Can Dogs Drink Cranberry Juice?

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Updated: December 9, 2022
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Cranberry juice is a refreshing drink that’s popular across the world. It’s rumored to help UTIs and has plenty of vitamin C packed into each glass. It’s great for us, but can dogs drink cranberry juice for the same health benefits?

Let’s unpack cranberry juice and find out why it’s not a good idea for your dog to drink it, but whole cranberries are a great dog-friendly snack.

Is Cranberry Juice Safe For Dogs To Drink?

Cranberry juice is not safe for dogs to drink.

Even though cranberry juice isn’t toxic for dogs, it’s not recommended because it has high sugar content and may contain added ingredients like the artificial sweetener Xylitol or grape juice which can be fatal if dogs ingest them. Cranberry juice can also contribute to kidney stones.

If you’d like your dog to benefit from cranberries give them a few whole fresh cranberry fruits instead.

What is Cranberry Juice?

Cranberry juice is a tart-flavored bright red drink made from cranberry fruits. Cranberries are low in fat and sugar but because the taste is astringent, manufacturers add sugar, artificial sweeteners or other sweet juices to the mix. It has lots of vitamin C, but a high acidity (2.6 pH) that damages tooth enamel and its natural compounds can interfere with blood thinners like Warfarin.

Cranberries are part of the Ericaceae plant family and they’re native to North America. The shrubs are evergreen with wiry branches that reach around two meters in height. The flowers are pink and the small fruits are bright vivid red. Fresh cranberries are readily available in stores, but the majority are made into juice, dried, or sauce. Cranberry sauce is traditional at Thanksgiving dinner in the United States.

Cranberry juice

Cranberry juice is not recommended for dogs because it has high sugar content and may contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol or grape juice.

©Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice

Even though cranberries are low fat and full of vitamins, the risks of cranberry juice to dogs outweigh any health benefits. Stick to fresh cranberries. More on that later.

Risks of Dog Drinking Cranberry Juice

It’s too risky to give dogs cranberry juice. Here’s why:

It’s High in Sugar

Sugar is added to cranberry juice to sweeten its tart, acidic taste and sugar is a carbohydrate that can lead to rapid weight increase in dogs. It’s also bad for their dental health, causing cavities in the same way it affects humans.

Low Sugar Cranberry Juice Has Artificial Sweeteners

One of the biggest risks of cranberry juice is the sweeteners. Sugar-free versions contain Xylitol or its equivalent which can lead to a huge blood sugar drop and hypoglycemia in dogs. It’s so bad for them it can lead to organ failure.

Another cranberry juice sweetener is grape juice. Grapes are highly toxic to dogs in all their form including juices and dried raisins. Dogs can’t digest grapes and the compounds can also lead to organ failure. Cranberry juice cocktails or mixers usually have grape juice in them.

Calcium Oxalates

Drinking a lot of cranberry juice can lead to calcium oxalates which we know better as kidney stones. Passing a kidney stone is very painful and they can cause blockages that require surgery.

Gastric Upsets

Cranberry juice contains a lot of acids that cause diarrhea and stomach pains in large quantities.  

What About Whole Cranberries?

Whole cranberries are safe for dogs and contain lots of benefits:

  • Vitamin C – essential for a healthy immune system
  • Vitamin E – boosts skin, coat, nails, and eyesight
  • Vitamin K – helps blood clotting and builds strong bones
  • Manganese – forms connective tissues, blood clots, bones and sex hormones
  • Copper maintains the nervous system and it’s essential for brain development

They Are Low in Calories

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention 56% of pet dogs are overweight or obese in the States. Being overweight can lead to diabetes, an increased risk of cancer, joint problems, and a general decrease in quality of life. Cranberries are very low fat, so they’re a great treat for dogs and even overweight dogs trying to lose some pounds.

Helpful Training Aid

A few fresh cranberries thrown on a patch of grass is a fun way to bond with your dog. Let them hunt the berry and snaffle the treat. You can also use them in obedience training and pop a few in a puzzle toy to keep dogs with anxiety issues entertained.

However, there’s always a downside! Fresh cranberries are quite acidic and like all fruits eating too many can lead to diarrhea. Limit your dog to a few each day alongside other fresh fruit and veg like bell peppers and sliced carrots that are packed with nutrients. The ASPCA recommends treats like these should be no more than 10% of their daily diet and the remaining 90% a good quality complete dog food.

Biewer terrier puppies and cranberries

Whole cranberries are safe for dogs and contain lots of benefits but must be used in small quantities since they are quite acidic.

©iStock.com/Liliya Kulianionak

Will Cranberry Juice Help My Dog’s Urinary Tract Infection?

There’s anecdotal evidence that cranberries can help prevent and heal urinary tract infections however studies haven’t proven their effects. Even if cranberry juice does help dogs with UTI infections, it’s still not safe to give it to them.

Try whole fresh cranberries instead, but don’t substitute them for proper medical attention. A UTI can quickly spread to the kidney and make a dog very unwell. Always speak to a vet if you think your dog has a UTI. The symptoms include blood-stained pee, accidents around the house, excessive grooming around the genitals, and moving from spot-to-spot attempting to urinate.

A bowl of red cranberries which are safe  for dogs

Cranberries are very low fat, so they’re a great treat for dogs and even overweight dogs trying to lose some pounds.

©iStock.com/gitusik

My Dog Drank Cranberry Juice is it Poisonous?

It depends.

If possible, look at the packaging to see what else the juice contained alongside cranberries.

If it’s sugar, your dog should be fine although they may develop an upset stomach. Feed them plain chicken and rice or turkey and sweet potato until their stools firm up, but if it lasts longer than two days call a vet for advice because frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration.

If the cranberry juice contained Xylitol or grape juice (most low-sugar versions do) speak to your vet straight away. They will want to know how much your dog has consumed, when, and what symptoms they have.

Keep your eyes peeled for lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, weak back legs, panting, tremors, and collapse which are all signs of poisoning in dogs.

What About Dried Cranberries?

A few dried cranberries won’t hurt your dog as long as they don’t contain Xylitol, but dried fruit is often high in sugar, so be wary of weight increase and dental damage. You could dry your own cranberries in a low-heat oven or use a dehydrator, just don’t add any sweetener to them.

Food and Drink Toxic For Dogs

Plain fresh cranberries are good for dogs in small amounts but there are food and drinks that are highly toxic. We’ve already encountered the artificial sweetener Xylitol and grapes, but here are other foods your dog should never eat.

  • Chocolate – contains caffeine and theobromine which are stimulants that dogs can’t process. It can lead to collapse and even be fatal. There’s the added risk of Xylitol in it too.
  • Macadamia nuts – dogs can’t process their compounds and it can cause organ failure. Weak back legs are one of the main signs. Macadamia nuts are used in bakery items such as cakes and biscuits.
  • Black walnuts – these walnuts aren’t digestible and they frequently grow a type of mold that’s toxic for dogs.
  • Alcohol – even small amounts of wine, beer, cocktails, spirits, and alcohol-infused sweets can lead to alcohol poisoning and organ failure. Sweet cocktails may also contain Xylitol or grape juice.
  • Onions – all members of the Allium family create anemia in dogs because their compounds cling to red blood cells. Other alliums are garlic, shallots, chives, leeks, and flower bulbs like the ‘Purple Sensation.’
  • Corn on the cob – whilst corn isn’t toxic, corn cobs are dangerous because dogs can’t digest them and they can cause gut blockages.

Can Dogs Have Cranberry Juice?

No, dogs can’t have cranberry juice, but they can have fresh cranberry fruits in moderation to add flavor and lots of vitamins to their diet if the fruits are washed and free from any artificial sweetener.   

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Evgeniia Shikhaleeva/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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Sources
  1. European Food Safety Authority, Available here: https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2903/j.efsa.2014.3657
  2. VCA animal hospitals, Available here: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/urinary-tract-infections-utis-in-dogs
  3. PETMD, Available here: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-cranberries