The holidays are in full swing, and your dog is probably begging to get in on some of the festive food action. Cranberries are a popular staple at the holiday table, and they contain a ton of health benefits, but there are also some cautions. Let’s take a closer look at this superfruit, its health benefits and considerations when feeding to your dog.
Related: What Vegetables Can Dogs Eat?
Where did cranberries come from? Certainly not from a can! I grew up in Massachusetts, which harvests about one-third of the cranberries consumed in the United States, so learning about cranberries was part of being a kid.
Here are a few fun facts:
Cranberries are one of several fruits native to North America, along with blueberries and concord grapes.
Cranberries do not grow underwater. They grow on vines in sandy wetlands called bogs or marshes.
Cranberry bogs are typically flooded with water a day or two prior to harvesting. Cranberries contain four air chambers that make them buoyant enough to float to the top, where they are picked from the vines, gathered and suctioned out using a machine.
White cranberries are simply red cranberries picked at an earlier stage of ripening. They are less tart than red cranberries; however, they also contain lower levels of some beneficial phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, that give red cranberries their vibrant color.
What are the health benefits of cranberries?
Cranberries are often referred to as a superfood because they are bursting with important vitamins and minerals, including manganese, potassium and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and immune-boosting nutrient. They are also rich in fiber and rank highest of any common fruit in phenols, beneficial plant chemicals that fight inflammation and protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Cranberries taste tart because they contain only 4 grams of sugar (equal to one teaspoon) per cup, compared to 15 grams of sugar per cup of blueberries!
Cranberries are credited with a number of health benefits, including:
Fight cancer: Studies show that cranberries contain anti-cancer properties by inhibiting the growth of breast, esophageal and colon cancer.
Possibly help prevent certain types of urinary tract infections: Proanthocyanidins (PACs), a type of antioxidant, inhibit certain strains of E. coli bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.
Improve digestive health: Fiber promotes a healthy gut microbiome by increasing the good bacteria and preventing the invasion of bad bacteria. Fiber also promotes normal bowel movements.
Increase gum health: The same PACs that block bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract also work in the oral cavity, helping prevent the buildup of tartar and plaque.
Reduce risk of heart disease: Polyphenol compounds in cranberries help control blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol associated with cardiovascular disease.
Can dogs eat cranberries?
Cranberries are a safe and nutritious food for dogs if given properly. These tips will help ensure your dog benefits from their maximum nutrition, while avoiding any health pitfalls:
Feed dog cranberries that are:
Fresh, whole cranberries, either raw or cooked, mixed with your dog’s regular meal.
Dried, unsweetened cranberries as a food topper or treat (for dogs who love tart foods).
Dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice for a sweeter treat (but still watch the sugar content!).
Do not feed dogs:
Cranberry sauce is highly sweetened and processed.
Dried, sweetened cranberries contain a whopping 78 grams of sugar per cup and could be sweetened with xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Cranberry juice is stripped of its beneficial fiber and typically sweetened or mixed with potentially toxic fruits, such as grape juice.
Cranberries mixed with any fruit that is toxic to dogs, such as grapes, raisins or currants.
Cranberries are high in oxalates. You’ll want to avoid giving them to dogs prone to calcium oxalate stones.
While cranberries benefit digestion, feeding too many of them can upset your dog’s stomach. It’s important to give them to your dog in moderation.
Try baking cranberries into a delicious and healthy treat, such as my Canine Cranberry Mint Holiday Cookies! Your dog will love these tasty treats, and they make a beautiful holiday gift for your canine-loving friends. Simply add a few cookies to a Mason-style jar, adorn with a colorful ribbon and you’ve got the perfect dog-friendly holiday present!
Cranberry Mint Holiday Cookies for Dogs
Makes: 10 small cookies
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup water
½ cup fresh or frozen un-sweetened cranberries, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons organic, unsweetened applesauce (be sure that the applesauce does not contain any added ingredients)
½ apple (peeled, cored and chopped)
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Make your flax egg by adding the ground flaxseeds with warm water in a large mixing bowl and whisk. Allow this to sit for 10 minutes until it forms a gel-like consistency.
Add the applesauce, chopped apple, mint and cranberries. Stir to combine.
Incorporate the coconut flour and water, and stir again.
Drop into bite-sized cookies or cut out and place on the lined baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes or until lightly brown.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.