Can Dogs Eat Blueberries? [Some Dogs Should Avoid Them!]

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Can dogs eat blueberries? Well-meaning dog owners have asked me this question from time to time. They’re smart enough to know there are some human foods that cause big problems for canines.

The vast majority of dogs can eat blueberries with no problem. But some sources report that blueberries contain significant amounts of oxalates (10). To be cautious, avoid feeding blueberries to your dog if he has a history of calcium oxalate urinary stones. 

There are a few other things you should know before feeding your dog blueberries…

will blueberries hurt dogs? xray of a dog with bladder stones
Blueberries might aggravate a tendency to form bladder stones.

Can Dogs Have Blueberries? A Few Cautions

Dehydrated Berries–Too Dry!

We’ve established that a fresh blueberry snack is fine for most dogs. But what about dehydrated blueberries?

Dehydrated blueberries carry an unexpected hazard to dogs. The dehydrated berries draw water into a dog’s stomach and intestines. This water shift can cause diarrhea, dehydration and life-threatening increases in sodium levels.

If you like to snack on dried berries, make sure to keep them out of reach of your pup. He might find them so delicious he eats the whole bag and winds up with a serious problem.

Diabetic Dogs–Too Much Sugar!

Cultivated blueberries contain about 15 grams of natural sugar per cup. Compared to other sweet fruits like watermelon, that’s not much.

Still, the natural sugar in blueberries could be a problem for difficult to regulate diabetic dogs. Consult your veterinarian before introducing any fruit into your diabetic dog’s diet.

Can dogs eat blueberries? black dog waiting to eat a blueberry
Pretty please, may I have a blueberry?

Dark Stool Color

Blueberries have dark pigments that might not be broken down by a dog’s digestion. Don’t be surprised if you see dark blue-black stools after your dog eats them.

But don’t assume dark poop is from eating blueberries. Bleeding stomach ulcers can also make a dog’s stools black, so get your vet involved if you’re not sure what’s going on.

Tooth Stains

The dark blue pigments in a fresh or frozen blueberry can also stain a dog’s teeth. 

Blueberries can cause a greenish-purple tint on your furry friend’s teeth. It’s not dangerous and you can usually remove the stains by brushing the teeth regularly.

dog eating a blueberry

Dogs & Wolves Like Eating Blueberries

Studies on wild wolves have found they consume a lot of wild blueberries (1). Wolves may eat more blueberries in times of food scarcity (7).

Contrary to what raw dog food enthusiasts claim, your dog’s ancestors are not strictly carnivorous! 

Extensive research reveals that domestic dogs living with humans adopt an omnivorous diet. And the nutrients in fruit like blueberries can make up a beneficial and natural part of their diet.

Choose the best for your bestie… Vet-Recommended Healthy Dog Food

Are Blueberries Good for Dogs?

Now you know that blueberries can cause issues for some dogs. You may still ask, “Are blueberries good for dogs?”

If your dog doesn’t have a history of calcium oxalate urinary crystals and is not diabetic, blueberries can make a super healthy addition to his diet. 

Berries are nature’s vitamin pill. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants are super nutrients that support the immune system. And they may prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and hypertension (8, 9).

According to the National Institute of Health, eating antioxidants in food is more helpful than taking them as pills (11).

Free radicals are cell-damaging metabolic waste products of all living organisms (4). Antioxidant nutrients protect cells from free radical damage.

Anthocyanidin is a pigment found in blueberries that acts as an antioxidant in a dog’s body. Anthocyanidins slow memory loss, protect against neurologic diseases and boost heart health in humans (6, 2).

Blueberries contain a moderate amount of the antioxidant vitamin C. While dogs don’t need dietary vitamin C, but a little extra from blueberries could give an immune boost.Vitamin K is also present in moderate amounts in blueberries. This vitamin is instrumental in normal blood clotting function.

dogs pulling a sled
Antioxidants in blueberries could help dogs recover from exercise.

Blueberries Increase Blood Antioxidant Levels

In a 2006 study, scientists fed blueberries to sled dogs before they exercised. They found dogs eating blueberries had higher blood antioxidant levels after exercise compared to those who did not (3).

A higher level of blood antioxidants could mean dogs are less sore and worn out after exercise.

Blueberries as a Hypoallergenic Dog Treat

It can be hard to find a safe, healthy snack for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease, food allergy or food sensitivity. Frozen or fresh blueberries just might fit the bill.

These berries contain zero allergenic animal proteins and have the slight sweetness most dogs love. Blueberries are a convenient, healthy treat for food-sensitive dogs. 

Go very slowly any time you’re introducing dog food and ask your vet first if your dog is particularly fragile.

Blueberries for Dog UTI

Chronic bladder infections make a dog’s life a real drag. I’m not surprised so many dog owners search for a natural way to break the cycle.

Cranberries and cranberry extract are touted as a natural bladder infection cure. There is some research on the topic but the evidence is not strong enough to clearly recommend the use of cranberries to treat UTI in dogs.

Blueberries contain some of the same antioxidants as cranberries. Some people think blueberries might help stop dog bladder infections. But there’s not enough scientific evidence to support using blueberries for this purpose.

Still, including a safe fruit like blueberries as a small part of the diet could improve a dog’s health. That’s a step in the right direction when you’re fighting chronic infections, so go for it!

Blueberries for Tear Stains

You may have heard of “blueberry facial” products for grooming dogs. You’ll find recipes for homemade facials as well as commercial products. Some do actually contain blueberries, but that’s not what removes the tear stains.

The commercial products invariably contain a small amount of synthetic ultramarine blue or violet dye. Ultramarine blue dye is also known as laundry bluing. It makes white fabric (and fur) appear whiter by dyeing it just a little bit blue.

white dog with tear stains on face
White dogs show tear staining worse than dogs with dark coats.

While these dyes are not unsafe to put on a dog, they’re not natural substances. And don’t be fooled by the presence of blueberry fruit in a commercial or homemade product. It’s unlikely that blueberries do much to remove tear stains when applied topically.

Another internet fad suggests that feeding your dog blueberries removes tear stains. There is no evidence to back up this idea, but since blueberries are safe to feed your dog, I see no reason not to try it.

I can think of a couple of ways eating berries could help with tear staining. Antioxidants could change the chemical composition of the tears and decrease staining. Or the antioxidants might decrease excessive tearing caused by allergies. 

How Many Blueberries Can You Give Your Dog?

It’s important to feed your dog a complete and balanced diet. As a rule of thumb, keep snacks to a maximum of 10% of your dog’s diet. I’ve calculated some reasonable amounts for different sizes of dogs:

Weight of Dog in PoundsMeasure of Blueberries/Day
102 Tablespoons
25¼ cup
50⅔ cup
751 cup

Organic Berries Are Best

Use organic blueberries in your dog’s diet whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group reports that non-organic blueberries contain large amounts of pesticides (5).

Although the health implications of pesticides is a controversial topic, it’s easy enough to find organic berries these days. Why not be a little cautious and keep a few more chemicals away from your bestie?

blueberry muffins and bagels
Blueberry muffins and bagels might have other ingredients that are not dog-safe.

Can Dogs Have Blueberry Muffins, Bagels or Yogurt?

Want to share your own blueberry-flavored food with your dog? The blueberries themselves shouldn’t be a problem. But there could be other ingredients that could be disastrous for your dog!

Before you share your blueberry muffin, bagel or yogurt with your pup, check the ingredient list. Watch out for the sugar substitute xylitol. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs even in small quantities.

You should also avoid sharing anything containing macadamia nuts. These can cause temporary neurological problems when consumed by dogs.

It’s unlikely that a blueberry-containing food would also contain one of these other toxic ingredients. It’s still a good idea to check before sharing food with your pup…

Summary

Can dogs eat blueberries without getting sick? Yes… Most dogs can eat blueberries with no problem. Check with your veterinarian before feeding them to dogs with diabetes or calcium oxalate urinary crystals. 

Blueberries carry a high level of antioxidants that may improve a dog’s health. Blueberries should be fed as a limited portion of a dog’s diet, up to 10% of daily calories. 

Watch out for other toxic ingredients when sharing human blueberry-containing foods with your dog.

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References

  1. Bosch, G., Hagen-Plantinga, E. A., & Hendriks, W. H. (2015). Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition? British Journal of Nutrition, 113(S1), S40-S54.
  2. Do, R., Xie, C., Zhang, X., Männistö, S., Harald, K., Islam, S., … & INTERHEART investigators. (2011). The effect of chromosome 9p21 variants on cardiovascular disease may be modified by dietary intake: evidence from a case/control and a prospective study. PLoS Med, 8(10), e1001106.
  3. Dunlap, K. L., Reynolds, A. J., & Duffy, L. K. (2006). Total antioxidant power in sled dogs supplemented with blueberries and the comparison of blood parameters associated with exercise. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 143(4), 429-434.
  4. Free radicals: How do they affect the body? (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652
  5. Group, E. (n.d.). EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php
  6. Higuera, V., Migala, J., Lawler, M., Palinski-Wade, E., Revelant, J., Bedosky, L., & Rapaport, L. (n.d.). What are Blueberries? Nutrition, health BENEFITS, RECIPES, MORE: Everyday Health. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/blueberries-nutrition-health-benefits-recipes-more/
  7. Homkes, A. T., Gable, T. D., Windels, S. K., & Bump, J. K. (2020). Berry important? Wolf provisions pups with berries in northern Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 44(1), 221-223.
  8. In the news: Berries fight cancer. (2017, November 14). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/cancer/in-the-news-berries-fight-cancer/
  9. UK, P. (2012, April 26). A bowl of berries a day ‘keeps alzheimer’s and dementia away’. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/26/red-berries-slow-alzheimers-dementia-risk_n_1454638.html
  10. UPMC: Your Health Education, Low Oxalate Diet. (2018, August). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.upmc.com/-/media/upmc/patients-visitors/education/unique-pdfs/low-oxalate-diet.pdf
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Antioxidants: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved October 31, 2021, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth.

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