Is it OK for your dog to eat Vaccinium berries?
That sounds scary, doesn’t it? We often warn about the dangers of vaccines … and Vaccinium sounds like it’s related.
But don’t worry. In this case I’m talking about something far less sinister. In fact it’s something that’s really good for you … and your dog.
Because Vaccinium is just the botanical name for the blueberry bush!
So … I’m talking about blueberries.
And if you’ve ever wondered if your dog can eat blueberries …
… the short answer is yes … blueberries are safe for dogs.
In fact, they’re really good for them!
There are lots of good reasons you should give your dog blueberries.
Blueberries can do amazing things … like repair DNA damage. And they play a big role in preventing chronic disease.
These powerhouse berries may be small … but they’re full of health benefits for your dog.
So let’s jump into the reasons why you should add blueberries into your dog’s diet.
Why Your Dog Needs Blueberries
Let me ask you something …
… Do you take vitamins?
If you do, it’s likely because you want to make sure that … no matter what you eat … you get enough vitamins every day.
Well … blueberries are kind of like a natural multivitamin for your dog.
Unlike many fruits, blueberries are quite low in sugar … so they’re low in calories. But they’re amazingly high in healthful nutrients.
And the real power of blueberries is that they have the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruit around.
Nutrients In Blueberries
Blueberries are chock-full of vitamins … like vitamins A, C, E, K, folate and choline.
In fact, one cup of blueberries has almost a quarter of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C for people … and a whopping 36% of the RDA for vitamin K.
And they deliver some minerals too … like manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium.
Just that list should be enough to grab your attention …
… But I want to focus on antioxidants.
Vitamins A, C and E are all antioxidants … and so are minerals like manganese.
And that blue-purple color in blueberries?
It comes from flavonoid pigments called anthocyanins … which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Later I’ll talk about some studies … where you’ll see that anthocyanins are one of the most important health-giving compounds in blueberries.
So, what do antioxidants do?
Antioxidants In Blueberries
Antioxidants are superheroes for your dog’s cells.
They protect against the damage caused by oxidation. (That’s when oxygen interacts with the body’s cells.)
The body produces free radicals in the process of oxidation.
Free radicals are damaged cells that are missing an important molecule. So they steal that molecule from other cells.
It’s a normal process in the body … but if it’s uncontrolled, it can damage your dog’s DNA and cause chronic disease.
And it gets worse when your dog’s exposed to toxins. Your dog can get those toxins from all kinds of things in his life, like …
- processed dog food
- flea, tick and heartworm preventives (pesticides)
- yard chemicals
- household cleaning products
And even if you don’t use those poisons … toxins are hard to avoid in today’s environment.
If you live near other people … you can be sure one of your neighbors is using fertilizer and weedkiller on his lawn.
So your dog needs antioxidants to help control the free radical damage. Antioxidants can help protect your dog’s cells from harm.
[RELATED: Why Your Dog’s Food Needs More Antioxidants]
In fact, antioxidants do an incredible job of slowing the aging process and boosting your dog’s immune system.
And this is where blueberries come in! They can provide a ton of benefits to support your dog’s overall health.
Health Benefits Of Blueberries
There are a surprising number of studies on blueberries proving how they support health.
Here are some of the things research shows they can do:
Help Fight Cancer
About half of all dogs will get cancer. So do anything you can to help prevent your dog from getting it. Feeding blueberries may help.
Extensive research shows that berries … including blueberries … are valuable in lowering the risks of many kinds of cancer.
In various studies, berries have been found to help prevent or manage some of these cancers … and without any negative side effects:
- Gastrointestinal tract cancers … like colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Berries can help manage many factors that can help tumors grow, including:
- oxidative stress
- chronic inflammation
- obesity/metabolic syndrome (shown to increase the probability of cancer)
- angiogenesis (new blood vessels that supply tumors with blood)
Antioxidants like polyphenols and anthocyanins in blueberries can help reduce cancer cell growth … and increase aptoptosis (cancer cell death).
Support Brain Health
There are studies showing blueberries have strong effects on brain health. They help prevent memory loss in people.
They can slow the brain’s aging process, helping to minimize cognitive changes. One placebo-controlled study of individuals age 65-70 … found that blueberries improved several cognitive tests in the people who got the berries.
Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Blueberries can help prevent disease by reducing chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural process … and sometimes it’s a good thing. The body needs it to heal injuries and wounds, for example.
But chronic inflammation is harmful … and can lead to many different diseases, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Studies show that anthocyanins in blueberries modulate inflammation in the body … helping reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Improve Heart Health
Blueberries can minimize the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Research shows that eating blueberries reduces arterial stiffness and improves vascular function.
If your dog tends to be on the chubby side … blueberries might help manage his weight.
Improving gut health can also help manage obesity … and blueberries can do that too! Read on for more about that.
Boost Gut Health
A healthy gut helps make a healthy body. About 80% of the immune system comes from the gut. So supporting a healthy microbiome is essential.
You can use probiotics to help support a good balance of intestinal flora. But now it turns out … blueberries may also be good for your dog’s gut.
A 2018 study on rats at University of Georgia investigated the effects of blueberries on various elements of gut health.
They found that blueberry supplementation can improve the gut microbiome … and even help heal leaky gut syndrome!
Anthocyanins are part of the reason for this effect … because of their anti-inflammatory effect. Blueberry supplementation helped lower systemic inflammation. Liver health and insulin sensitivity also improved … suggesting another way blueberries may help manage obesity (as well as diabetes).
[Related: Dysbiosis: Does. Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?]
The good amounts of fiber in blueberries also help improve overall digestive health. Since fiber is indigestible, it acts as a prebiotic to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Researchers at several Chinese universities analyzed studies on dietary fiber. They found fiber helped relieve constipation … so if your dog is straining to poop sometimes, try adding a few blueberries to his meal!
Manage Urinary Tract Infections
You might reach for cranberries when your dog has a UTI … but their cousins, blueberries, can be helpful too.
Studies have found blueberries can also prevent and reduce urinary tract infection symptoms.
They do this by stopping bacteria (like E.coli) from binding to the urinary tract wall. This prevents the bacteria from invading the tissues and causing infection.
Preserve Eye Health
Dogs are prone to many of the same age-related eye conditions we are. Blueberries (as well as bilberries, another related fruit) may also help stop eye problems from developing.
One study looked Nutrients For The Aging Eye and found that many nutrients in blueberries could be helpful. Vitamin C is especially good for the eyes … and blueberries offer a great source of this vitamin.
Recover From Exercise
There’s even been research on dogs. In one study, sled dogs ate blueberries to boost antioxidant levels … so they could recover faster after competition. Blueberries helped reduce post-exercise oxidative stress.
But your dog doesn’t need to be an endurance athlete to benefit from blueberries … so try giving him some after he’s been for a walk or run.
[Related: 7 Disease-Fighting Antioxidants For Dogs]
How To Add Them Into Your Dog’s Diet
First of all, always use fresh, organic blueberries if you can. Buying organic minimizes pesticides for your dog. Make sure the berries are free of mold.
You can add fresh blueberries right into your dog’s meals … or even give them on their own as a delicious snack or treat.
My dog loves them stirred into organic goat kefir … for additional probiotic benefits! He loves his smoothie so much I sneak his supplements in there too. So he has a nice morning snack that’s tasty and good for him!
If your dog’s on a fresh, raw diet (I hope so!) … you can add blueberries to other fruits and veggies when you prepare his meals.
Even if you feed a processed diet, blueberries are a great nutrient-rich addition … so you can boost his diet with some natural nutrients.
Fresh berries clearly have their peak season … so when you can’t find fresh you can reach for a berry supplement …
… or buy frozen blueberries, to keep the benefits in his dish year-round.
In fact, if you have too many fresh blueberries, just freeze them. A study at South Dakota State University showed that freezing them may even increase the availability of antioxidants.
Frozen blueberries can get a bit mushy when thawed. So your dog may prefer them straight from the freezer!
I mentioned earlier that blueberries are a great source of fiber… so. you might want to start slowly if your dog’s not used to them, to avoid an upset stomach or loose stool.
And … if you’re lucky enough to have a blueberry farm nearby … pick as many as you can! The whole family can benefit.