Can I Give My Dog Blueberries?
These days, much of the nutritional advice we hear centers on the idea of “eating the rainbow”, that is, eating a wide variety of (natural!), colorful whole foods. We enjoy red apples, orange carrots, yellow bell peppers, leafy greens, and purple sweet potatoes. But, when we look for ways to meet our ‘blue food’ quota for the day, our go-to is the humble blueberry. Blueberries are delicious, healthy, and festive. They’re one of the few fruits which fits seamlessly into the often junk food-laden summer holiday barbeques—after all, what makes a better decorative centerpiece than a red, white and blue flag made with berries?
When you’re popping blueberries into your mouth at a summer barbeque, it’s only a matter of time before the dog shows up to beg for food. But should you share your fruity snack with your pets? Can dogs have blueberries?
The answer: absolutely! In fact, blueberries are not just ‘okay’ for dogs, but may actually offer a wide variety of health benefits. We as pet owners have to be careful when feeding people food to dogs—even some of the healthiest human foods can be highly toxic to our canine companions—but, fortunately, we can feed Fido a couple blueberries without fear. While blueberries (and all fruits) should be fed to dogs in moderation to prevent digestive problems, there is no real risk of poisoning. So, even if your dog has managed to gobble up a whole basket of these little blue fruits, there is no reason to panic.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Blueberries?
What makes blueberries such a healthy treat for our dogs? Like most berries, they are positively loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, yet low in calories. Since this food packs a ton of micronutrients into a fairly small amount of macronutrients (calories), your dog is able to boost their vitamin intake without greatly increasing the amount of calories they are consuming. This is one of the biggest arguments in favor of feeding your dog blueberries as a treat or during obedience training. They are small, portable, safe, and low enough in calories that you can feed your dog several berries before you need to worry about their risk of weight gain.
In fact, blueberries may be an excellent treat for dogs who need to lose weight. In addition to their low calorie content, berries contain a lot of heart-healthy fiber, which has been shown to aid in weight loss. Fiber supports Fido through a calorie restricted diet thanks to its bulk—since dietary fiber can’t be digested, it takes up a lot of space in your dog’s stomach without providing any calories. This means that your dog gets the benefit of feeling full on fewer calories. Fiber also aids in digestive health, and can ease the symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation. Just be careful not to overdo it, because fiber’s laxative effect can CAUSE diarrhea if consumed in excess.
Things to Keep in Mind
Blueberries are known as a superfood largely because of their high levels of antioxidants, which can be just as helpful to our dogs as they are to us. Antioxidants boost health and reduce the risk of illness by destroying free radicals, which are the highly charged particles responsible for the cell damage that often leads to cancer, heart disease, and other chronic or life-threatening illnesses. Antioxidants also boost immune function and, according to some studies, may slow the degenerative effects of aging on your dog’s brain. This means that antioxidants may do more than extend your dog’s life; they may also preserve their cognitive functioning in their twilight years. Antioxidants tend to be more important for dogs who are physically active, fighting chronic illness, or dealing with highly stressful situations that may compromise their immune system. Blueberries are a good, natural way to add a little boost to your dog’s intake.
As with most fruit, blueberries should be given to your dog in moderation. While people can benefit from large amounts of fruit (we’re largely herbivorous), our dogs are closer to the carnivorous side of the spectrum, so they should consume smaller amounts of plant foods. Since blueberries are tiny and not at all poisonous to our pets, there is no need to peel them or cut them up. If your dog eats too many blueberries, they may suffer from vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog is prone to digestive problems, keep their portions very small at first.
In conclusion, blueberries are an excellent, healthy treat for dogs who have a sweet tooth. They are low in calories and high in fiber, which can prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss. Fiber also regulates digestion and eases constipation—too much, however, may result in diarrhea. To top it all off, blueberries are high in antioxidants, which can reduce your dog’s chances of cancer and cognitive decline in old age.