Can dogs eat apples? If an apple a day can keep the doctor away from us, can one keep the vet away from your dog?
In short, yes, it is fine for dogs to eat apples. Dogs are facultative carnivores, which means that although most of their diet should be animal protein (meat), they can digest small amounts of plant matter, including apples. So although we would not recommend your dog moves to an all-apple diet, the occasional piece is fine for a treat.
What’s in an Apple?
Fresh apples are a good source of many vitamins, minerals and other beneficial substances. Primarily, they are high in carbohydrates for a good healthy energy burst. As well, their high vitamin A assists with maintaining eyesight, helping cells grow, and the immune system, while the high vitamin C is can help for muscle movement, calcium and iron absorption, repairing the body after damage, and the immune system again.
Although dogs, unlike humans, can make their own vitamin C, a small excess in the diet is not harmful. Apples also contain a lot of antioxidants that protect the body from harmful chemicals. Apple skin too is beneficial, as it has fibre that (in small amounts) helps your dog digest and stay regular! Finally, apples are very low in fats (especially cholesterol), sodium, and calories in general.
We’ve established that apples are indeed a great food for dogs, but how do you actually give one to your dog? We recommend keeping apples as a treat, no more than one a day – replacing unhealthy treats with apples after a long walk, playtime or as a reward after tricks is a great idea! Apples are sadly very low in protein however, which dogs need a lot of, so don’t give more than 10% of their daily food intake in apple.
It is a good idea to cut your dog’s apple into bite-sized chunks.
You can leave the skin on, as it is full of vitamin C and fibre, and shouldn’t pose any choking risk. However, make sure to remove the core and stalk, as these can cause a dog to choke, as well as the seeds (more on this later). Dogs of all ages can safely eat apples, from puppies to seniors, though be sure to cut it smaller to help them chew.
As a note on pesticides, there is no real consensus from experts if pesticides on apples are dangerous to humans or dogs. All apples likely have some pesticides on the surface, unless you buy fully organic apples (though even these can have certain pesticides on them), but the concentration will be very low and very unlikely to cause harm. If you are especially worried, simply wash your fruit before animal or human consumption!
Some pet websites offer recipes using apples that are dog-friendly, such as apple pretzels made from almond flour, eggs and homemade apple puree (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-apples/). However, be careful what ingredients you add and be certain it is a dog friendly-recipe first. It is also a good idea to avoid pre-prepared apple products, such as apple sauce, apple juice or dried apple, as they often contain other ingredients that can lead to tooth decay or obesity, and are generally less nutritious. In short, there is nothing healthier or simpler than a fresh apple from your fruit bowl.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Just like with all food, too many apples can have negative effects. As mentioned above, a dog’s diet should primarily be animal protein based, so do not rely on apples – on top of being protein deficient, a high-apple diet would contain excess sugar that could cause obesity. Nevertheless, apples are a lot healthier than most commercial doggy snacks, so are still recommended for treating.
Too much apple can result in mild diarrhoea or vomiting in some dogs, due to the high fibre and water content. If this does occur, do not worry, but don’t give anymore for a while. With all new diets, it is best to start gradually to avoid stomach upset, so only give your dog a few pieces at a time for the first few apple-treats.
You may have heard that apple pips contain cyanide
This is partially true. Apple pips contain a chemical called amygdalin which, when digested, releases cyanide. Cyanide is a deadly poison that reduces the body’s ability to transport oxygen, causing hypoxia. This can cause difficulty breathing and moving, panting, shock and even death in extreme cases. But before you all panic and throw your apples in the bin, the concentration of amygdalin in apple pips is tiny. An adult human would have to eat the pips of almost 20 apples in one sitting to receive a fatal dose of cyanide – you’d probably feel sick long before this! Most dogs are smaller, so theoretically a smaller number of apples could be fatal, but this is extremely unlikely still. Stick to our one apple a day rule and remove all the pips, and your dogs should be fine.
Finally, there is a risk that the acid in apples can cause enamel loss and tooth decay
This is true in both dogs and humans. Most experts conclude that the risk is low, and the water in apples will help wash this acid away anyway. Dental disease is on the rise in dogs however, so brushing your dog’s teeth will reduce this risk further.
We should also advise you that although apples are safe for dogs, not all human food is. Please check every kind of food is safe before you give it to your dog. Some dog owners out there may have a feline friend as well, and are perhaps wondering if cats can eat apples – apples are not toxic to cats, but they offer very few benefits. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they struggle to digest plant matter. We would recommend not feeding your cats apples.
Hopefully you now know that a properly prepared apple is the perfect snack for a hungry dog, containing many beneficial substances, as well a good tool to help wean them off unhealthier snacks. We highly recommend these sweet treats for all our canine companions!
If you think your dog may have eaten something it shouldn’t have, check our free poisons guide. Or if they’re a little under the weather and you want to find out what to do, visit the VetHelpDirect Dog Symptom Checker.