Cherries have lots of benefits for humans. They are high in antixodiants. They can reduce inflammation and even improve sleep. However, just because it’s good for us, doesn’t mean it’s good for our furry family members.
Unfortunately, cherries do pose some risks for dogs.
What happens if a dog eats a cherry pit?
You are enjoying some cherries, when you spot your dog sneaking one. You watch in fascinated horror as they chomp the cherry and swallow.
Dogs may not have a reputation for being fruit lovers, but many are. I discovered this myself when my dog helped themselves to a grape, which is toxic to them!
The good news is that one cherry is unlikely to cause your pooch any serious harm. However, there are some risks that you must be aware of.
The most minor problem your dog may have after eating a cherry pit is stomach upset. This doesn’t occur because the cherry or pit is toxic. It’s simply because it’s something their digestive system isn’t used to.
Stomach upset can include vomiting and diarrhea. Simple stomach upset isn’t anything to be overly troubled by. However, the symptoms of stomach upset are also some of the symptoms of cyanide poisoning.
If your pooch shows signs including vomiting and diarrhea, keep a close eye out for other signs of cyanide poisoning. If stomach upset is the only symptom, your pooch is safe. However, any other symptoms mean you should seek immediate veterinary care.
You may have heard of cyanide, probably in a murder mystery or a TV show. It’s a natural substance, but not one that we realize we come into regular contact with.
Cherry pits contain cyanide. You may have eaten cherries for your entire life, never realizing that the pits are poisonous. Of course, humans don’t eat the pits of cherries, so it’s not a concern.
The good news is that one cherry pit isn’t enough to cause cyanide poisoning. Even better, the pits must be broken to release cyanide, so unchewed pits pose little risk.
Of course, it’s still concerning if your dog eats a cherry pit. Even if they only have one, you’ll still need to look out for the signs of cyanide poisoning.
After all, cherries are the leading cause of cyanide poisoning in dogs. They do pose a serious threat to your pooch if ingested.
Symptoms of Cyanide Poisoning
The symptoms of cyanide poisoning can begin within 15 minutes to a few hours after your dog eats cherry pits. Excitability and a rapid heartbeat are typically the first signs. Then, excessive drooling, watery eyes, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur. Muscle spasms are also common.
The mucus membranes and gums will turn bright red. Eventually, they will turn blue if your dog’s condition progresses. Seizures, convulsions, and death can occur after ingesting cyanide.
It typically occurs quickly. If your dog survives for two hours after the onset of symptoms, they have a chance of recovering. Death typically occurs within the first hour of symptoms beginning.
Lastly, a bowel obstruction can be caused by cherry pits. Cherry pits are small, making an obstruction unlikely. However, it’s not impossible. Small dogs have smaller digestive tracts, and are at a greater risk. However, even a large dog can suffer a bowel obstruction.
Symptoms of a bowel obstruction can occur within 24 to 48 hours after eating the substance. The signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty pooping. Loss of appetite, weakness, and bloating can also occur.
What to do if my dog eats a cherry pit?
If your dog eats a cherry pit, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to help your dog through the situation.
First, be sure your dog can’t access anymore cherries. If there are any cherries or pits within your dog’s reach, remove them immediately. Be sure they are somewhere your dog can’t reach.
Assess the Situation
The next step is to assess the situation. Did your dog eat one cherry pit? Several? Half a bag? Write down how many cherry pits you think they ate, along with the time.
This will help you in the steps to come.
Call a Professional
It’s best to call a professional in this situation. Cyanide poisoning can make your dog violently ill, or even kill them, fairly quickly.
You have two options for consulting a professional. The first is your dog’s vet. They will likely recommend you bring your pooch in for treatment, even if they’ve only ate one cherry pit.
If you want an unbiased professional opinion, contact the Pet Poison Helpline. They have a large database of toxins and a formula to determine the risk level of the situation.
They will ask you how many cherry pits your dog ate, their age, weight, and health status. They will then design a treatment plan. If they recommend veterinary care, they can work with your vet to treat your pooch.
You may be told to induce vomiting by your vet or poison control. If you feel confident taking this step yourself, that’s also an option. If you get your dog to vomit, they should vomit the hazardous cherry pits, hopefully, before they’ve done serious damage.
Do not induce vomiting if your pooch is already vomiting, weak, lethargic, or unconscious.
To induce vomiting, all you need is hydrogen peroxide, and a way to get it into your dog. A turkey baster or medicine syringe works well. Give your pooch one teaspoon of peroxide per 5 pounds of body weight. Don’t exceed 3 tablespoons for large breeds.
They should begin throwing up within 15 minutes. If it’s been 30 minutes without vomiting, you can readminister the dose.
When to Seek Emergency Care
If your dog is showing signs of serious illness or cyanide poisoning, including red or blue gums, muscle tremors, or excessive drooling, along with stomach upset, they need immediate veterinary care.
The vet has treatments that can reverse the effects of cyanide poisoning. These include providing oxygen and b-12 therapy. The b-12 administered by the vet will be much different than the type in vitamins, so don’t attempt to treat your pooch at home.
If they make it through the first several hours after eating cherry pits without symptoms, you no longer have to worry about cyanide poisoning. However, a bowel obstruction is still a concern.
Keep an eye on your dog for the next few days, particularly their bowel movements. If they are passing things normally, they will be fine.
How to prevent my dog from eating cherry pits?
It’s much easier to prevent your dog from eating cherry pits than to treat them for cyanide poisoning. The good news is, once you are aware of the danger, it’s not hard to keep the pits out of your pooch’s reach.
Unfortunately, there are no truly seedless cherries. However, bing cherries have very small seeds. It’s believed that these tiny seeds pose less of a cyanide risk than larger cherry pits.
If you have a curious pooch, you may want to opt for this type of cherry.
Marachino cherries are processed, so they don’t have pits either. It is removed in the making of the cherries. However, they are packed with sugar syrup, and aren’t a healthy treat for your dog.
Dried cherries have the pits removed during processing. They aren’t dangerous to your dog. In fact, they can offer health benefits to you and your pooch.
Just don’t overdo it. Give a small dog a few small dried cherries. Larger dogs may have a bit more. Start by giving a dog of any size only one or two, and then increase the amount gradually.
If you are eating cherries, be sure to keep the pits, and the cherries themselves, out of reach of your pooch. Never leave cherries or pits unattended within reach of your dog, to avoid them accidentally snacking on them.
The pits of the cherry aren’t the only part that’s toxic. Cherry tree leaves and branches also contain cyanide. If you have a cherry tree, you must not allow your dog near it. You may need to restrain your dog with a fence or cable tie, or place a fence around your cherry trees.
In addition to the tree itself, be sure that falling fruit isn’t within your dog’s reach either.
Alternatives and Substitutions
If you want to avoid cherries out of consideration for your 4 legged family member, or at least cherries with any type of pit, there are other options.
Fresh cherries can be substituted with canned cherries or cherry pie filling in recipes.
If you want the benefits of cherries, consider purchasing cherry juice. 100% cherry juice is an excellent way to get the health benefits of cherries in a concentrated way.
In fact, your pooch can also benefit from small amounts of cherry juice. Just introduce it slowly, and use moderation.