With the holiday season upon us, many hours will likely be spent in the kitchen, cooking up your family’s seasonal favorites. If your dog enjoys keeping you company as you cook — and eat! — you might even be tempted to share a bite or two. Unfortunately, no matter how cute their faces, we can’t let our pups enjoy every part of the meal, as some foods and ingredients popular in holiday dishes just aren’t safe for dogs.
So, on the list of people food no-nos, where do cranberries fall? For the most part the answer is, yes, dogs can eat cranberries. And aside from tickling their taste buds, cranberries actually have a few health benefits, too.
The Benefits of Cranberries
This fruit is high in vitamin C, vitamin E and other antioxidants, which help to decrease inflammation and boost your dog’s immune system. “I use cranberries a lot in my recipes when they are in season,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, CVA, CVCP, CVFT, veterinarian with Clayton Veterinary Associates in NJ and author of What’s for Dinner Dexter? If you want to include the berry in your pet’s diet, read the label on a few different dog food recipes, since cranberries are used in some brands.
Cranberries are also high in fiber, which helps lower the risk of your dog developing heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and many gastrointestinal diseases. Cranberries can also help your dog’s dental health by reducing tartar, plaque build up and gum disease.
“Cranberries are great for bladder health and actually contain an ingredient called proanthocyanidin, which has properties that help prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall,” says Morgan. “If the bacteria cannot stick to the bladder wall, it is easier to flush them out during urination.”
Not only do cranberries help your dog’s overall bladder health, they can also help lower the urine pH, which creates an environment that is not friendly toward bacteria.
“Animals are meant to eat meat, which will normally cause production of an acid pH, but dry kibble diets that contain a high carbohydrate load contribute to the production of a more alkaline urine (higher pH),” says Morgan. “The higher pH promotes bacterial growth and formation of crystals in the urine.”
Cranberries’ ability to lower the urine pH can be especially helpful for certain breeds — like Yorkies, Bichons and Schnauzers — that are prone to forming oxalate stones in their urine. As if the tiny berry didn’t pack enough punch, “cranberries have also been shown in some recent studies to have some cancer fighting abilities,” says Morgan. Results have suggested that cranberries can help prevent free radicals from forming and can cause cancer cells to self-destruct.
What to Watch Out For
Cranberries can be eaten raw or cooked, so toss a berry to your dog before sugar and other ingredients are added to make your famous homemade cranberry sauce. Also, don’t offer him a sip of your cranberry juice, which is usually loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, Morgan says.
And, as always, keep cranberry tarts and other desserts off limits, as the added sugars will do more harm than the cranberry’s good is worth.
Caitlin Ultimo is a writer & editor, her work specializes in pet, family & beauty writing.