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Are berries safe for my dog to eat?

(Q) Banjo, my rescue Beagle-cross, has always foraged for apples, plums, blackberries, and sloes. Weasel, my rescue Border Terrier-cross, now does the same but she also tries to eat rowan berries which concerns me as my vet says they aren’t safe and have an accumulative toxic effect.

(A) Vet John Burns says

Rowan berries are toxic so should be avoided. It seems like a nice activity when the dogs eat wild fruit and berries but I suggest that you discourage all foraging.

Dogs can’t discriminate between what is safe and what isn’t and doubtless they will eat something when you aren’t looking. The Dogs Trust website (www. dogstrust.org.uk/) has information on plants that are poisonous for dogs.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says

Just about any kind of fresh, potentially over-ripe, fruit can cause disease in dogs. Vomiting and diarrhoea are common results when dogs eat fruit and berries, but what is more dangerous is the fermentation that can occur in the stomach after eating such foods, which can lead to gastric dilatation and torsion.

This is a potentially life-threatening disease. I’d recommend that you avoid allowing any dog to eat windfall fruit and berries.

Occasional access to most fruit or berries is, however, unlikely to cause a major problem. Rowan berries, however, are dangerous because they contain a specific toxin. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and excessive salivation, and affected dogs can show significant signs of disease. Access to rowan berries should therefore be prevented.

Other dangerous berries that dogs may find and eat if they aren’t watched closely include deadly nightshade, which can cause acute onset severe neurological symptoms. Close monitoring of all dogs to prevent access to inappropriate plants is preferable.

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