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Can Dogs Have Cherries?

Fruit is a tasty and (most of the time) healthy snack for a dog, but not all fruits are safe for our furry friends. When it comes to cherries, specifically, there are some dangers you should be aware of.

Use Extreme Caution With Feeding Dogs Cherries

The main danger of cherries is that their pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, which is poisonous and potentially lethal if consumed in high enough quantities. Cherry pits can also get lodged in a dog’s digestive tract and cause intestinal blockages.

What about maraschino cherries, which already have the pits removed? They may be pit-free, but maraschinos are not a good dog treat because they have been sweetened with tons of sugar.

What to Do if Your Dog Swallows a Whole Cherry

If your dog gets his paws on a whole cherry when you’re not looking, don’t panic. A single cherry pit will not cause cyanide poisoning. But you should look out for symptoms of intestinal blockage, including vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, and decreased fecal production.

These symptoms may appear up to 24 hours after your dog swallowed a cherry pit. Keep in mind that smaller dogs are more likely to suffer intestinal blockages from a small pit.

If your dog eats multiple cherries, you should look out for symptoms of cyanide poisoning. These include labored breathing, bright red gums, and dilated pupils. If you find that your pooch ate multiple cherries without pits, it’s a good idea to call your vet as a precaution. Your vet may decide that the best course of action is to induce vomiting to prevent cyanide toxicity.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Have Cherries?

What is the final verdict on cherries? Dogs can eat unprocessed cherries, but you must use extreme caution when preparing them, and always keep cherries that have not been pitted well out of reach.

Fruit is a tasty and (most of the time) healthy snack for a dog, but not all fruits are safe for our furry friends. When it comes to cherries, specifically

Ask MetaFilter

Once I realized last night that he was actually swallowing the cherries and not just playing with them, I became concerned about the possibility of a physical obstruction, and in researching that learned about the cyanide thing. This morning I got up and raked up as much of the tree litter as possible, and have been picking cherries all morning–but it’s an impossible task to get them all. There are thousands! And even though I thought I got all the dropped cherries and pits up, every time I turn around my puppy has one or two in his mouth (which he very nicely lets me remove in exchange for peanut butter, good boy!). He’s closer to the ground than I am and is obviously a more skilled cherry pit hunter.

I called the vet hospital (one of the top vet hospitals in the country) last night and they said it was too late to make him throw up, so just keep an eye on him and he’d probably be fine. They didn’t actually seem that worried about it. And so far he is fine. I’m sure he’s been eating them since I brought him home six days ago.

I think he is just sort of rolling them around in his mouth and lightly chewing them. I went around with a baggie and squished all the poop I could find, and so far have found five whole pits but no crushed pits.

It is now apparent that the cherry pit problem is insurmountable short of chopping down the tree. Every year will bring more cherries, and I will never be able to eradicate all cherries and cherry pits from my yard. The tree is a major landscape feature and cutting it down would be a SERIOUS blow to my already not-lovely abode. However, poisoning my puppy is not an option.

So here are my questions:

1) What is the real risk here? Does anybody know how many he’d need to eat before it’s a problem? Are whole ones dangerous or just ones that are chewed up?
2) Is there a way to keep the tree but keep it from making cherries? Some kind of tree hormone or something?

It’s a little hard to find precise amounts. The best I found was this toxicological profile of cyanide (check the middle of page 32).

Black cherry pits contain about 78micrograms per seed. The LD50 for dogs is 5-6mg/kg (see here and here). Assuming your dog weighs 10kg, then that’s 641 seeds worth. Note also that that’s for seeds, not pits. The dog would have to extract the cyanide from the seed itself, which is inside the hard pit.

Different cherry varieties may contain more or less cyanide, though. Do you know what kind you have?
posted by jedicus at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

To give you a sense of scale, the LDlo (the lowest observed lethal dose) for dogs was 1700 micrograms/kg, or 1.7mg/kg. That’s about a third of the LD50, or about 50 seeds worth for your 2.27kg dog.

Humans can detoxify cyanide at a rate of about 17 micrograms/kg/minute. Assuming it’s the same for dogs, that’s about 55.5mg/day. In other words, your dog would have to consume lots of pits very quickly in order to overwhelm its ability to detoxify the cyanide. Again, assuming that dogs detoxify cyanide similarly to humans. I have no idea if that’s true or not, and you should ask your vet. That should put you on the right track for determining if drastic measures should be taken re your cherry tree.
posted by jedicus at 1:55 PM on August 4, 2008

“Is there a way to keep the tree but keep it from making cherries? Some kind of tree hormone or something?”

Proper pruning will reduce the number of cherries (in exchange you’ll get larger, healthier fruit). Cherries are a lot easier to pick off the tree than off the ground. If you are not interested in the fruit yourself a post to the local free cycle when the cherries are ready will probably garner enough free labour to remove the cherries from your property.
posted by Mitheral at 2:29 PM on August 4, 2008

I realize I’m not answering the questions asked, but since you seem to have found those answers, I’ll offer another thing to try.

My husband uses a product called Critter Ridder around his garden in an ongoing attempt to keep our dogs from nosing around there. I hesitate to actually recommend this product specifically (His comment on its effectiveness: “Eh”), but you may find it (or its ilk) is worth a shot to keep your pup from ingesting too many pits at once.

I wonder also if you might try something like putting cayenne or other equally noxious taste on some pits, and leave them around for puppy to try. Maybe one or two bad snorts will be enough to teach him to leave them [mostly] alone?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:09 PM on August 4, 2008

Ask MetaFilter Once I realized last night that he was actually swallowing the cherries and not just playing with them, I became concerned about the possibility of a physical obstruction, and in