Can dogs have goji berries? Perhaps you have been wondering about this ever since you read about the wonderful health benefits of goji berries for humans.
But are goji berries safe for our pooches? Can dogs eat them and, if yes, how can one feed them safely to our beloved furry companions?
In this guide, we cover all these topics in detail. We will also answer the following questions:
- What Are Goji Berries?
- Can Dogs Eat Goji Berries?
- Benefits of Goji Berries for Dogs
- And more…
Can Dogs Eat Goji Berries? (The Short Answer)
Yes, dogs can eat goji berries, albeit in moderation. Just as humans could benefit from the rich antioxidant content of goji berries, so could dogs.
When fed in moderation, goji berries could support your dog’s kidney and liver function, fortify its bones, and even boost its immune system. The antioxidants found in the berries could fight free radicals which are responsible for cellular damage and illness. They could even protect your dog against certain cancers.
Of course, more scientific research is needed to ascertain these benefits. If in doubt, do consult your vet before feeding goji berries to your doggo.
What Are Goji Berries?
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries or Lycium barbarum, are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. They are found in the valleys of the Himalayas and the Northwest regions of China, areas renowned for their long-living citizens.
Goji berries are reddish-orange in color and have a sweet-sour taste. You can eat them fresh or dried, like raisins. In fact; dried goji berries resemble red raisins.
Goji berries contain a high concentration of antioxidants including Vitamin C, lutein, and selenium. They also contain an organic mineral complex known for its anti-cancer properties.
Goji berries are known as the longevity fruit in China. Ancient Chinese medicinal texts dating back to the 7th Century (Tang Dynasty) talk about the Goji berry as “enriching yin and nourishing the blood”.
Since ancient times, Chinese people have used goji berries to support the kidneys, liver, and eye health. They add goji berries to soups or make them into teas, juices, or wines. Chinese herbalists also use these berries to prepare medicinal tinctures.
Top 5 Health Benefits Of Goji Berries
While there are not many studies conducted on goji berries for dogs, there are multiple health benefits touted in humans. According to the experts at Medical News Today, the following are the main benefits of goji berries.
1. Rich Source Of Antioxidants And Other Nutrients
As mentioned earlier, dried and fresh goji berries are packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and selenium.
Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals, neutralize harmful molecules, and prevent cell damage. They also fight signs of aging, boost the immune system, and increase the production of blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow.
An important antioxidant in goji berries – zeaxanthin -imparts the berries their bright red color. This antioxidant protects the cells from damage caused by smoke, pollution, and UV radiation.
Take a look at the other nutritional content found in just 5 tbsp of goji berries:
- Total calories – 98
- Protein – 4 g
- Iron – 11% DV for humans
- Vitamin A – 501% of DV for humans
- Vitamin C – 15% of DV for humans
- Vitamin K – 24% of DV for humans
- Carbs – 21.6 g
- Fiber – 3.6 g
- Calcium – 190 mg
2. Good for Eye Health
Studies have shown that elders who drank goji berry juice regularly showed improved vision due to higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Both these antioxidants are known to be extremely beneficial for eye health.
Reports indicate that even if you eat a handful of goji berries daily, you could prevent age-related macular degeneration.
3. Boost Immunity
The high levels of vitamins A and C in goji berries could benefit the immune system. Both vitamins are beneficial for repairing worn-out cells. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that could delay certain cancers and heart disease and also promote healthy aging.
Anecdotal evidence states that people use these berries to tackle health issues like diabetes, fever, high blood pressure, etc.
4. Anti-Cancer Properties
Scientists at the University of Sydney believe that goji berries could have skin cancer preventive benefits. Under a controlled environment, they found that the mice that were fed goji juice showed a significant reduction in inflammatory sunburn reactions.
Similar studies on mice have shown inhibited tumor growth and better response to cancer treatments. Studies on liver cancer patients have shown inhibition in the rate of tumor growth.
5. Good For Kidney And Liver Health
Goji berries have always been used for treating liver and kidney disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Their high antioxidant content supports the liver and helps with detoxification. TCM practitioners believe that berries improve the kidney and liver meridians while reducing the stress on these organs.
Are Goji Berries Good For Dogs?
Although there are not too many studies conducted on animals (especially dogs) for assessing the benefits of goji berries, some pet parents believe that the nutritional benefits seen in humans could be applicable to dogs as well.
Superfood for Dogs
I wouldn’t go as far as to say Goji Berries are a superfood for dogs but they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins. They also contain calcium and iron. All these nutrients can benefit your pet’s health.
Since 5 tsp of goji berries contain fewer than 100 calories, goji berries can be an ideal, low-calorie snack for your pooch.
Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B-complex found in the berries could help protect your dog’s heart. These antioxidant vitamins also keep diseases at bay by boosting the immune system.
Vitamin K aids in blood clotting. Goji berries are also packed with dietary fiber which can help satiate your dog to keep it full longer. This could prevent obesity and aid in weight management in pets.
The biggest health boost comes from the antioxidants packed in these berries. As mentioned before, antioxidants fight free radicals which are responsible for cellular damage and illness. They could even protect your dog against certain cancers.
The Downside Of Goji Berries For Dogs
According to Dr. Steven Gundry, goji berries could have certain ill effects on humans and dogs.
When eaten in excess, goji berries could cause bloating, stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs.
Contain Toxic Alkaloids
Goji berries belong to the Solanaceae or the nightshade family. Nightshade fruits and vegetables contain belladonna alkaloids which can be toxic to dogs if eaten in excess. These alkaloids also increase the inflammatory response of the body causing painful and inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
Nightshade fruits and vegetables also contain oxalates. When oxalate levels in the urine rise, they could trigger the formation of urinary or bladder stones. These can be extremely painful for your canine companion.
Additional Toxic Ingredients in Commercial Goji Berry Products
Many goji berry products in the market – juices, tinctures, and trail mixes could also contain other ingredients which, while safe for humans, could be very harmful to dogs.
For example, trail mixes could contain nuts like almonds (known to cause digestive issues in dogs). Similarly, goji berry juice could contain artificial sugars or sweeteners like Xylitol. Even small levels of Xylitol could cause seizures, low blood sugar, and liver failure in dogs.
The high levels of sugars in goji berry sauces and juices could hurt your dog’s tummy, cause vomiting or diarrhea, and even lead to a spike in blood glucose levels.
How To Feed Goji Berries To Dogs?
If, despite knowing the possible side effects of goji berries in dogs, you do choose to feed them to your tail-wagger, then here are the best ways to do so:
- Fresh goji berries – This is the best way to feed these berries to canines. Some dogs might not like the sour taste of goji berries, so you could feed them blueberries or strawberries instead.
- Dried berries – Make sure the product does not contain any other sugars or preservatives.
- Unsweetened goji berry juice – Ensure there are no preservatives or sugars in the juice.
- Frozen – Frozen goji berries make an excellent snack for Fido, but you must thaw them first to prevent choking.
Remember: goji berries should only be fed as treats to your dog. And when it comes to feeding treats to your pet, always follow the 90-10 rule. This means 90% of your dog’s nutrition should come from a balanced diet while only 10% should be from treats.
Can Dogs Have Dried Goji Berries?
Yes, dogs can eat dried goji berries as long as they do not contain any sweeteners or artificial ingredients. The main difference between dried goji berries and fresh goji berries is only in the water content. Rest all nutrients remain the same.
Can Dog Drink Goji Berry Juice?
If you plan to feed goji berry juice to your dog, make sure it does not contain any preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Feed the juice in moderation.
How Many Gogi Berries Can Dogs Eat?
The answer to this depends on your dog’s size. For small dogs, feed no more than 3-5 berries a day. For larger dogs, 8-10 should suffice.
What Berries Are Toxic To Dogs?
Several berries are downright toxic to pets including mistletoe berries, gooseberries, holly berries, juniper berries, and dogwood berries.
What Berries Are Safe For Dogs?
Cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are some of the safest berries for dogs when fed in moderation.
Goji berries are definitely not a necessary part of a dog’s balanced diet. However, they can be fed goji berries, albeit in moderation. Your furry friend might even benefit from the berries’ powerful antioxidant content. These sweet-sour berries could boost your dog’s immune system, protect its heart, kidneys, and liver, and even thwart certain cancers.
Although goji berries are low in calories, it is best to feed them in moderation. After all, they belong to the nightshade family which is known to contain toxic alkaloids. These could increase inflammation and even lead to the formation of bladder stones in dogs when eaten in excess.