Can I Give My Dog Oranges?
Though many dietitians recommend that we pack our plates with fruits and vegetables of all kinds, the same does not hold true for our furry friends, whose fruit options are more limited. Some of the healthiest foods for us could be disruptive or even life-threatening for our dogs. This can make for awkward, stressful kitchen encounters: what are you supposed to do when your dog walks away from his bowlful of kibble to beg for a segment of your sweet, juicy orange?
After all, our dogs don’t always know what’s best for them when it comes to food—most pet owners are familiar with the guilt that comes with saying no to the excitable German Shepherd who comes running when he hears them unwrapping a chocolate bar. Dogs will beg for our food (especially sweet things like fruit) whether or not it’s safe for them. So it’s up to us to do the research and make the decisions.
Can dogs have oranges? The answer: Yes! If your dog raids the orange tree in your back yard, there is no need to rush him to the vet’s office, because these fruits are not in any way toxic to canines. Oranges are one of the safe fruits for our dogs to eat in moderation. Just remember to remove the peel first!
While our dogs’ bodies do not require fruit to maintain basic functions, there may be some benefits to incorporating oranges into your dog’s diet, particularly if you use them as a natural, whole food alternative to store-bought, preservative-laden dog treats.
What are oranges most famous for? Vitamin C, of course! Oranges are full of this important vitamin. Though dogs’ bodies can synthesize Vitamin C on their own, providing some supplementary Vitamin C in the form of whole fruits may have some small health benefits.
Dogs who exercise too much, or dogs who are very stressed, sometimes have issues synthesizing adequate Vitamin C, so the supplementation may help support their over-worked bodies. Research has shown that dogs who are struggling with illness or stress tend to burn through their Vitamin C stores very quickly. Common stressors can include things such as exercise (including hunting, herding, and sports), illnesses and injuries, surgeries (including spaying/neutering), vaccinations, and emotionally stressful situations like moving, environmental changes, or adopting a new dog.
In addition, aging dogs may struggle to produce adequate Vitamin C. If you suspect that your dog may be nutritionally deficient in any way, though, make sure to consult your veterinarian. Your dog may need more than a couple of orange segments to get their Vitamin C stores in order!
Oranges are most renowned among us humans for their immunity-boosting properties. They may provide the same immune support for our dogs, too! Vitamin C boosts immune function by stimulating white blood cells to do their jobs more efficiently. It also boosts the body’s ability to fight off viruses, kill cancer cells, and produce antibodies necessary to fend off invading particles that can potentially cause illness down the road.
While the nutrition found in oranges will not be enough to prevent or treat any disease single-handedly, it may help support your dog’s body in its battle against colds and other infections. Oranges may help ease symptoms of more chronic illnesses, such as aching joints, inflammation and sore muscles.
A sweet, juicy orange is also full of two things that are important for digestive health: fiber and water. The fiber content in oranges can help alleviate constipation and ensure digestive health by ‘bulking up’ stool, which helps it pass more quickly through the intestines. The high water content helps with overall hydration and makes for softer, easier-to-pass stool.
Things to Keep in Mind
The biggest danger of oranges is stomach upset: dogs who eat too much fruit often suffer from diarrhea or indigestion. While orange peels are not poisonous to dogs, per se, they are best avoided, because they are more difficult to digest than the juicy flesh inside of the orange. Orange peels are much more likely to cause digestive distress, so you may want to throw them away (and make sure the lid is on the trash can!).
Though generally recognized as safe, oranges may increase your dog’s risk of bladder stones. Symptoms of bladder stones include difficulty urinating and excessive licking. Bladder stones are common and treatable, but if you think your dog may have them, it’s best to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Despite the slightly increased risk of digestive distress and bladder stones, oranges are considered a safe—and maybe even helpful—treat for dogs. They are low in sodium, fat and calories, and high in fiber, vitamins and water. If you want to share an orange with your dog, just remember to keep the serving size small (up to one whole orange for a large dog), remove the peel first, and watch for adverse effects.