Native to Central America and Southern Mexico, papaya is a sweet and creamy melon-like fruit (1) that makes for the perfect addition to a salad, marinade, or tropical smoothie. As soon as it’s soft and ripe with a sunny yellow-orange or red shade, it’s a healthy snack for pet parents. But not all fruits and veggies are dog-friendly—and figuring out the difference can call for a lot of Google searches. So, what about papaya?
While toxic foods for dogs like onions, avocados, and grapes are off-limits for Fido, many other fresh foods are perfectly fine and even nutritious for dogs, like pineapples and pumpkin. If you’ve got some papaya left on your cutting board or plate and a curious pup at your side, a few questions are likely to come to mind: Can dogs have papaya? And if so, is it good for them or not? What about the seeds and skin?
Learn everything you need to know about papaya and dogs, including whether this tropical fruit is safe for your pup, potential health benefits and risks to consider, and how to prepare it.
Can Dogs Eat Papaya?
The short answer is yes. “Dogs can safely eat fresh papaya in moderation,” says Dr. Antoinette Martin, a veterinarian based in North Carolina.
However, it’s best to only serve your pup the ripe flesh of the fruit (meaning when it’s yellow, orange, or red-colored, not green). That’s because the peel and seeds can upset your dog’s stomach. Like apple seeds and cherry pits, papaya seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide; a toxicity could potentially occur if your dog ate large amounts of seeds. In another worst-case scenario, papaya seeds could also cause an intestinal blockage (read: seriously backed-up pipes), which can be life-threatening, notes Martin.
Before you toss your pup some chunks of papaya, though, there’s a little more you should know.
Is Papaya Good for Dogs?
When it comes to papaya, “the health benefits for dogs would be the fiber content and vitamins—mainly vitamin C,” says Dr. Nancy Wellborn, an assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge.
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps fight harmful free radicals or unstable atoms in the body which can trigger inflammation and contribute to chronic diseases and cognitive decline if left unchecked (2, 3).
But like other fruits, papaya isn’t a natural staple of a dog’s diet—and too much of it could be a setup for GI distress rather than relief, says Martin. As such, it’s best served as an occasional treat instead of a regular snack. Some dog foods may feature a small amount of papaya and other superfoods like pumpkin as ingredients to support your pet’s digestive health and well being.
While there are some papaya-based supplements and enzymes on the market, Martin suggests steering clear of them for now. She says more research is needed on how they may affect a dog’s GI tract, and there are other specially-formulated options like prebiotics and probiotics you can ask your veterinarian to recommend if your pup is having digestive issues.
Although there are some health benefits associated with giving your dog papaya, there are also a few cons that are worth noting.
Papaya and Dogs: Risks to Consider
“In general, papaya should not be promoted as a treat,” says Welborn. While it’s OK from time to time, there are some legitimate downsides to giving your dog people food all the time—even fruits and veggies. With papaya, there are two main concerns to be aware of: potential issues with digestion and weight.
“As with any fresh fruit, papaya does contain natural sugars and fiber, and too much of it can cause stomach problems,” says Martin. The excess calories could also cause weight gain. And that’s not good, considering more than half of all dogs in the U.S. are already overweight (5).
Our canine friends need a specific combination of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients for optimum health and wellness. You can make sure yours is covered by choosing a dog food that contains “complete and balanced nutrition,” as noted on the label (6). Papaya that is found in reputable dog foods should be part of a dog’s complete and balanced diet.
Otherwise? Consult with your veterinarian before mixing papaya into your dog’s dinner. This is especially the case if he has a sensitive GI tract, is predisposed to GI diseases like pancreatitis, or has other chronic diseases that could call for dietary restrictions, such as diabetes.
Now that you know about the benefits and downsides of this juicy fruit, here’s how to ensure your preparation is pup-friendly.
How to Feed Dogs Papaya
“As with all good things, a few bites of papaya for a treat once in a while is best,” says Dr. Martin.
Before you slice it up, wash your hands and rinse off the papaya to remove any bacteria or dirt from the skin. Then, cut up a few small, bite-sized chunks (since anything can be a choking hazard with a hungry puppy!). Start with one bite to see if your dog tolerates it well.
Avoid other preparations such as dried, canned, or in juices, as these often have a higher sugar content or ingredients that could be dangerous to dogs, such as the sweetener xylitol, Martin says.
Finally, remember the 10 percent rule. For your dog’s health and nutrition, treats including fresh fruits and vegetables should make up no more than 10 percent of his total daily caloric intake. The remaining 90 percent is easy—just keep serving them a complete and balanced dog food.