Can Dogs Eat Cherries?
Long ago, the country's first president, as a child, chopped down a cherry tree. The young George Washington told his dad what he did: "I cannot tell a lie." His father embraced him and told him that his telling the truth was more important than any old tree. (Don't look too closely into this story... historians say it's more than likely legend.)
All that to say, I'm here to tell the truth (you can hug me later): Parts of cherries and cherry trees contain cyanogenic glycosides, according to Pet Poison Helpline. That's cyanide, the poison that can kill you and your dog and lots of other animals.
But you don't need to go chopping down all the cherry trees around or trying to induce vomiting if your dog ate a cherry.
An accidental cherry doesn't have to mean a trip to the vet, but cherry pits or stems might be a different story if your dog eats one. Read on to find out more about why some parts of the cherry can be worse than others.
Are Cherries Good or Bad for Dogs?
Cherries can be fine for dogs in small amounts. They are a tasty fruit your dog might like. Fresh cherries have a lot of water and not a lot of calories, pound for pound, says Lori Prantil, MPS, DVM, who counsels pet owners on nutrition at VCA South Shore Weymouth. Fruit like that used as dog treats are important in an era when obesity is a medical problem for America's pets.
Basically, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, check with your veterinarian or pet toxicity lists like this one or this one, then make sure to take off any stems, pits, seeds, and peels if you can.
Are Cherry Pits Dangerous for Dogs?
Cherry pits shouldn't be eaten by dogs, but don't panic: A dog would likely need to eat a lot of cherries to experience a problem, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline. Of course, enough cherry pits, or larger pits like apple cores or stonefruit like peach, and plum pits, could block up your dog's intestines or cause a choking hazard.
"If a dog ingested the entire bag of cherries, pits and all, it could be very irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and may cause a foreign body blockage in small enough dogs," Schmid says.
How many cherries would kill a dog from cyanide poisoning? Your dog would need to eat a lot (possibly a bag or more) and would need to chew them up, according to Schmid: "Seeds of many fruits including apples, peaches, and cherries do contain cyanide, but the dog has to crunch open the seeds and ingest several before it would be an actual concern."
What To Do if Your Dog Ate a Cherry Pit
If your dog ate a cherry pit or a cherry with a pit in it, don't panic. There isn't as much toxin in a little cherry pit as there is in big peach and apricot pits.
If your dog ate a lot of cherry pits, call your veterinarian if you see any signs of poisoning. Cyanide disrupts the body's ability to carry oxygen to cells, so severe signs could include difficulty breathing, bright red gums, and potentially shock and death.
Safer Fruits for Dogs
If you're bothered by the risk of your dog chewing on cherry pits, there are other fruit alternatives that are generally safe to feed them:
Many dogs don't go for cherries, but maybe yours does. Ward, for instance, says dogs usually go for the sweeter fruits compared to the more tart, acidic, or bitter taste of a cherry. But maybe your dog is a real fruit connoisseur. In that case, don't be afraid to enjoy a few cherries (pits removed!) with your dog.
But if your dog is a chewer of seeds and eats anything that falls on the ground and you've got a cherry tree in your backyard, you may want to consider the George Washington route and chop that thing down. No lie.