Can Dogs Eat Strawberries? Here’s What Veterinarians Say

Strawberries are a sweet, nutritious treat, especially in the spring and summer. But is it safe to feed dogs strawberries? Veterinarians explain.

Food and man’s best friend

Most fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs, in moderation. And allowing your pooch a little diversity in its diet by giving it the occasional fruit or vegetable can offer nutritional advantages.

But some of even the healthiest fruits and vegetables may not be good for dogs. So what about strawberries?

This fruit packs big flavor punch into a small bite. It’s also rich in several vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, or compounds that help prevent damage to cells.

But some flavored strawberry products contain ingredients that can cause problems for dogs, like milk products and added sugar or sweeteners.

Here’s what the experts want you to know about feeding dogs strawberries, including whether it’s safe and whether there are any good reasons to start feeding your furry friend this fruit.

Why are some foods toxic or unsafe for dogs?

Some foods contain compounds that dogs cannot break down properly, which can cause digestive symptoms. Other foods have toxins, or substances that can harm healthy cells.

In some cases, a food may be unsafe because a dog may choke on parts of it or the food might cause damage to parts of the throat or digestive tract.

Depending on the food, the amount a dog eats may also impact the potential harm. (We’ll come back to that.)

Can dogs eat strawberries?

Strawberries are not toxic to dogs. So, in general, dogs can eat strawberries bought at stores, markets, or picked in the wild.

But according to the experts, it is best to feed dogs raw strawberries only—not strawberry-flavored foods.

The raw fruit doesn’t contain added sugar, fat, and other ingredients a dog may not be able to digest or tolerate well. The same can’t be said for strawberry-flavored products.

It is also important to remember that fruits contain fructose, or fruit sugars. Strawberries, in particular, are fairly high in fruit sugars, meaning they also have more calories than some other less-sweet fruits.

How much should a dog eat?

According to the experts, it is safest to give pups fruits like strawberries in small quantities as dog treats.

It is also important to consider the dog’s size when determining how much of a treat to give to dogs. Large dogs can usually have larger portion sizes, while smaller dogs eat smaller portion sizes.

“Most important, your pet should get most of their nutrition from their regular diet,” says Tina Wismer, DVM, the senior director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center.

“Snacks should equate to no more than 5 percent of their daily caloric intake, so keep portion sizes small,” she says.

english bulldog begging for foodCarol Yepes/Getty Images

Are strawberries good for dogs?

Strawberries may be small, but they contain a good deal of health benefits for people and pups alike. Some of the most abundant vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients found in strawberries include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital to a strong immune system. It can also contributes to the production of collagen—connective fibers that support skin and aid in wound healing. And that’s not all—the vitamin also assists your body in absorbing iron from plant-based foods.

Fiber

Fiber helps you feel full longer because it takes longer to digest. And as it digests, soluble (digestible) fiber forms a gel-like substance that helps fill up the digestive tract, helping you feel full for a longer period of time after eating.

That makes fiber ideal for pups who need to lose weight—they won’t have to eat as many calories to feel and stay full.

Fiber also helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Potassium

This mineral is used in almost every bodily process. Potassium is important to a healthy heart and kidney function, nerve cell communication, and muscle contraction.

Folate

The body uses folate to help make genetic material like DNA. But it also requires folate (vitamin B6) for cells to grow and divide properly.

Antioxidants

Strawberries contain several antioxidants, including tannins, anthocyanins, flavonols, phenolic acids, and ascorbic acid. Antioxidants help prevent cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals, molecules that are a byproduct of the body converting foods into energy.

Free radical exposure also occurs in the environment, such as through air pollution, smoke, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Eating antioxidants and fresh fruit regularly may help slow the aging process and improve immune system health. Antioxidants may also help reduce inflammation and the risk of developing diseases such as cancer.

Malic acid

Strawberries contain an enzyme called malic acid, which can help whiten a dog’s teeth. Malic acid also increases saliva production, which can help prevent dry mouth and reduce the risk of mouth cancer.

Other benefits of feeding dogs strawberries

Veterinarian Barbara Hodges, DVM, the director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, says that she finds it tragic that some pets eat the same food day in day out.

“Some clients say that their dogs won’t eat properly,” she says. “The first thing I ask is, but will they eat treats? How about your food?”

If the answer is yes, the dog is probably just sick of the same food.

“We all seek novelty,” she says. “And variety really is the spice of life.”

Dr. Hodges recommends rotating foods in and out of a dog’s diet every few weeks to provide dogs with more varied nutrition. It may also make dogs look forward to or enjoy their meals or treats more.

Can dogs eat strawberry leaves?

Technically speaking, strawberries’ leaves, stems, and other plant parts are not toxic to dogs, but they could cause other problems.

“Dogs should not eat any plant parts other than the berries—leaves, stems, it is just unnecessary,” says Dr. Hodges. “They are virtually indigestible. Stems and other hard or sharp parts can also damage the GI [gastrointestinal] tract.”

Can dogs eat strawberry ice cream?

The experts say ice cream and dogs do not mix. Just like many humans, dogs are generally lactose intolerant to some extent. This means they have a hard time digesting lactose, a type of sugar found in milk products.

Why are dogs lactose intolerant?

Puppies produce higher levels of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in the body.

Dogs produce a lot less lactase after weaning off their mother’s milk. So most adult dogs will experience some mild, temporary digestive problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, gas, and stomach pain, after eating ice cream.

Some dogs may also be allergic to proteins in milk, or other ingredients the ice cream was exposed to during processing.

Other reasons not to give dogs ice cream

Ice cream contains loads of sugar and fat, especially saturated fats. This can contribute to weight gain and obesity, which raises the risk for diabetes.

Feeding dogs foods too much fat or sugar can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) that can land your pet in the hospital, says Dr. Wismer.

Ice cream alternatives

While ice cream may not be the best treat for dogs, experts say frozen, cut-up strawberries can make an excellent, refreshing snack.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) also recommends giving dogs ice cream alternatives as a treat. Try “nice cream,” which is blended frozen ripe bananas.

Some dog-friendly ice creams are also available at specialty stores, dog cafés, online, and even some grocery stores.

Can dogs eat strawberry yogurt?

Dr. Hodges says that a yogurt is a healthy option for dogs that can tolerate it. Yogurt is easier for dogs and people to digest because the fermentation process contains bacteria that break down some of the product’s lactose. These bacteria, called probiotics, can also help improve digestion.

But always stick with plain yogurt with live cultures, she adds. Flavored yogurts tend to have lots of sugar and potentially harmful artificial sweeteners, like xylitol.

Strawberry-flavored foods to avoid

According to the experts, when it comes to feeding dogs strawberries, stick to the raw fruit—fresh or frozen.

“Don’t feed fruit that has been sugared or packed in syrup, because this adds even more sugar and calories and defeats the purpose of feeding a ‘healthy’ treat,” says Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club.

“More important, some canned or sweetened berries may have artificial sweeteners in them, such as xylitol, which is toxic to dogs,” he says.

Dr. Hodges adds that you should avoid preserved, dried, or other types of processed berries because it’s unclear precisely how they were made and what they contain or were exposed to.

Fruit juices also contain more calories and sugar than plain fruit, without the nutritional benefits.

Tips for feeding dogs strawberries safely

“Berries should be fed as they are to people: washed to rinse away dirt or chemicals and sliced appropriately for the size dog to prevent any possible choking hazard,” says Dr. Klein.

Very small dogs may need to have their strawberries mashed up or pureed. Remove any stems or inedible parts of the strawberry before feeding strawberries to a dog.

The experts say that dogs should be gradually introduced to strawberries to make sure they don’t have any negative reactions.

“Always start any new food item for your dog slowly for a few days to see if your dog has any gastrointestinal issues afterward or allergic reactions, such as intense scratching or itching,” says Dr. Klein.

Foods unsafe for dogs

Unfortunately, dogs cannot eat everything humans eat, just as humans cannot safely eat everything dogs do.

Here is a list of foods that are unsafe for dogs, based on expert advice and the recommendations of authoritative animal organizations:

  • mushrooms
  • grapes and raisins
  • asparagus
  • onions and leeks
  • garlic
  • chocolate
  • caffeine
  • avocado
  • cooking oils or butter
  • most seasonings and salt
  • cherries
  • tomatoes
  • candy
  • gum
  • alcohol
  • hops
  • macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds
  • yeast dough
  • potatoes
  • plant and fruit seeds, pits, cores, skins, leaves, and stems

Next, check out why looking into your dog’s eyes feels so good.

Sources

Jennifer Huizen
Jennifer is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with many online sites, including Medical News Today, Healthline, Scientific American, Audubon, Love Nature, Yale Medical Magazine, and Mongabay. She covers all things science, but her passion projects usually relate to the environment, animals, and mental health. Jennifer holds a BS Hons Biology, a BA Hons English, and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Jennifer now lives in the U.S. with her absurdly-unique rescue cat Jim Carrey and a jungle's worth of houseplants.