Much is made of the importance of us humans getting our five-a-day when it comes to fruit and vegetables, so is it right to assume that munching their way through the fruit bowl can only be a good thing for our four-legged friends too? Well, whilst fruits are naturally-occurring foods packed full of lots of important nutrients, there are a number of considerations to take into account, so don’t hand over the fruit bowl just yet…
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Certain fruits are actually toxic to dogs, so before we go any further it is crucial to know what fruit to avoid your dog getting his paws on:
Grapes, currants, raisins and sultanas
Grapes, whether fresh or in one of their many dried forms, are widely recognised as being toxic to dogs. The exact mechanism is unclear, but strangely there appears to be no correlation between the amount ingested and the clinical effects, meaning it is advisable to avoid them completely. The effects can be wide-ranging, but acute kidney failure seems to be the most common consequence and can be fatal.
Pitted and Seeded Fruits
Many pitted and seeded fruits accumulate toxins (known as cyanogenic glycosides) which in theory could lead to cyanide poisoning. Whilst cyanide poisoning is extremely uncommon in pets, it is worth noting that the rapid ingestion of a large number of pits/seeds from fruits such as peaches, apricots, cherries or apples could be toxic.
Far greater is the risk of fruit pits getting stuck in the digestive tract. Peach, apricot and plum stones are among the most common culprits, as they are just the right size to cause an obstruction in the intestine. If this happens, successful treatment requires rapid identification and surgical removal of the offending item, but sadly in some cases the consequences can be fatal.
A Balanced Diet
As humans, fruit is recognised as an important part of a balanced diet. We rely upon a variety of foods day-to-day to ensure we meet both our energy needs as well as our requirements for essential nutrients. It’s worth noting that we don’t actually always do this terribly well!
Our canine companions on the other hand, whilst also omnivores, tend to eat differently. The vast majority of dogs are fed a commercially available dog food, most of which are complete and balanced – that is to say they are carefully formulated to ensure that they meet the dog’s requirements. This means that, subject to being fed the correct amount, a dog will obtain all the energy and other nutrients he needs for the maintenance of good health by eating this food alone. There is no need to give your dog fruit on top of this as his regular diet should be providing everything he needs in exactly the right quantities.
But Can I Offer Fruit As A Treat?
Whilst it is certainly not necessary to supplement your dog’s diet with fruit, and indeed the best way to ensure he receives all the nutrients he needs is to focus on ensuring he is fed a high-quality complete diet from a reputable manufacturer, you aren’t alone if you find it hard to resist sharing some of your own food with your four-legged friend.
Fruit may sound like a healthy choice, but it is nevertheless worth bearing in mind that just a small portion of fruit can represent a sizeable proportion of your dog’s daily calorie requirements. Weight gain is an inevitable consequence of consuming excess energy, and with obesity comes an increased risk of many diseases.
Be aware that introducing different foods can cause an upset stomach. So if your dog has a sensitive tummy, it would be best to avoid adding in any extras and focus on keeping his diet consistent from one day to the next.
Portion Size is Key!
To put this into context, a medium-sized banana contains approximately 110 calories. For a 10kg dog (such as a Beagle), this represents more than a quarter of the total energy required in a 24 hour period! It might seem like the simple answer is to take away a quarter of his dog food ration, but doing so would disrupt the carefully balanced composition of his complete diet, and potentially lead to him missing out on other important nutrients. To avoid this, it is generally recommended not to replace more than a very small proportion of a dog’s complete diet with treats, even if they are foods considered to be healthy such as fruit. A good rule of thumb is that treats (even healthy ones) should represent no more than 5-10% of his total calories in any one day.
Dogs With Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Many health conditions, even those unrelated to the digestive tract, can be affected by the diet. In such cases, either limiting or increasing the intake of certain nutrients may be beneficial in controlling symptoms. If your dog is on a specific diet recommended by your vet, you should always speak to them before offering any extra treats, fruit or otherwise.
The majority of fruits are not inherently bad for your dog. Indeed, they can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. It is certainly not necessary, but if your dog is in good health and is not overweight, then a small amount of fruit fed alongside a good quality complete diet could be a safe way to introduce a little variety into your dog’s bowl!
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