Dogs are, of course, big meat-eaters. Protein is very important for the healthy function of their bodies, and should make up most of their diet. So berries aren't always an obvious snack for our dogs - but they absolutely should be!
Despite their mostly-meat diet, dogs aren't actually carnivores, but omnivores like us humans, so they can get nutrition from a variety of sources, not just prey animals. In nature, the wild dogs and wolves from which our domesticated pups descended eat mostly prey animals, yes, but they also often seek out and eat grasses, roots, and especially the subject of this article:
As it turns out, berries are a fantastic snack that many dogs absolutely love! Just about every dog would benefit from the addition of berries to their diet. In fact, that berry-seeking behavior that wild dogs display is the source of our domesticated dogs' sweet tooth.
Most berries are considered superfoods, meaning they are especially nutrient-dense and contain a lot more unique vitamins and minerals than other foods. That's what makes them a great addition to a meat-rich dog diet, since they offer a whole lot of concentrated nutrition in a very small, low-calorie package!
You may notice berries showing up in the ingredients of some dog foods and treats. Keep in mind that dog foods like kibble and canned food are heavily cooked, exposing them to heat and pressure which destroys a lot of the nutrition naturally present in those ingredients. So the inclusion of berries in kibble and other processed foods is more about marketing than about nutrition.
Ideally, berries should be served to your dog fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried raw, since that protects both the tasty flavor and vital nutrition of these awesome superfoods. (That’s how we include berries in our own freeze-dried Naturally Scrumptious diet and Nutrient Heaven treats.)
And never use canned berries, like pie fillers, as they are drenched in sugar that is just downright bad for dogs!
Note that though the natural sugar present in berries is much healthier than the yucky processed kind, make sure you practice moderation and don't go overboard - in general, treats and snacks should represent no more than 10% of your dog's daily food intake, and that includes the healthy snacks too.
So which berries can dogs eat, and what makes them so healthy?
Can dogs eat blueberries?
Blueberries are a great snack for dogs!
They're chock full of all kinds of nutritional benefits - anti-oxidants and vitamin C that help boost immune health and reduce inflammation, as well as lots of fiber to help with digestion.
That said, compared to other berry types, blueberries are pretty high in sugar, so when I feed them to my dogs, I usually only give them a little at a time mixed in with other berries that don't contain quite as much sugar.
Can dogs eat strawberries?
Dogs can absolutely eat strawberries, and they're very good for them too!
Not only that, but strawberries also contain an especially high concentration of the sweet-smelling compounds that dogs' scent and taste organs evolved to crave, which is why strawberries are such a big hit with dogs! Many pickier dogs that don't normally like to eat sweet things will make an exception for strawberries.
Like most berries, strawberries are very rich in anti-oxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, and also contain high amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and folic acid.
And they're one of the healthiest berries too, with about half the sugar, calories, and carbs of blueberries!
Can dogs eat raspberries?
Raspberries are good for your dog, as long as they are fed in moderation.
They do contain lots of nutritional benefits, vitamins, and minerals common to other berries, like immune-boosting anti-oxidants, but compared to other berries, are a bit on the sugary side.
Additionally, raspberries contain one of the highest natural concentrations of xylitol, a natural compound commonly used as a sugar substitute which can be harmful to dogs in large amounts.
So don’t go overboard with the raspberries – just feed a few at a time!
Can dogs eat blackberries?
They sure can - and in fact, blackberries are one of my personal favorite berries to feed dogs!
As a general rule, the darker a berry is, the more nutrition it contains, and blackberries are no exception. They're one of the most nutritionally dense fruits your dog can eat!
Not only do blackberries contain those same immune-boosting and digestive benefits as their other berry counterparts, they've got way more B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, niacin, and a whole boatload of other vitamins and minerals than just about any other berry!
And your dog gets all of those nutritional benefits with very little of the unhealthy stuff, too - a serving of blackberries contains about half the sugar and 3/4 of the calories as the same amount of blueberries.
That's exactly why I chose blackberries as one of the four ingredients in our Nutrient Heaven dog treats!
Are there any berries my dog can't eat?
Most of the berries which are toxic to dogs aren't eaten by humans either, like juniper berries, holly berries, or mistletoe, so if a berry is in your supermarket’s produce section, it's probably okay for your pup.
Certain parts of the cherry contain compounds which are toxic to dogs, so cherries should not be fed to your dog. And in general, any berry or fruit with a hard pit should be avoided, as these pits can become a choking hazard.
Grapes are also a no-no for dogs. Though scientists are not sure exactly why, grapes are bad for dogs and cause a negative reaction involving lethargy, vomiting, decreased appetite, and increased thirst and urination.
Here's a super fun recipe for an easy berry snack that's tasty and nutritious for both dogs and humans, especially on a warm day!
Yogurt and Berry Crunch Bites
Mix equal parts of the berries of your choice (diced if you're using strawberries, halved or whole for smaller berries) with plain yogurt, portion into a mold or ice tray, and then freeze overnight for tasty, sweet mouthful that's healthy and delicious!
Wishing you and your dog the best of health,
Dr. Edward Tuk
The veterinarians who formulate Canine Sciences' products are big believers in the nutritional powers of superfoods! Our Naturally Scrumptious complete dog diet includes strawberries, and our Nutrient Heaven treats contain delicious, healthy blackberries, all freeze-dried to protect their natural nutrients and flavor. Click on one of the products below to learn more!