Can Dogs Eat Cherries?

Key takeaway

Cherries can be dangerous to your dog's health. While the flesh of the cherry is safe, the pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, a dangerous substance that can be lethal. Cherry pits can also cause intestinal blockages, and eating too many cherries can lead to GI upset in dogs because of the high sugar content. Therefore, this fruit is one to avoid feeding your pet.

Dogs are the descendants of gray wolves, which eat meat, fruits, and vegetables. While their primary food is animal meat, wolves also scavenge for fruits and vegetables to supplement their diets. Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores and benefit from a wide range of foods, like fruit, vegetables, grains, and meat.1 However, while dogs can eat and enjoy fruits and vegetables, they're not all safe. 

If you're wondering, "Can dogs have cherries?" you might be surprised that the answer is no because they carry risks. Some parts of a cherry are safe for dogs while others are not, so it's best to avoid feeding your pet this fruit and stick to healthier alternatives instead.2 Let's discuss a few reasons why you shouldn't feed dogs cherries and what to do if your dog eats cherries. 

Why Are Cherries Dangerous To Dogs?

Only some parts of cherries are safe for dogs; the pits, stems, and leaves are toxic.2 Of course, cherries are beneficial for humans with many health benefits—they're low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins like C, A, and K and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium.3 But are cherries good for dogs? Not really. Because dogs get all the vitamins and minerals they need from their regular dog food, cherries aren't necessary for them. When it comes to cherries and dogs, the risks outweigh the benefits. Dogs enjoy many human foods, but there are some things dogs shouldn't eat, including cherries. 

Cherry pits, stems, and leaves are toxic to dogs

Cherries can cause GI issues in dogs because they have a high sugar and fiber content. The pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, which is toxic to dogs and can be fatal when consumed in large quantities.4 So, are cherries toxic to dogs? They can be if the pit isn't removed. Cyanide is a poison commonly found in plants, disinfectants, fertilizers, and rodenticides, which kills tissues by preventing them from effectively utilizing oxygen.5 While a few cherries are unlikely to cause toxicity, there’s no reason to put your dog at risk. 

Cherry pits can also cause intestinal blockages, which prevent liquids or solids from passing through the gastrointestinal tract.2 Blockages may cause decreased blood flow and deterioration of the bowels while increasing the absorption of toxins.6 Treatment of intestinal blockages may include surgery and, if left untreated, they could become fatal. Luckily, blockages are preventable. Never let your dog eat any non-food items because they won't be digested or broken down in the stomach. You should also prevent dogs from eating garbage and train them to obey commands like "drop it" when they have something potentially dangerous in their mouths. 

Can Dogs Eat Cherries Without Pits?

Technically, dogs can eat the flesh of cherries, but since cherries are an unnecessary food for dogs, they're not recommended in general because they contain sugar, which can cause GI upset in dogs.2

If you choose to share a cherry or two with your dog, always remove the pit yourself to ensure it's completely gone. Additionally, you should only feed your dog cherries in moderation. Since they're packed with sugar, dogs should not eat them daily or in large quantities. Instead, you can share one or two pitted cherries with your dog every so often, but since they don't need them as part of a healthy diet, it's best to avoid sharing this sugary treat with your pooch. 

Signs Of Cherry Toxicity In Dogs

Signs of cherry toxicity in dogs

Cherry toxicity can occur due to cyanide poisoning. Signs of toxicity can occur within 15 minutes to a few hours after your dog consumes cherries and include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Watery Eyes
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea and frequent urination
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Pale or blue mucous membranes5

Cyanide works quickly, and dogs with cyanide poisoning may die within 45 minutes following convulsions.5 Since poisoning can lead to long-term issues, including anemia and organ damage, quick treatment is crucial.2 If you believe your dog has been poisoned by eating cherries, they should be taken to the nearest emergency vet immediately.

What To Do If Your Dog Eats A Whole Cherry

While you should never feed dogs cherries, consuming a few cherries typically won't cause a severe health problem. A single cherry doesn't contain enough cyanide to poison most healthy dogs. Of course, the number of cherries a dog can eat before becoming poisoned varies, depending on a dog's size. For example, a toy breed can become poisoned by a few cherries, while a large breed will need to eat more to be affected. 

If you suspect your dog swallowed multiple cherries and you're concerned about poisoning, contact your vet as soon as possible for treatment. The earlier your dog receives treatment, the better their chances of survival with minimal or no organ damage. Whenever you suspect poisoning, whether from cyanide or something else in your home, consider calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 for guidance on the next steps. 

Contact your vet, take your dog to the emergency clinic and call ASPCA if you suspect poisoning

Even if your dog only ate a few cherries, you should still monitor them for signs of illness, especially if they consumed cherries with pits. Since cherries contain high sugar levels, they can cause GI upset with symptoms like decreased appetite, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting.2 Dogs experiencing GI issues due to cherries will likely experience symptoms within a few hours. However, once the cherries leave their system, they'll begin feeling better. Of course, if your dog is repeatedly vomiting, ensure they have access to clean drinking water to prevent dehydration. If your dog continues to have GI problems, talk to a vet as soon as possible. 

In addition, you should also monitor them for signs of intestinal blockage, which include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Whining
  • Hunching6 

These symptoms can occur up to 24 hours after your dog has consumed a cherry pit, with small dogs more likely to suffer from these types of blockages because they have a smaller GI tract.2 If your dog begins experiencing signs of a blockage, take them to the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible for treatment. 

Luckily, cyanide poisoning, GI upset, and intestinal blockages from cherries are preventable. Never share cherries with your dog; always toss the pit into a trash bin your dog can't get into. 

Diagnosing And Treating Cherry Poisoning In Dogs

If you believe your dog has cherry poisoning, they should be taken to the nearest emergency vet clinic as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. You should be able to tell the vet an estimate of how many cherries your dog ate and when to help them come up with an effective treatment plan. The vet may use blood and urine testing and a physical examination to diagnose cyanide poisoning.5 

Unfortunately, activated charcoal, which may be used for other types of toxicities in animals, is ineffective for cyanide poisoning; vets typically use hydroxobalamin, also known as vitamin B-12a, amyl nitrate, and sodium nitrate as antidotes.7 Depending on the veterinary clinic, dogs may also undergo detoxification via IV fluids. Vets may also give dogs sodium thiosulfate orally in cases of low-level exposure to cyanide to help the dog excrete the toxin through their urine.7

The prognosis for cherry poisoning in dogs depends on how quickly they get treatment. In most cases, vets will not delay treatment for diagnosis because they need to give the dog the antidote as soon as possible. Taking your dog to the vet as soon as you believe they may have been poisoned is crucial to their survival while limiting the potential for organ damage since death can occur in as little as 30 minutes, depending on the number of cherries consumed. 

Treatments for cherry poisoning are effective when dogs can get to the vet in time. However, you should continue to monitor your dog for signs of illness and prevent them from eating cherries in the future. 

Can Dogs Eat Cherries?: FAQs

What fruits can dogs eat?

There are many types of fruits that are safe for dogs, including: 

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon 

Of course, sharing human foods, even those that are non-toxic to dogs, comes with risks. For example, apples should have the seeds and core removed because they're choking hazards. Meanwhile, bananas, cantaloupe, cranberries, and several other fruits contain high levels of sugar, so they're not ideal for dogs who need to lose weight or those suffering from obesity or diabetes. 

Additionally, many pitted fruits contain trace amounts of cyanide in the seeds and pits, so you must be careful when preparing them for your dog. Talk to your vet before introducing new foods into your dog's diet, and always monitor your pet after consumption to ensure they won't have a negative reaction. Dogs with sensitive stomachs may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when given any new food. 

What other foods contain cyanide?

Many human foods contain cyanide and can result in cyanide poisoning if your dog eats enough of them. Common foods that contain cyanide include: 

  • Apples: Apple seeds and the pit contain trace amounts of cyanide.8 Of course, if your dog only eats a few seeds, they should be fine, but it may not be worth the risk. 
  • Almonds: Almonds are unsafe for dogs because they're not easily digested and contain cyanide. 
  • Apricots: Apricot flesh is considered safe for dogs, but you should remove the seeds containing small amounts of cyanide. 
  • Peaches: Peaches are another fruit that's safe for your dog when the seeds and pit, which contain cyanide, are removed.8

The above is not an exhaustive list of all the foods containing cyanide that could potentially harm your pet. If you're ever concerned about what you feed your pet, talk to your vet. They can provide resources on which human foods are safe for dogs and how much of them your dog can eat. 

How many cherries can I feed my dog?

Only feed your dog pitted cherries in moderation. They should not be an everyday snack. Most vets recommend following the ten percent rule, which states that treats should not make up more than ten percent of your dog's diet.9 Therefore, if your dog has already had treats, it's best to avoid giving them any cherries because regular overeating can lead to weight gain and associated problems like obesity and diabetes. 

Since cherries can cause GI issues, only give your dog a few cherries at a time and monitor their reaction. If your dog reacts poorly to cherries, avoid sharing your food with them again. Some dogs are more sensitive to human foods than others. 

Dog licking lips in front of a basket of cherries in the garden

Final Notes

The flesh of cherries is safe for dogs, but because the pit can be a choking hazard and contains potentially lethal cyanide, cherries are a treat you should skip. If your dog eats a few cherries off your plate, they shouldn't experience severe side effects. However, smaller dogs are more at risk for intestinal obstructions, so it's best to prevent your dog from eating food off your plate, especially when it can cause irreparable damage. 

While humans can enjoy the health benefits of cherries, dogs don't need them. Instead, they get all their essential vitamins and minerals from their regular diet. Talk to a Dutch-affiliated vet through our online pet care services if you're concerned about your dog's diet. Our vets can answer your dog nutrition questions to ensure your dog is eating a balanced diet that supports their health. 

References

  1. WH;, Bosch G;Hagen-Plantinga EA;Hendriks. “Dietary Nutrient Profiles of Wild Wolves: Insights for Optimal Dog Nutrition?” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25415597/.

  2. Ripley, Katherine. “Can Dogs Have Cherries?” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 2 July 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-have-cherries/.

  3. “Are Cherries Good for You?” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-cherries.

  4. “Cherry.” ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/cherry.

  5. Cope, Rhian B. “Cyanide Poisoning - Special Pet Topics.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Aug. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/poisoning/cyanide-poisoning.

  6. “Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Tips.” American Kennel Club, 21 Mar. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/bowel-obstruction-in-dogs/.

  7. Cope, Rhian B. “Cyanide Poisoning in Animals - Toxicology.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Aug. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/cyanide-poisoning/cyanide-poisoning-in-animals.

  8. McDonnell, Kayla. “7 Human Foods That Can Be Fatal to Dogs.” Healthline, 24 June 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-foods-fatal-to-dogs.

  9. Burke, Anna. “How Many Treats to Give a Dog a Day.” American Kennel Club, 30 Aug. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/how-many-treats-can-dog-have/.