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Can Dogs Eat Elderberries? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

Can Dogs Eat Elderberries

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Elderberries are a common and popular fruit that’s made into delicious jams, desserts, and syrups. They’re attractive berries, which is why your dog might want to eat them. That begs the question; can dogs eat elderberries, and how healthy are they? The answer is that unless perfectly ripe, dogs shouldn’t be allowed to eat elderberries due to the high cyanide content they contain.

The problem is that most people have no idea when elderberries are perfectly ripe, and cooking them to make them safe for your dog to eat is no small task. Indeed, even cooking elderberries to make them safe for humans takes a very specific preparation process. In short, unless you have the time and expertise to prepare them well, giving elderberries to your dog is something most vets would advise against.

If you have more questions about giving elderberries to your dog, why they’re not recommended, and if they’re healthy for your dog when prepared correctly, read on. We’ll discuss whether elderberries are worth the trouble, as well as information about what can happen when a dog eats elderberries.

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Why Are Elderberries Not Recommended for Dogs?

The problem with elderberries isn’t the fruit, which is healthy and provides a lot of nutrients when prepared correctly. The leaves, bark, stems, roots, and other parts of the elderberry have a high amount of cyanide. Also, unripe and uncooked elderberries can produce a higher amount of cyanide when eaten raw, so if you give them to your dog, they must be cooked or fermented first.

Technically speaking, elderberries don’t contain cyanide but a precursor to the toxin called cyanogenic glycosides. Cyanogenic glycosides are a particular type of sugar that can change into cyanide in your dog’s body. In any case, cyanide is the result, so giving elderberries to your dog is dangerous. As mentioned, getting rid of the cyanide is possible, but it’s not a simple process.

Image Credit: Anemone123, Pixabay

Do Elderberries Provide Any Health Benefits to Dogs?

Although elderberries are toxic, if not prepared correctly, they have more than their fair share of nutrients when they are prepared the right way. Additionally, elderberries have compounds that can help elderly dogs with joint inflammation. It’s also been shown that elderberries prepared correctly can be helpful for your dog’s respiratory system, and eating them can reduce your dog’s anxiety.

As for the nutritional components of elderberries, like most berries, they contain various vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C. They also provide other antioxidants and trace minerals, which can be beneficial, although much higher amounts would probably be needed to see any true benefits.

Elderberries Fruit
Image Credit: Han, Pixabay

How Many Elderberries Can I Give my Dog?

You can give a dog 1 teaspoon of elderberries for every 10 pounds it weighs. It’s best to give your dog 90% regular dog food and 10% snack foods every day. So, for example, if your dog eats 1 pound of food per day, which is 16 ounces of food, 10% would be 1.6 ounces. Remember, however, that 1.6 ounces are the total for all the snacks your dog should eat in 1 day. If they eat 1.6 ounces of bananas, you shouldn’t give your dog more treats until the next day, including elderberries.

What Happens When a Dog Eats Unripened Elderberries?

If a dog was to eat unripe or unprepared elderberries, several things might or might not happen. A few probably wouldn’t cause a problem, but a handful or more, or the stems and leaves, could cause your dog to become quite sick or even die. If you see your dog acting strangely and any of the signs below, you should seek veterinary help immediately.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive drooling
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A rapid heart rate and heavy breathing
  • Their breath will smell like almonds
  • Diarrhea
Black domestic dog are stoop body and vomit mucus
Image Credit: Mumemories, Shutterstock

The following additional signs may also be occurring but will be harder to see, hear, or feel. They include:

  • A large drop in blood pressure
  • Fluid accumulation in their chest
  • Falling into a coma
  • Going into shock
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death

Which Types of Elderberries Are Toxic for Dogs?

There are several types of elderberries, all of which belong to the Sambuca family of plants. Some are more toxic than others, but all of them can be deadly if eaten by your dog. The four types of elderberries include;

  • Black Elderberries: The most common elderberry can be safely eaten if properly prepared.
  • Sutherland Gold Elderberries: Even the ripened berries of this elder5berry plant are toxic, which is why they are a definite no-no for your dog.
  • Red Elderberries: Used to make elderberry wine, this variety must be properly prepared, or it stays toxic.
  • Blue Elderberries: Similar to black elderberries, they are safe when properly prepared.

Can Elderberry Poisoning Be Fatal for a Dog?

Yes, if a dog were to eat too many unprepared, unripe, or raw elderberries, death might be the result. Unfortunately, if enough is eaten, elderberries can cause death in less than an hour. That’s why bringing them to your local vet as a precaution is a very good idea. There the vet can monitor their symptoms and, if they are suffering from elderberry poisoning, treat your dog immediately so that they have a better chance of survival.

veterinarian examining a sick Rhodesian ridgeback dog
Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Have Elderberry Gummies?

Today numerous products on the market use elderberries for their purported health benefits. One of those products is elderberry gummies, of which there are several types, including elderberry alone or with CBD and THC. Giving these to your dogs isn’t a high risk because the elderberries have been fully processed.

However, giving elderberry gummies to your dog isn’t recommended because of the high content of sugar in most gummies. Also, you might or might not want your dog to consume elderberry gummies infused with THC.Divider 5

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, dogs can eat elderberries but with the critical caveat that they are prepared correctly from fully-ripened fruit. That’s why, though they offer some health benefits, many veterinarians don’t recommend giving elderberries to dogs, even when prepared correctly. There are many other natural products and snacks on the market that can provide the same benefits with no risk of sickness or death to your beloved dog. Lastly, if you decide to give your dog fruity snacks, remember to follow the 90/10 rule of snacks!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Left (Dog) Pexels, Pixabay; Right (Elderberries) Jumpstory

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