The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without cranberries. Not only are these colorful little fruits full of flavor, but they’re also good for you and your animal companion.
Cranberries have a long history, going all the way back to Roman times. In 1578, herbalist Henry Lyte documented the use of cranberries to treat a variety of ailments, from rheumatoid disorders, scurvy and fever, to skin wounds and eczema. Native Americans living along the Eastern seaboard regularly used cranberries as a blood tonic because of their iron content, but it wasn’t until the 1840s that German scientists began exploring the positive impact of cranberries on urinary tract health. Clinical research began in the 1930s, and has gained momentum ever since.
Cranberries also provide health benefits to dogs and cats. When it comes to preventing and treating struvite crystals and bladder stones in our companion animals, cranberries are a great food and supplement to have on hand. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association has suggested that people add one to two ounces of cranberry juice to their animals’ food every day.
What makes cranberries so healthy?
Cranberries contain a variety of bioactive components, including antioxidant proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins, and ellagic acid.
Anthocyanins are the pigments that give cranberries their rich red color. Out of 150 flavonoids tested, they were found to have the strongest antioxidant power – even moreso than vitamin E. Anthocyanins also have an anti-inflammatory action, and can help lessen allergic reactions. A 100 gram serving of cranberries contains 50 to 80 mg of this powerful antioxidant.
Proanthocyanidins belong to the bioflavonoid family and help strengthen blood vessels and improve the delivery of oxygen to cell membranes. Ellagic acid has also been getting lots of attention lately because it has been found in the lab to cause apoptosis or “cell death” in cancer cells.
Cranberries also contain dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin K, and are rich in vitamin C and tannins, which help keep bacteria like E. coli, the most common cause of UTIs, from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract.
Don’t be surprised if you soon start finding cranberry seed flour and cranberry seed oil on the shelf of your favorite health food store, as an alternative source of omega 3 fatty acids. Cranberries are gaining even more recognition as a way to help prevent bad breath, plaque, and gum disease.
When seeking out cranberry supplements for your animals, look for standardized products and companies that use no harmful solvents in their extraction process, or binders like stearic acid, dextrose or maltose. Always check with a holistic veterinarian or nutritionist before adding any new supplement to your dog or cat’s diet.
Cranberries are a real crowd pleaser. As well as adding some holiday pizzazz to you and your companion’s meals, they’re a true powerhouse of healthful activity and can be used throughout the year to give his wellness (and yours) a boost.
Cranberry supplements for dogs and cats
- Solid Gold Berry Balance is a natural cranberry and blueberry extract with marshmallow and vitamin C to help support a healthy urinary tract. For dogs and cats prone to struvite crystals and bladder infections, this product helps balance the urinary tract pH and dissolve struvite crystals.
- Veterinarian’s Best No F.U.S. Feline Urinary Support contains dried cranberry juice concentrate and ascorbic acid along with dried herbal extracts of parsley, corn silk, couch grass root, slippery elm, and butcher’s broom. It helps to naturally maintain normal urine acidity.
- NaturVet Cranberry Relief Powder for Dogs and Cats contains cranberry extract, Echinacea purpurea, Oregon grape root, and calcium ascorbate to help minimize bacterial colonization of the bladder mucosa.
- Cranberry Concentrate capsules are available from www.naturalrearing.com
What dose is best?
Cats and small dogs: 100 mg, three times per day
Medium sized dogs: 200 mg, three times per day
Large dogs: 300 mg, three times per day
Giant breed dogs: 400 mg, three times per day
Recipes for the festive season – and all year round!
Pup-kin cranberry muffins
½ cup oil of your choice, e.g. safflower, sunflower, olive, canola
1 cup pure pumpkin pureé
1½ cups whole grain flour, e.g., oat or spelt; combinations of whole grain flours can also be used
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground carob
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon iodized sea salt (optional)
1 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries or ½ cup dried cranberries
Try to use organic ingredients wherever possible. Preheat oven to 375°F degrees. Combine eggs, oil, and pumpkin pureé in a food processor or blender. Add dry ingredients and whirl together until smooth. Fold in finely chopped cranberries. Lightly grease mini muffin tins or line with paper cups, and fill each with muffin batter. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove muffins from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. This recipe can easily be doubled, and the muffins freeze beautifully.
For an extra special touch during the holiday season, the muffins can be dipped in low-fat cream cheese and then decorated with cranberries and sprigs of fresh mint.
For your human family members, add ½ cup of unpasteurized honey to the ingredient list.
This recipe makes 34 mini muffins.
Carob cranberry truffles
½ cup unsweetened granola
2 tablespoons ground carob
½ cup finely chopped fresh cranberries or ¼ cup finely chopped dried cranberries
3½ cups oat flour
½ cup pure cranberry juice
1½ cups filtered water
Goat’s milk or goat’s milk yogurt
Extra granola or oatmeal, for rolling
Try to use organic ingredients, whenever possible. Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine all ingredients, except the extra granola and milk. Make small balls, the size of truffles, dip in milk or yogurt, and then roll in granola or oatmeal. Place truffles on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off oven, and allow the truffles to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. These tempting treats freeze beautifully, and there are lots of wags and woofs out there who actually prefer them freshly frozen. For holiday gift giving, pop truffles into candy cups.