Can I Give My Dog Dates?
By now, many pet owners have come to understand the dangers of sharing our indulgent, high-fat ‘people food’ with our beloved dogs. Gone are the days when it was socially acceptable to feed Fido whatever table scraps were leftover at the end of a meal. In the past, many people unknowingly made their dogs ill. Today, even giving the family pet one too many pizza crusts at a party is likely to elicit complaints from concerned dog lovers!
We now understand that even if they are not picky, dogs’ bodies are just as sensitive to dietary habits as ours. This heightened awareness of canine nutrition has led many pet owners to scrutinize questionably long ingredient lists on various brands of dog food and dog treats. Rather than Google every single additive and preservative on the back of a box of canine cookies, many of us opt for sweet, simple whole foods.
Cue the humble date. Dates have become a family favorite in recent years, prized for their naturally sweet quality. They have earned their place as nature’s candy… but are they safe for our friends? Can dogs eat dates?
Answer: YES! Unlike some other dried fruits (namely raisins), dates are a dog-friendly snack; in fact, most dogs love them. Dogs, after all, are omnivores, which means that their bodies are at their healthiest when they consume a combination of meat and plant matter. Many dogs love to eat fruit of all kinds. Some fruits are highly toxic to dogs, but dates are completely safe—there are no toxic compounds in the flesh, pits, or skin. This includes both of the popular date varieties sold in the United States: medjool and deglet noor. In addition, most dates in the country are sold pitted, so they are ready for consumption. Just remember to remove the pit if there is one before sharing them with your pooch.
Health Benefits of Dates
Dates are a safe sweet treat, but they may have some small health benefits as well. While dates are not as full of micronutrients as some other types of fruit, they do contain a substantial amount of potassium. Potassium, a mineral required for heart, kidney, muscular, and digestive health, is just as important for our canine companions as it is for us. Without enough potassium in the blood, sodium levels may become too high, resulting in heart problems.
Potassium deficiency, known as hypokalemia, can be deadly. Symptoms of this imbalance include low energy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, cramps or muscle spasms, and irregular heartbeat. One date provides 47 mg of potassium, so while it isn’t going to single-handedly cure an imbalance, it can be one way to sneak a little more of the important mineral into your dog’s diet.
Dates are high in natural sugars, which is why many runners favor them as long run fuel. The carbs in this sweet treat may also give your dog a little boost of energy when they start to tire on your next hike—or maybe it’s just a boost of morale, since it’s hard not to get excited about such a delicious fruit. They also contain moderate amounts of Vitamin A, B Vitamins 1, 2, 3, and 5, and the always-important Vitamin C.
The high amount of dietary fiber in dates (and in other fruits) can help support your dog’s digestive system. While dates are not going to make up for a poorly-formulated kibble, they may help ‘move things along’ if your dog struggles with occasional constipation. Just don’t forget to make sure your dog drinks plenty of water with their high-fiber treats!
Things to Keep in Mind
There are really no risks associated with feeding your dog dates, but it’s important to practice moderation. Feeding your dog too much of any type of fruit, especially a new fruit, can result in gas and diarrhea. If you want to add variety into your dog’s diet, make sure you introduce the new food (in this case dates) slowly. Start off with a very small amount of the food and wait and see how they tolerate it. If all goes well, feel free to treat your dog with the occasional snack.
Perhaps the best part of using dates as dog treats is the simplicity. Most dates in the United States are sold clean, pitted, and ready to eat, so they make an excellent improvised dog treat in a pinch. However, if the dates you bought contain pits, REMOVE THEM! Date pits are not poisonous, but they could get stuck in your dog’s intestines. To make sure your beloved pet doesn’t choke, you may want to cut each date in half before feeding it to them.
Dates can be a great treat for dogs with a sweet tooth. They are high in vitamins and minerals like potassium, nontoxic, and full of natural energy. Just make sure you read the back of the package, and be aware of added sugars, flavors or preservatives. The safest products will only have one ingredient: dates.