All dog parents know the feeling. Glossy saucer eyes staring longingly while we’re eating. Even the most disciplined doggy-parent can’t resist sneaking their pup the occasional bite of their snacks.
But when it comes to sneaking scraps, we must know what is safe and what isn’t. For instance, what if your dog ate a plum pit. Are plums for dogs a safe part of their diet?
We know that our furry friends can’t have chocolate and coffee, and we are aware of the dangers of additives like xylitol and other sugar replacements. Yet, some fruits are a real danger to our dogs’ health and well-being.
Let’s talk about xylitol for a second. It is a sugar substitute found in many chewing gums. But did you know that xylitol is a kind of alcohol? Furthermore, did you know that it occurs naturally in small quantities in plums?
When it comes to being a responsible pet parent, there is always more to learn. Today we are taking a closer look at plums and whether they are safe for our loyal and loving puppies.
Can Dogs Eat Plums?
Dog’s should not eat plums. It is as simple as that. While plums don’t pose the risks that chocolate and raisins do, it is best to avoid feeding these fruits to your dog.
Plums contain 16.37 g (5.74 ounces) of sugar per cup. That is much higher than canine-safe fruits like apples.
Aside from the dangers in the pit, plums present other potential risks. They are high in vitamin A. If your dog’s dietary plan already caters to their vitamin A requirements, the additional high vitamin A dose could present a problem.
Irreversible damage can occur in dogs’ limbs and joints who ingest a toxic dose of vitamin A. The family of nutrients that makes up vitamin A include retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.
These are fat-soluble and can therefore be stored in the fat around a dog’s liver. This further increases the risk of a toxic dosage from vitamin A-rich fruits.
Interestingly, plums contain lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin in significant amounts. These are all flavonoids. Flavonoids fall under the general category often referred to as antioxidants.
It is a little-known fact that dogs can’t metabolize flavonoids. In high doses, such as those found in plums, this can lead to kidney failure. The risk goes up exponentially in smaller dogs.
How Many Plums Can a Dog Eat?
Because of the high sugar content and cyanide poisoning risk, no amount of plum is genuinely safe for your dog to eat. The dietary risks associated with vitamin A toxicity and flavonoids further compounds the risks that already exist in the pit.
If your dog has eaten plums, you could opt to keep an eye out for symptoms of sickness, or you can induce vomiting, but the safest recourse is to take them to the vet. Your dog will likely have to stay for observation for a minimum of 24 hours.
Cyanide can build up in the body as it is digested. If your dog has regular access to small quantities of plums, they might ingest enough amygdalin from the pits to build up chronic cyanide poisoning over time.
Is the Sugar and Fiber in Plums Bad for Dogs?
In short, yes. Sugar is not poisonous to dogs. They need sugar for the same reasons that we humans do: sugar breaks down into glucose, which mammals, like dogs and humans, use as an energy source.
But, because dogs are smaller than humans and metabolize sugars faster, they are more susceptible to spikes and drops in their glucose levels. Thus, they are also more at risk of sugar diabetes or diabetes mellitus.
While fructose is not toxic to dogs in moderate doses, your dog may be at risk of weight gain and dehydration at higher daily doses.
The type of fiber found in plums is called ‘fermenting fiber.’ This form of fiber is suitable for dogs in the correct quantity. It plays an essential role in a healthy digestive system; however, too much can cause diarrhea or constipation.
Your dog’s fiber intake must be accounted for in their diet plan. This means that additional, high doses of any digestive fiber are inadvisable without consulting your vet.
The Dangers of Plum Pits
Plum pits are high in amygdalin, a compound commonly found in plants and seeds. This compound breaks down into hydrogen cyanide. While cyanide is toxic to most mammals, dogs are susceptible to it.
One will often hear about the dangers of cyanide in fruit pits.
Interestingly, plum pits do not contain cyanide. Instead, the amygdalin breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. This happens in the tummies of people and pups alike.
Even so, the whole plum pit is not that big of a concern. It is unlikely that your dog will chew a pit before swallowing.
Usually, when a dog ingests a fruit pit, it remains intact throughout the digestive system, so the larger issue is the possibility of intestinal blockage.
However, plums present a higher risk than most pitted fruits. This is because their pit is more prone to splintering. When this happens, fragments of amygdalin in the pit can be ingested.
These fragments are far easier to digest, increasing the risk of hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
This is not that big of a deal to people. We can tolerate small amounts of cyanide with little to no side effects. But dogs are smaller than us and are, therefore, more susceptible to cyanide poisoning.
A few fragments can release enough cyanide to present a health risk.
If your dog swallows a fruit pit whole, they may not be in immediate danger. When eating plums containing pit splinters, the risk is much higher.
Sensitivity depends on the size and weight of your dog.
Plums are one of a handful of fruits that contain xylitol. We think of xylitol as an additive, an artificial sweetener in chewing gums and sugar-free snacks.
In truth, this carbohydrate is a naturally occurring alcohol. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.
It disrupts the way that their body regulates blood sugar. This causes a dramatic drop of glucose in the bloodstream.
Dogs use insulin the same way humans do. It controls and stabilizes their blood sugar or blood glucose levels. Put simply, if a pup eats sugar, its body releases insulin. The insulin tells the liver to store sugar.
When xylitol triggers this effect, the dog’s blood glucose drops. This is what medical professionals call hypoglycemia. From this point on, things can quickly spiral out of control for your pup.
Early symptoms include:
- weakness or difficulty standing
- an unsteady gait or difficulty walking
- and tremors
Next, the liver starts taking damage, and seizures may occur quickly after. Dogs who succumb to xylitol poisoning may then fall into a diabetic coma and pass soon after that.
Plums also contain fiber that may cause digestive problems in dogs in larger quantities.
What is Plum Poisoning?
Plum poisoning is the result of ingesting a toxic quantity of amygdalin by eating plums. As the compound is digested, it breaks down into hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is potentially lethal to dogs, even in small doses.
Inside the body, red blood cells transport life-giving oxygen around the body. Cyanide blocks the ability of cells to absorb oxygen from the bloodstream.
This causes a kind of ‘cellular suffocation.’
In smaller doses, most mammals convert cyanide to thiocyanate. This compound is excreted in the urine. Large amounts overwhelm the body’s ability to do this.
The heart, respiratory system, and nervous system are the most susceptible to cyanide poisoning.
What are the Symptoms of Plum Poisoning in Dogs?
- excessive panting
- difficulty breathing
- and paralysis.
Gums and soft tissue, like membranes, turn bright red, indicating cellular suffocation (oxygen cannot be released to cells). Sadly, fatality can occur within minutes.
If there have been no symptoms for two or more hours, the prognosis improves. Always consult a vet if you suspect your dog may have plum poisoning.
How to Treat a Dog with Plum Poisoning?
Amyl nitrate and sodium nitrate are used to treat cyanide poisoning in most animals. The dosage is critical. Because of this, a vet must administer the treatment.
If you suspect your dog may have been exposed to a dangerous dose of plums, it is a matter of urgency to get them to the vet.
Can Dogs Eat Prunes?
Prunes are not great for your dogs, although a single slice or prune won’t do much, depending on your size. Unlike plums, prunes usually have the pits removed, which is the really dangerous part.
The high fiber and sugar content can still be a bit too much for your dog’s digestive system and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
An additional concern is that prunes may contain traces of cyanide outside the pit and any fragments. These are at a level too low to impact humans but may still cause damaging side effects in dogs.
When amygdalin is present in fruit tissues at a low dosage, it is often referred to as vitamin B17. B17 is marketed as a purified form of amygdalin. Avoid feeding dogs anything that contains vitamin B17 as an additive without consulting your vet.
What Other Fruits with Pits Might Be a Problem for Dogs?
One can see then why apple seeds are considered very dangerous, even though apples are dog-safe fruit.
Cherry pits are another high-risk source of amygdalin. Cherry’s present an additional risk to dogs as their stems and leaves are also high in the cyanide releasing compound.
Peach pits present the highest risk in terms of amygdalin concentration. They are also the least likely to splinter and are nearly impossible for a dog to digest. This means that in practical terms, peaches present more of a choking hazard or can block the intestines.
Apricot pits resemble almonds. They have gained a lot of popularity in the world of alternative medicine. It is essential to keep in mind that the many claimed benefits in fighting cancer apply strictly to humans. These pits can still be lethal to dogs as they are high in amygdalin.
Crabapple seeds, or pips as they are called, present the same risks as apple seeds. They are high in amygdalin and should be avoided.
While it may be tempting to treat your dog to a nibble of a juicy plum and succulent, the fact of the matter is that they are doggy poison.
Be it the amygdalin that may lead to cyanide poisoning or the naturally occurring xylitol traces, plums are a no-go as doggy treats go.
Fruits like pears are considered very healthy for dogs to enjoy.
Watermelon, apples, and blueberries all have their nutritional benefits, and with your vet’s approval, can make a great snack for you to share with your canine pals instead.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.