Dates are a delicious source of fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals. Are they suitable for your dog to eat, though? Read on to find out more.
The good news is that dates are non-toxic and safe for dogs to eat in small quantities.
“I’ve had a few clients call me in a panic over the last few years worried that their dog has snaffled a date,” says veterinary surgeon Dr Linda Simon. “As they look wrinkly and brown, owners are concerned they could be as toxic as raisins. Thankfully this is not the case!”
However, while fruits like dates contain lots of essential nutrients, the majority of your dog’s diet should consist of a nutritionally balanced dog food. Dates should only ever be an occasional sweet treat, as their high fiber, calorie, and sugar content can cause unwanted side effects.
Also, be aware that the small date pit can be a choking or blockage hazard, and it should always be removed. “The smaller your dog, the higher the risk of obstruction as the lumen of their small intestine will be narrower. I’ve had to surgically remove date pits from both a Persian cat and a Chihuahua,” adds Dr Linda Simon.
Are Dates Good or Bad for Dogs to Eat
Pitted dates are unlikely to be harmful to your dog when eaten in small quantities. Dates are non-toxic and contain a lot of essential vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
While dates can be an occasional healthy treat for your dog, given their high fiber content, they shouldn’t be fed in large amounts.
Excessive quantities of fiber can make food move through your dog’s digestive system too quickly, and this can lead to stomach upsets or diarrhea. It can also create a build up of gas, and can even prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly.
Dates are also packed with sugar. There is around 16 grams per date, which is a lot even for humans! Allowing your dog to have too much sugar in their diet can cause problems with obesity and cavities. It can even lead to more serious conditions, such as diabetes.
There’s also a small risk that, as with any new food, your dog could have an allergy to dates. You should always introduce any new food to your dog gradually to check if it’s an allergen. Allergic reactions commonly result in dogs having itchy, irritated skin. They can also cause stomach upsets and, in severe cases, respiratory issues.
If you notice any symptoms like this after your dog has eaten dates, especially if they’re having breathing problems, you shouldn’t delay in seeking advice from your vet.
Nutritional Benefits of Dates
Even if your dog doesn’t have allergies, dates should only be given in small quantities and not too frequently. Giving your dog a date once every few weeks, however, may offer several benefits. Some of these include:
- Rich in fiber. Too much fiber can cause stomach upsets. The right amounts, however, can promote healthy digestion, make your dog feel full for longer, encourage healthy bowel movements, and relieve constipation.
- Full of antioxidants. Dates contain lots of antioxidants including flavonoids and phenolic acid. These could help reduce inflammation. They’re also a good source of carotenoids – phytonutrients that come from natural plant pigments. Carotenoids are known for their cancer fighting properties and for promoting good eye health.
- Brain food. Studies have shown that eating dates is associated with brain health and development. Dates may improve learning capacity, enhance memory and slow age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
- Bone and joint health. Packed with essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, dates could help reduce issues with conditions like arthritis.
- High in Magnesium. There are lots of potential benefits that could be gained from this nutrient. It has anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce the risk of heart disease, supports a strong immune system, and promotes a healthy skin and coat.
There are a variety of date types, but the two most common are the Medjool and the Deglet Noor. The Medjool is bigger and contains more sugar and fiber per gram, which is something to keep in mind.
Note: Raisins can sometimes be mistaken for a small, dried date. Care should be taken to ensure you never feed your dog raisins or sultanas. They’re highly toxic for dogs, and eating too many can be fatal due to kidney failure.
What About Dates With Pits?
Despite being small, date pits can be a choking hazard and could lead to an intestinal blockage. Both of these issues can be serious and even life-threatening.
You should always select dates with the pit removed, or take the time to remove them yourself before letting your dog have any.
If you suspect your dog has eaten dates with their pits, you should take advice from your vet. A full intestinal blockage will usually result in serious vomiting and a lack of bowel movements and needs speedy intervention.
“If your dog is brought in within 4 hours of eating the pits, we may decide to induce vomiting by giving an injection under the skin,” says Dr Linda Simon. “If they manage to bring up the pits, we can be reassured they will not go on to develop any blockage.”
While dates are not toxic for dogs and can have several health benefits, they shouldn’t be fed as part of your dog’s regular diet. Dates have high sugar content and are rich in fiber, so they could cause your dog to have an upset stomach.
If you’re giving your dog an occasional piece of date as a treat, always make sure that the pit has been removed to prevent any choking or blockage risk.