Dogs are omnivores and in the wild they were scavengers, eating a wide range of foods including meat, fish, grains, vegetables, and fruit. So, it’s easy to assume that our dogs can eat all types of fruit and berries. But, can dogs eat cherries?
No, it is not safe for dogs to eat cherries. There are some parts of the cherry that are safe (the flesh). But there are so many other parts that are poisonous (the pit, stems, and leaves) that it is not worth the risk and it is not recommended that you let your dog eat cherries.
Can Dogs Eat Cherries?
Cherries grow on cherry trees which are members of the Prunus species. Within the same species, you will find peaches and apricots
Cherries are a nutritious fruit and are packed with Vitamins A and C, antioxidants, fiber, and melatonin. The flesh is safe for dogs to eat but as you will have noticed, there is not that much flesh on each cherry! The other parts of the cherry contain a poison called cyanide. All types of cherry, including black cherries, contain cyanide. It is found in the stems, pits, and leaves. When you buy fresh cherries at the store, they always have a pit at the center and usually have stems and a few leaves.
The only way you could feed cherries to your dog would be to completely remove the pit, leaves, and stem but this is time-consuming. It would be easier to feed them a couple of strawberries which are safe for dogs to eat.
Cyanide Poisoning and Cherries
Cyanide is a chemical compound that contains carbon and nitrogen. It exists as a gas or salt crystals – both are highly toxic. As well as being found in some plants, it is also found in cigarette smoke and some plastics when they are burnt.
Cyanide causes poisoning by lowering the ability of cells in the body to use oxygen so they die. As well as being found in cherries, it is also found in some parts of other fruits and plants including almonds, peaches, pears, and elderberry as well as clover.
Cyanide is found in the form of hydrogen cyanide in pits, stems, and leaves and acts as a deterrent against animals that eat and damage the cherry tree. In this form, it is inactive but when it is chewed by an animal, chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides are released from the plant cells and combine with an enzyme to turn the cyanide into an active form.
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Symptoms and Signs of Cyanide Poisoning in Dogs
A dog with cyanide poisoning often suffers from diarrhea and is likely to show the following signs and symptoms.
- Finding it hard to breathe
- Red gums and mucous membranes
- Dilated pupils
- Shock (rapid heartbeat and breathing, fall in body temperature)
- Seizures and convulsions
This can result in collapse and, sadly, it can be fatal.
If your dog has these symptoms, take them to your vet. Puppies are more vulnerable to cyanide poisoning because their small bodies and immature metabolism cannot cope so well with the poison.
Intestinal Obstruction and Cherries
Cherry pits also present a risk of intestinal obstruction, even if your dog has only eaten one or two of them. This can happen up to 24 hours after ingestion. Smaller dogs and puppies that have tiny intestines that can more easily get blocked are more likely to suffer from this. Signs that your dog has an intestinal obstruction include constipation (they will not be able to have a poop), refusal to eat, and vomiting.
You must take dogs with these symptoms to a vet.
Can Dogs Eat Cherry Food Products?
Maraschino cherries may seem like a safe bet because they have the pits and stems removed. However, they contain far too much sugar for dogs. Canines who eat a lot of sugar are prone to developing obesity and even diabetes along with gastrointestinal issues.
Cherry flavored human foods are also bad for dogs. They often contain a lot of sugar as well as numerous artificial flavorings and colors. It is best to avoid these too.
What to Do if Your Dog Swallows Cherries
A single cherry is unlikely to do your dog a lot of harm so try not to panic. Just keep a close eye on them for 24 hours and if they show any signs of cyanide poisoning or an intestinal blockage, contact your vet.
Eating multiple cherries is more worrying because it is more likely to cause both cyanide poisoning and intestinal blockage. So, call your vet right away and follow their advice. Cyanide poisoning symptoms usually start within 20 minutes of ingestion.
Your vet will need information from you about how many cherries have been eaten and about your dog’s general health as well as signs and symptoms that you have noted. Your vet may need to do some tests on their urine and blood and carry out a physical examination. Prompt diagnosis is essential so that treatment can begin. In severe cases, treatment may have to start before the results of laboratory tests are available.
The aim of treatment is to stop cyanide from bonding to hemoglobin in red blood cells. Vets usually do this by introducing iron into the hemoglobin and combining antidotes and IV fluids. Treatment options include but are not limited to:
- Inhalation (breathing in) amyl nitrate and sodium nitrate
- IV detoxification with thiocyanate and rhodanese
- Sodium thiosulphate which helps the body to get rid of cyanide
Many dogs survive cyanide poisoning but sadly some do not. Their chances of survival are much better if they have only ingested a small amount and if they are treated promptly. When your dog gets home after treatment, you may be required to give them medication and it is important to stick to the schedule prescribed by your vet. It is also vital to keep a close eye on your dog in case they deteriorate again.
How to Stop Your Dog Eating from Cherries
The best approach is to avoid feeding your dog human food as much as possible so that you don’t accidentally feed them something that contains cherries. Store cherries away safely where your dog cannot get at them and have a tight-fitting lid on your trash can.
It’s also important that you train your dog to not steal food from counters and to obey the ‘leave it’ command. There are plenty of excellent training books to help with this.
A head halter can be useful for leading your dog away from discarded food on the street. Finally, by feeding your dog a balanced and nutritionally rich dog food, they will feel fuller for longer and are less likely to go looking for scraps that could do them harm.
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