From acai berries to wolfberries, these healing superfruits offer as many health benefits to your dog as they do to you.
Superfruits are so densely packed with nutrients that they act as medicine as well as food. And they don’t just benefit our own bodies; they can also give a health boost to our dogs.
With exotic names like dragonfruit, acai, mangosteen and goji, superfruits contain potent antioxidants that defend against environmental damage while also helping repair the body from within. In recent years, superfruits have gone from a little-known health fad to a blossoming medical and nutritional innovation.
Here are just six of the many fruity treats that can help heal as well as feed your canine companion.
1. Acai berries
Among the most famous superfruits is the acai berry, which has a deliciously unusual flavor that is almost chocolatey in its richness. While your pooch can’t join you in sharing a chocolate bar, she can certainly have her fill of acai berries.
These tasty treats are an incredibly dense source of anthocyanins, which are deep blue compounds capable of neutralizing superoxides, dangerous compounds that dogs produce in response to stress. Acai berries are also a good source of vegetarian proteins and fats, which dogs require in a balanced diet. If you do decide to share acai berries with your dog, try to aim for fair trade fruit; they provide sustainable income for people living in the Amazon rainforest, where the berries come from.
Another incredibly rich source of anthocyanins, the common blackberry is a champion among superfruits. After a well-designed scientific investigation, the USDA ranked blackberries among the top ten antioxidant foods consumed in the US.
Although they may not be as exotic or novel as their tropical counterparts, blackberries can boost your dog’s defences against common sources of free radicals, including stress, disease and pollution. Because they grow abundantly throughout North America, you’re likely to find local, organic blackberries at a very fair and reasonable price. Try mixing blackberries with broccoli and whole egg for a delicious doggie “smoothie”.
Perhaps the queen of local superfruits, blueberries are the strongest antioxidant fruit grown in North America. They contain extremely concentrated antioxidants that inhibit the growth of cancer cells and actively reduce inflammation. Like cranberries, they hinder the growth of bacteria in an animal’s urinary tract, preventing infections and other common problems.
Blueberries can also improve your pup’s brain health — several studies have found it improves mood and mental function in animals. Most dogs enjoy the sweet flavor of blueberries, but others find them too strong. If your companion declines them, he’s more likely to enjoy them in a “stew” made with meat and raw greens.
Cranberries have been valued for centuries for their healing powers, and their effects aren’t limited to human beings. A single cup of whole cranberries provides nearly 12 times the antioxidant capacity of a cup of orange juice. Cranberries are well-documented for their ability to improve urinary health in both humans and animals. Cranberries contain a natural medicinal compound that prevents bacteria from clinging to the walls of the bladder, urethra and kidneys. This means fewer infections and better detoxification for your furry companion.
The tangy fruit also contains nontoxic doses of salicylic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compound similar to aspirin. It’s a perfect tonic for an aging or arthritic dog, but some dislike its tartness. Try mixing it with other foods or giving it as you would give a pill.
Pomegranate fruit has been adored for centuries because of its combination of incredible flavor, balanced nutrition, and often-unexpected medicinal effects. Whole pomegranate is an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants for dogs, and pooches enjoy its taste and texture.
But its benefits don’t end there: several studies have found that this ancient fruit can help with heart disease in humans and animals alike. Its natural juices also coat a dog’s teeth with bacteria-fighting compounds that prevent cavities and gum disease. Interestingly, the antioxidants in pomegranate appear to specifically protect animals’ bowels. Given the increasing rates of colon cancer in dogs, it’s prudent to add pomegranate to your pal’s preventative health regimen.
Wolfberry owes its common name to the wild canines of the Orient, who adore this delicious and powerfully nutritious fruit. Your own little wolf will be equally eager to experience the flavors of the wolfberry, which are at once fruity, tomato-like, and delicately piney.
Also known by its Chinese name goji, wolfberry appears to reduce inflammation, improve heart health, prevent eye disease, and even improve brain function in animals. It can also help modulate a dog’s immune system so he responds to infection in an healthy manner, but doesn’t experience unnecessary fever or inflammation when infection does strike.
Superfruits can be fed as treats, or sprinkled over or mixed into your dog’s food. They’ll add variety as well as extra nutrition and taste to his diet. What more could anyone ask for?
Fruits to avoid
Although fruit is a healthy and essential part of a dog’s balanced diet, some fruits can actually be harmful or fatal. Grapes, although a healthy superfruit for humans, contain a compound that can trigger near-immediate kidney failure in a dog. As few as seven raisins or grapes are enough to kill a medium-sized dog.
Be sure to also limit your dog’s intake of pits and seeds in fruit. Although your friend can handle an occasional apple seed, most pits and seeds contain cyanide, which can poison a pooch if ingested in large quantities.
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and crazy animal lady living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When she's not busy spoiling and pampering her three rescued animals and her two awesome kids, she writes about a wide array of subjects including animals, science, green living, and health.