If you feel like you’re seeing pomegranates popping up everywhere these days, you’re onto something. Though humans have enjoyed the tart taste and health benefits of pomegranates for millennia (fun fact: scholars believe pomegranates were one of the first fruits ever cultivated), now the nutrient-packed fruit is gaining popularity as an ingredient in dog food and treats, too.
“Pomegranate is not a common ingredient, but is becoming a more popular trend,” says Dr. Emily Townsend Luisana, veterinarian and clinical nutrition fellow at BluePearl Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas.
But does that mean the next time you scoop out some delicious, deep red pomegranate seeds, you should offer some to your dog, too? If you’ve ever wondered, “Can dogs eat pomegranates?” or “Is pomegranate safe for dogs?” keep reading to find out if your dog can benefit from this superfruit, too.
Can Dogs Eat Pomegranate?
First, if you’re looking for a clean-cut, yes-or-no answer on whether pomegranates are safe for dogs, a quick anatomy lesson on the fruit will tell you it’s not that simple. Pomegranates contain many different parts, and not all of them may be pet-friendly.
“Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a shrub or tree that produces pomegranate fruit. The leaves are not edible for dogs and can contain high levels of toxins,” notes Dr. Cristine Hayes, medical director at ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “The fruit has a hard skin, also called a peel, and a spongy flesh organized into chambers that contain the seeds.”
All parts of the fruit (skin, flesh, and seeds) are rich in polyphenols (compounds packed with antioxidants), which is why you might be interested in sharing some pomegranate with your pup. But not all parts should be eaten.
“Although they are technically edible, the skin and flesh are poorly digestible and pose a risk for a digestive tract obstruction,” says Hayes. “The skin can be used in the production of pomegranate extract, which is used in dietary supplements and food. The seeds and juice within the seeds are edible for dogs, although large quantities of seeds can cause digestive upset, and since they don’t break down easily, they can also cause a digestive tract blockage.”
Adds Luisana, “The seeds themselves are generally safe in moderation and a good source of naturally occurring antioxidants (such as vitamin C and polyphenols) and fiber.”
Are Pomegranates Good for Dogs?
There are a number of research studies on the benefits of pomegranates for dogs, which is why you are increasingly likely to find pomegranate or pomegranate extract in dog foods, treats, and canine dietary supplements promoting wellness and joint health. Overall, pomegranate contains antioxidants, which are frequently used in the formulation of dog food and dietary supplements to support health and reduce inflammation, according to Hayes. Here are a few examples of pomegranate’s benefits:
- Most pet foods and products containing pomegranate tout its antioxidant properties (which can reduce normally occurring oxidative damage and that associated with certain disease states) and its fiber content (which can aid in digestive health) (1).
- Extracts have been studied as a treatment for canine oral health issues (2), such as halitosis (also known as stinky dog breath). Some over-the-counter water additives contain pomegranate extract to promote oral hygiene in dogs.
- Some studies have also shown pomegranate to be potentially useful as a protection against cardiac (heart) health issues (3).
- Another study found pomegranate extract to be beneficial in the treatment of ear infections in dogs (4).
- Polyphenol-rich ingredients such as pomegranate are frequently incorporated in canine joint supplements to aid in the management of inflammation and osteoarthritis (5).
- A nutraceutical containing pomegranate extract was found to be effective in treating one dog with dermal melanoma (6).
- Antioxidants in pomegranate have also been used to reduce the potential spoilage of dog food (7).
Additionally, pomegranate has been suggested as a natural product for use in treating diarrhea and digestive tract parasites. However, there are no good studies evaluating the use of pomegranate for these conditions in dogs, notes Hayes.
Are Pomegranates Bad for Dogs?
While pomegranates can be beneficial, consuming pomegranate also poses some risks for dogs.
“Pomegranate skins/peels should not be eaten by dogs. Although extracts are derived from them, they contain tannins that cause digestive upset,” says Hayes. “They also are not very digestible and can cause a digestive tract obstruction. Large quantities of pomegranate seeds may also cause digestive upset and possibly digestive tract obstruction, as well.”
If you plan to feed your pup any pomegranate, always check to ensure that it is fresh and that it has an acceptable sugar content, especially if your dog has diabetes.
“Any fruit that is spoiled or molded is not recommended for dogs, as it can be toxic,” adds Luisana. “The pomegranate fruit contains a high amount of sugar so may not be recommended for dogs with certain conditions, such as diabetes.”
Pomegranate and Dogs: Feeding Tips
You should know that there are no specific safe or harmful amounts of pomegranate seeds known for dogs, according to Hayes. So finding the appropriate amount for your pup depends on several factors, including their size and whether they have a history of digestive tract disease.
“Dogs that eat large quantities at once can develop digestive upset and potentially a digestive tract blockage,” says Hayes. “They should only be fed occasionally and in small quantities. Dried or dehydrated pomegranate can pose similar risks. However, since they have a much lower water content, the risk for a blockage may be higher.”
If you’re looking to serve your pup pomegranate juice, Hayes says that it’s considered to be safe in small quantities, as long as there are no additional ingredients such as sugar, xylitol, or other flavorings or additives. So definitely check the label before pouring.
As for how to introduce pomegranate into your dog’s diet, try starting with the fresh stuff.
“Especially when introducing a new food to a pet, I recommend starting small and monitoring closely for any negative side effects,” notes Luisana. “As most other formulations (dried pomegranates, extracts, etc.) are concentrated, I also recommend starting with fresh fruit, in moderation, to gauge reactions.”
And before serving, make sure you double-check with your veterinarian to ensure pomegranate is safe for your pet.
“Always discuss your dog’s food and any supplements with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist as they are in the best position to make individual recommendations,” says Luisana.