A bowl of cranberry sauce on a table.

Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce?

What is a Thanksgiving meal without cranberry sauce?! The condiment is a favorite among humans, but can dogs eat cranberry sauce too?   

Dogs can eat cranberry sauce, but as with most human food, owners should only allow them to eat it in moderation. Homemade cranberry sauce is ideal because it lacks potentially harmful additives like xylitol, and it can be customized to be pet safe.

What Is Cranberry Sauce?

A cup of cranberry sauce.
That’s some good-looking cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce is a popular condiment served alongside holiday dinners, especially in North America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is usually served as a jam or jelly made by boiling cranberries in sugared water. Some varieties have additives such as ginger, oranges, nuts, wine, or cinnamon.

The Benefits Of Cranberries

Cranberries are considered a superfood and are often found as additives in dog food. They’re high in fiber and vitamins B, C, E, and K. On top of that, the antioxidant properties of cranberries help to improve digestibility and preserve the omega-3 fatty acids in dry dog food.

In humans, the antioxidants in cranberries have been shown to boost immunity and effectively prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There isn’t a whole lot of research on this topic in dogs, but one study that fed cranberry extract to dogs that suffered from recurrent UTIs found that none of the dogs had a relapse during the 60-day trial period. However, it would be difficult for a dog to consume enough cranberry sauce or fresh cranberries to achieve the same results, and they should never be used to replace medical treatment.

Why Too Much Isn’t A Good Idea

As beneficial as they are in small amounts, dogs should not be fed too many cranberries because it increases the acidity of their stomach and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, or severe pain. Plus, the tart flavor of cranberries isn’t palatable to most dogs, and they may end up eating less or rejecting their food if you add them in directly.

Cranberry sauce is sweeter and definitely tastier, but the high sugar content negates any health benefit it may have provided. Sugary food can lead to stomach upsets, weight gain, and damage to oral health. 

The Problem With Store-Bought Cranberry Sauce 

Some store-bought varieties of cranberry sauce substitute the sugar for sweeteners like xylitol. Xylitol is extremely dangerous to dogs and even a small amount can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and death. Xylitol is also commonly found in gum, peanut butter, toothpaste, and certain medications meant for humans. So, it’s important to always read the ingredients before sharing anything with your pet.

On top of that, many brands commercial brands use a cranberry-grape juice mixture to produce their sauce. Grapes and raisins should never be fed to dogs because they contain a large amount of tartaric acid that causes kidney failure in dogs.

In Conclusion: Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce?

Cranberries themselves are not toxic to dogs, and having a touch of cranberry sauce with their Thanksgiving treats will likely not cause any harm. However, in large amounts, the sugar and acid content can cause health problems. Also, store-bought sauce may contain dangerous additives that have fatal consequences. 

So, are you planning on giving your dog cranberry sauce? Got an idea of how you want to do so or when? Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Umaya Gunaratne (DVM)
Dr. Umaya Gunaratne (DVM)
Umaya Gunaratne is a veterinarian plus dog and cat mum currently pursuing her PhD in small animal cardiology. Her field of interest is degenerative mitral valve disorders in small breed dogs, but her passion lies in bridging the gap between academia and the real world. She enjoys helping pet parents understand the research-backed science behind raising their fur kids. She spends her free time playing football, clicker-training her cat, Ria, and spending quality time with her many houseplants.