Blueberries adorn the baskets of fruit sellers at farmers markets and brighten the produce aisles at neighborhood grocery stores. They delight the pallets of most humans and dogs with their complex flavors that hover somewhere between sweet and tart.
Blueberries come from the same family of flowering plants that produce their popular cousins cranberries and huckleberries. Cultivators typically agree that there are two varieties of blueberries: lowbush and highbush. Both are delicious, nutritious and fairly indistinguishable to the average shopper.
Blueberries are native to North America, which is were the bulk of cultivation currently occurs. The U.S. produces over 200,000 tons of blueberries each year. Canada comes in at a distant second place by producing an estimated 100,000 tons of blueberries annually. European nations like Germany, Poland and France are also lovers of these sweet, delicious berries — and they've ramped up cultivation after the blueberry was introduced overseas in the 1930s.
ESSENTIAL READING: The Guide to Everything Your Dog Can and Cannot Eat
With blueberries so ubiquitous in North American households, many pet parents wonder if blueberries are safe for dogs to eat.
Are blueberries good for dogs?
Yes, dogs can eat blueberries. In fact, blueberries are a healthy treat for dogs. Blueberries are nutritionally dense and low in both sugar and calories, and they won't cause weight gain for dogs when served in moderation. Blueberries are also chock full of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants — all of which, help both humans and dogs maintain a healthy immune system and may protect against inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
What are the health benefits of blueberries for dogs?
Blueberries are a powerful antioxidant for both dogs and humans.
Blueberries are believed to have the highest concentration of antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetable. Antioxidants protect your cells against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that are produced when your dog's body breaks down food or is exposed to environmental toxins. Free radicals damage your dogs healthy cells and contribute to diseases such as cancer.
A British study found that one type of antioxidant in particular — anthocyanin — is responsible for the powerful, disease-fighting power of blueberries.
Blueberries may protect dogs against heart disease.
There is some evidence that suggests eating fruits high in anthocyanins, such as blueberries, is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues. A study from Norwich Medical School found that animals who consumed blueberries were at a 32% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who ate none at all.
Furthermore, the antioxidants in blueberries are suspected to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease by preventing oxidative stress to LDL cholesterol in the blood. Researchers at Oklahoma State University suggest that a daily serving of blueberries lowered LDL oxidation over an eight-week period.
Blueberries may have ani-diabetic effects for overweight dogs.
Researchers have shown a relationship between blueberry consumption and improved insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels in overweight animals. Unlike other fruits, blueberries have a relatively low amount of sugar, and a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the antioxidants in blueberries improved insulin sensitivity, which lowers the risk of metabolism disorders and Type 2 diabetes.
How many blueberries can you feed a dog?
Dogs can safely consume both fresh and frozen blueberries. In fact, frozen blueberries make a refreshing and healthy treat for dogs in the heat of the summer months. But with any fruit, or treat for that matter, it's important not to overfeed your dog.
Dietitians typically advise that treats should comprise no more than 10 percent of your dog's daily diet. Even though blueberries are amazingly healthy for dogs, it's recommended that pet parents follow this 10-percent guideline.
A 2-ounce serving (1/4 cup) of blueberries contains:
- 21 calories
- .25 g of protein
- .75 g of dietary fiber
- 3.5 g of vitamin C
Are there any concerns with feeding blueberries to dogs?
The two main concerns with feeding blueberries to dogs are added sugars and blueberries' potential as a choking hazard, especially to small dogs.
Blueberries are much lower in sugar than other fruits; so there's typically not a strong concern with feeding your dog fresh or frozen blueberries. However, blueberry products that have been designed for human consumption — like yogurts and deserts — have added sugars that can cause weight gain and blood sugar spikes for dogs.
Furthermore, blueberries are not much of choking hazard to medium and large-sized dogs, but owners of small, petite and toy breeds should always be aware of the potential for choking or gastrointestinal blockage when feeding blueberries to their furry friends.
Blueberries are beneficial for dogs and humans alike. So it you have a clamshell of blueberries from your corner grocery store, don't hesitate to share a few sweet morsels with your best friend.
Blueberries are replete with antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C — all of which can help your dog maintain a healthy immune system. There's even a growing body of veterinarian research that shows promising connections between blueberries and reduced risks of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Although blueberries are healthy for dogs to eat, be sure not to feed them too many. Veterinarians recommend that snacks not make up more than 10 percent of your dog's daily caloric intake, and a 2-ounce serving of blueberries has around 21 calories.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.