giving cherries for dogs, and whether it's safe for dogs to eat cherries and why that's the case.

Now let's get deeper into the question of can dogs eat cherries and why they may even should consume this tasty berry fruit.

ALSO READ: Can Dogs Eat Bananas?

Cherries for Dogs 101: Can Dogs Eat Cherries?

Yes, dogs can eat cherries, provided they are properly prepared and fed in strict moderation. As with any other type of food for dogs, it's important not to overdo it. It is highly recommended that you feed them cherries without pits. The cherry pit is toxic in large quantities because it has cyanide in it.

Here are the nutrients and vitamins found in cherries that most benefit dogs:

  • Aanthocyanin
  • Melatonin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Fiber
  • Iron

All of the above are the essential vitamins and minerals that can greatly benefit your dog and his health, and cherries are full of them.

This should answer the question of can dogs eat cherries, but some owners may be interested in how exactly can these nutrients improve your dog's health?

Are cherries bad for dogs?

No, the flesh is considered safe and healthy in small amounts for dogs. However whole cherries with the pit can be toxic because of the pit as well as the leaves.

10 Health Benefits of Cherries for Dogs

Can I give my dog cherries?

By now you know if dogs can eat cherries and if you do feed your dog cherries, make sure to do so in moderation and only as an occasional treat.

Doing so may provide your dog with the following ten health benefits:

1. Antioxidants reduce cell damage and help prevent diseases.

Cherries contain antioxidant called anthocyanins that strengthens dog's immune system and may even reduce degenerative conditions like canine arthritis, cardiovascular disease, heart condition and potentially canine cancers in dogs.

2. Vitamin A helps promote eye health.

Vitamin A is know for many health benefits but particularly those related to eyes. Providing Vitamin A can sharpen and strengthen your dog’s vision and it may promote overall eye health in canines.

3. Vitamin C improves and strengthens the immune system.

Similarly to anthocyanins, Vitamin C found in cherries will promote the function of white blood cells in a canine's body. It strengthens your dog’s immune system and benefits his overall well-being. This is the best reason not to be wondering if dogs can eat cherries, as Vitamin C will benefit their health greatly.

4. Melatonin promotes healthy sleep patterns and heart health.

Very few foods have melatonin in them, but cherries are one of those exceptional fruits.

Melatonin is an antioxidant which helps to regulate both sleep and wake cycles in dogs (the circadian rhythm). Melatonin may also help to lower blood pressure and control heart rhythms in the dog's body.

Big sweet cherries may also improve heart health, as shown in some studies.

5. Cherries may help to prevent diabetes.

Here's another good reason for dog owners wondering if dogs can eat cherries – because of its high antioxidant content, giving cherries for dogs may help improve the management of canine diabetes or reduce the risk of diabetes in dogs altogether. It's important not to overfeed dogs on cherries, however, since they still contain fructose. 

6. Cherries have fiber that helps with weight loss and maintenance.

Dietary fiber is an important component in cherries (as well as in many other fruits and veggies) that promotes weight loss and healthy weight management in dogs among many other benefits related to digestion and digestive health system in canines.

Providing a sufficient amount of fiber in the dog's diet will help to regulate your canine's digestive system, including his bowel movements.

7. Cherries can help reduce joint inflammation.

Cherries have been well-studied for their inflammation properties and many studies have proven that to be the case (this, this and this).

Therefore, active and particularly older dogs can benefit from the anti-inflammatory characteristics of tart cherries when given in sufficient (yet moderate) amount.

Many pet owners have been concerned if dogs can eat cherries and how this affect their internal health, so the answer is that ultimately it benefits them. But note that big sweet cherries do not have the same anti-inflammatory benefit.

8. Potassium, a vital nutrient, is found in cherries.

Although bananas would be a better source, cherries still have a good amount of potassium. Potassium helps to strengthen various dog's body functions, including muscle development, blood vessel function, and electrolyte replacement.

9. Cherries are a significant source of magnesium.

Another mineral tart cherries are known for is magnesium. Magnesium is needed for the proper absorption of vitamins, production of protein, and bone growth in dogs among many other vital functions in the canine body.

10. Cherries contain iron needed for healthy body function.

Finally, it's also the vital mineral iron that cherries have also been studied for. Iron is needed for the dog body’s enzymes to function properly and for the creation of hemoglobin for oxygen transport in the blood among its many other health benefits.

So can dogs eat cherries? The answer is a resounding yes and cherries for dogs provide a good amount of nutrition and vitamins. Here is what sweet cherries are known for:

Benefits of cherries for dogs infographic

“So can I give my dog cherries?”

Yes, you can give your dog cherries, and it may significantly benefit their health.

Pet owners wondering if dogs can eat cherries shouldn't be too concerned about feeding them.

However, cherries for dogs are only appropriate if they are carefully prepared and fed in moderation as an occasional treat, and there's a reason why (I'll cover that below).

Bottom line: Cherries are safe for dogs to eat in tiny amounts. Dogs like the taste of cherries because they are so sweet, so it’s important not to overfeed them.

ALSO READ: Can Dogs Eat Cantaloupe?

4 Potential Side Effects of Cherries for Dogs

Side effects of cherries for dogsAs noted above, cherries for dogs are only safe in small amounts and as an occasional treat.

The reason for this is because giving cherries to dogs in large amounts or too often can have side effects and be detrimental to your dog's health.

If you're wondering now, can dogs eat cherries with total safety, here are some potential side effects and health precautions on feeding cherries to dogs:

1. Cherry pits, seeds, and leaves are toxic to dogs.

This is the most important thing to remember: cherry pits contain cyanide, which is both toxic and deadly not only to dogs but to humans as well. Cyanide is also found in cherry seeds and leaves, so properly clean and de-pit cherries before feeding to your dog.

Cyanide poisoning prevents vital enzymes from transporting oxygen to blood cells. Humans can handle a larger amount of cyanide than dogs before being poisoned.

Symptoms of cyanide poisoning condition are most commonly inadequate oxygen levels, bright reddish gums, difficulty in breathing, and dilated pupils. Take your dog to a vet immediately if he exhibits any of these symptoms or you know that your dog ate cherry pits, seeds or leaves.

2. Cherry pits can cause obstructions and blockages.

There are more issues with cherry pits than just cyanide, however.

Even though they are small, cherry pits can still get lodged in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, resulting in an emergency situation requiring your dog to get a surgery.

Obstruction signs include vomiting, low fecal production, straining, or refusal to eat.

3. Cherries can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Giving cherries for dogs in large amount (and sometimes even introducing cherries in the dog's diet for the first time) may result in your canine experiencing stomach upset.

Dogs may also experience mild vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea due to their difficulty digesting cherries as a new food they are not by nature designed to eat. So if you want to give your dog cherries, start with very small amounts.

4. Sugary forms of processed cherries can elevate blood sugar.

Finally, it's important to remember that only natural cherries for dogs are safe.

Cherries in jars, dried cherries, processed cherries, and cherries canned in sugar-filled juice always have added processed sugar (on top of the natural sugars within cherries). Never give your dog any form of cherry other than natural.

Sugary foods like these may cause blood sugar spikes that lead to an increase in insulin levels in dogs. This is generally followed by a sudden drop in blood sugar. Dogs who experience this situation may feel lethargic, sick, or extremely hungry.

What do you do if your dog swallows a whole cherry?

Can dogs eat cherry pie, maraschino cherries, or depitted cherries?

The short answer is yes, dogs can have cherry pie, in my opinion, you should avoid feeding your dog human processed food as dogs can not process carbohydrates as effectively as we can.

It is preferred that they just eat normal depitted cherries in moderation as this treat is high in sugar. The flesh of the cherry has many health benefits.

As for maraschino cherries, yes they can have them, but in small amounts. These cherries are also high in sugar which in high amounts spikes insulin which stops the body's ability to metabolize fat.

How many cherries are toxic to dogs?

Feeding your dog one to two cherries shouldn't affect them negatively.

Just be sure to make sure they don't get into a bag of cherries because like we said earlier, the pit contains cyanide which is toxic.

Are ground cherries safe for dogs?

No, these cherries are what are called nightshades (poisonous berries) and contain solanine and other forms of solanidine alkaloids.

These compounds are poisonous and when the fruit is not ripe there are deadly amounts of these compounds found in the flesh and leaves.

These berries should be avoided by humans, pets, and any livestock.

Can Dogs Eat Cherries? Summary

Can Dogs Eat CherriesYes, dogs can eat cherries as long as all pits, seeds, and leaves are removed and they are fed in very small quantities and as an occasional treat.

So if you're still wondering if dogs can eat cherries, fear no more – the health benefits of cherries for dogs may prevent cancer and diabetes, promote healthy sleep cycles and weight management, and allow better joint mobility in active and older dogs among many other benefits.

Be mindful of all the potential side effects of feeding cherries to dogs in too large amounts or not preparing them properly (meaning leaving pits, seeds or leaves around).

READ NEXT: 11 Best Superfoods for Dogs That May Improve Their Health

Sarah is the pet food expert at Top Dog Tips with experience in working, writing and researching the pet food industry, dog foods and canine nutrition. She's dedicated to uncover the truths about how, why and what we use to feed our dogs.