Can Dogs Eat Cherries?

During warm-weather months, cherries appear in grocery stores aisles and on plates in restaurants everywhere. But can dogs eat them?
By: Teresa Traverse

As a pet owner, you’re probably always wondering about what foods are and aren’t appropriate share with your pet. During the warm-weather months, fresh cherries appear in grocery stores aisles and on plates in restaurants everywhere. But can you feed a dog these tiny, tart red fruits? Discover what our experts had to say.

Can Dogs Eat Cherries?

The short answer: no. The long answer: it’s not a good idea for a number of reasons.

Andrea Trafny, DMV and an emergency doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, shares three important reasons why dogs shouldn’t eat cherries:

  1. The pits of cherries contain cyanide, which can potentially cause toxicity in your dog.
  2. The pits can also cause intestinal obstruction, a serious condition.
  3. The fruit of a cherry can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset.

It’s possible to give your dog a cherry sans-pit, but it still might cause more trouble than its worth. Whenever you introduce a new food into your dog’s diet—which tends to be very controlled and only consist of dog food—your dog might have an upset stomach, Trafny says. “Anytime you start incorporating something different, their GI tracts can be much more sensitive and they can get pretty sick.”

 Andrea Sanchez, DVM and senior manager operations support at Banfield Hospital, agrees, saying that, in general, pet owners steer clear of giving their animal cherries.

“The pits or the stems get caught in the intestines and cause intestinal destruction. That’s a really common problem,” she says, adding that the cyanide in cherries can pose a real problem.

“For dogs and cats, [cyanide] actually can inhibit oxygen uptake by their red blood cells, which means they’re not going to be able to get oxygen to their tissues, especially their brain and heart if they’ve eaten more than a few cherries.”

Additionally, it’s best to avoid maraschino cherries, as those are high in sugar content even though they do not contain pits.

What Do I Do If My Dog Ate a Cherry?

Fortunately, if it was just one cherry, the likelihood of it causing a serious issue is fairly low, says Trafny. “The most important thing is not to panic.”

If your dog does accidentally eat a cherry, monitor him or her for any signs of mild intestinal distress like mild vomiting, soft stool to diarrhea and decreased appetite. You can also feed your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice until the symptoms subside.

She also recommends calling your vet to let them know what happened and make sure your dog is okay. If you bring them into the veterinarian, he or she will most likely induce vomiting (depending on how long it has been since your dog consumed the cherry) and after your pet has thrown up, your dog will be given anti-nausea medication. If you suspect a toxicity issue from the pits, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (a fee will apply).

If your dog’s symptoms do not clear up, or if your dog has continued or profuse diarrhea that either contains blood, and/or is associated with lethargy and weakness, then it is no longer mild and needs emergency attention, says Trafny.

And if you believe your dog has a cherry pit stuck in his or her GI tract, you need to take your dog to the emergency room immediately. Trafny says that she has seen intestinal obstruction, a life-threatening condition, from something as small a fruit pit.

According to Trafny, obstruction signs can include vomiting, not eating, decreased fecal production or straining and nothing produced. Toy breeds like Chihuahuas are at greater risks simply because their GI tracts are smaller. Signs of an obstruction can happen at any time, even 12 to 24 hours after the offending item has been consumed, Trafny says.

Your veterinarian will have to remove the obstruction via surgery if the pit has made its way to the intestinal tract or use a scope to remove the pit from your dog’s stomach.

So next time you bring home cherries, be sure to keep them away from your dog.