Although the debate whether or not dogs should be fed fresh fruits and vegetables from time to time still rages, scientific research has shown that dogs are able to safely consume and digest certain plant-based foods, and even benefit from it. For the most part dogs are carnivores, but they still need a diverse diet with an adequate infusion of vitamins and minerals in order to meet all of their nutritional needs. Also, including some fresh produce in your dog’s treat can be a great way to reward them while optimizing the nutrient density of their diet.
It’s far from unheard of to want to spoil your dog by sharing your favorite food with them, but dog owners must learn that dogs digest meals differently than humans do, and what we consider to be safe, enriching foods may actually cause long-term health problems in dogs.
This seems to be especially true in the case of fruits, which should never be given to dogs without proper consideration. And the worst offender in the category are stone fruits.
Also known as drupes, stone fruits have a large and hard seed/pit or “stone” located in their center, enclosed by a fleshy outer pulp, and include many summer favorites such as cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums.
The pits of stone fruits contain a compound called amygdalin, which becomes hydrogen cyanide when ingested. In order for this potent toxin to be released, the pit must be chewed and broken open.
Dangers of stone fruits for dogs
Here are all the ways in which stone fruits pose a threat to your dog’s health:
Items that are just as hard or harder than your dog’s teeth can easily cause damage to them. If your dog bites right into a peach, for example, they may break a tooth on the super-hard pit. Not only that are fractures painful and take long to heal, but fractures that reach the gums complicate the situation even further.
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The esophagus is a very sensitive organ that can be damaged by anything with rough edges, such as some type of pits. Whether the dog successfully swallows the pit or it gets stuck, the damage can be lasting. The lining of the esophagus is susceptible to erosion caused by physical trauma and injury, which can lead to various esophageal diseases that will limit the dog’s ability to ingest food. In the case of a full tear, there is a significant risk of infection and pneumonia.
Foreign Body Obstruction
If a large pit passes through the esophagus and reaches the stomach, it could still get stuck there or in the intestines, causing what is medically known as “a foreign body obstruction”. The same result can happen if the dog ingests way too many small pits. This is also a very painful experience, marked by vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and what makes it even worse is that foreign body obstructions often require surgery.
Even though it sounds the scariest, in reality, it takes a whole lot of pits to produce toxic cyanide levels. This depends on the size of the dog, of course, but what really makes a difference is whether the dog chews the pit. As we mentioned above, in order to release the cyanide, pits must be chewed or broken apart. The signs of cyanide poisoning include excess salivation, rapid breathing, and convulsions, and if it’s severe it can cause death within a couple of minutes.
Fresh-looking fruits can often have moldy pits. While some types of mold in our environment are harmless, others can be the source of debilitating illnesses affecting anything from the gastrointestinal tract to the central nervous system. In some cases, mold toxicity can cause liver failure and seizures.
All of these health dangers can be easily curbed by making sure to always cut up the fruit and offer only the flesh to your dog. Every inedible part, such as the seeds, stems and pits should be removed before giving the fruit to your dog. Moderation is the second rule for safely incorporating fruit into your dog’s meals. Don’t forget that excessive consumption of fruits can lead to intestinal irritation, diarrhea and bloating.
As long as you make it safe, there is no reason to prevent your dog from enjoying the occasional fruity snack!