There is conflicting information about whether or not dogs can or should eat lychee, if it may be toxic, and what are the health benefits and risks for dogs who eat lychee fruit.
We feel it is appropriate to say yes; it is safe for dogs to have lychee. However, we also caveat this with advice to proceed with caution as there are risks to consider.
We will review these risks as we examine the aspects of lychee that give us pause, or paws if you will.
There are certain nutritious benefits of lychee. We will discuss the health benefits and potential risks to be aware of and the best way to give lychee to your dogs.
There is plenty of information about what dogs should and should not eat. You can find this information on our “Can dogs eat…” page in which we cover over 80 food items.
Additionally, here’s a video that does a good job of addressing the question of if dogs can eat lychee or not.
What is lychee fruit?
For those who enjoy this tropical fruit, you know it is recognizable for its size, color, and shape resembling a strawberry, except that it has bumps instead of seeds. It is, in fact, known as the Chinese strawberry. It is also called “alligator strawberry” due to its rough, bumpy texture. It is occasionally confused with rambutan, which is a similar-looking fruit.
Inside the leathery outer skin is the white-colored, edible flesh. It is juicy and tastes like a combination of grapes and pears. Some folks compare the taste to cantaloupe.
There is a brown seed within this juicy flesh that should be discarded safely for a few reasons.
- First, it has a bad taste, which should be taken as a warning not to try ingesting this seed.
- Second, the seed is harmful to the digestive tract.
- Third, it can present a potential choking hazard should your dog swallow one.
A tropical Asian fruit, lychee has worldwide popularity. It has a sweet flavor, an alluring scent, and a variety of essential nutrients that are beneficial to good health.
Lychee is said to be low in calories yet high in protein. Lychee fruit is considered to be a natural diuretic for humans.
The lychee fruit’s flowery scent lends itself as a flavor for certain prepared dishes and specialty cocktails.
You can expect to see this fruit represented by numerous spellings, including:
- Litchi chinensis, or just Litchi
Its storied history dates back to 2000 BC when it was evidently favored by Chinese royalty, who believed the fruit rendered health and beauty benefits. In China, lychee is regarded as a symbol of love and romance.
The lychee fruit is a member of the soapberry family and is the only one of its genus. This, indeed, makes the lychee unique.
The lychee seed contains saponin, which is a toxic glycoside the plant produces as a means of protection against invading insects. Saponins are known for their ability to lather in water. Lychee can be used to make soaps and detergents. The toxin level of saponin in lychees varies depending upon where they are produced.
Unripe lychee, which is green in color, contains specific amino acids that severely affect blood glucose levels. This was the case when in the summer of 2014 in Bihar, India many children succumbed to death after eating a lot of unripe lychees.
This fruit is primarily produced in China and India, yet other tropical zones grow this fruit, including Pakistan, Vietnam, South Africa, parts of the United States, and Mexico.
As we often do, we think if something is good for us, it must also be good for our dogs.
This is not always the case, as outlined in the foods that are not safe for dogs to eat.
Risks associated with dogs eating lychee
There are several things to avoid with lychee for people and dogs.
Never eat green, unripe lychee. Lychee can disturb blood glucose levels affecting your (or your dog’s) blood sugar, and cause inflammation of the brain in the case of those suffering from malnutrition.
Avoid eating the outer skin and inner seed and only have the fleshy fruit. Enjoy lychee in moderation.
Should your dog ingest a lychee seed, be watchful for any of the following symptoms:
- Muscle spasms
- Dark urine
- Stomach cramps or upset stomach
- Diarrhea, also look for signs of bloody stool
- Head shaking
Should you detect any of these symptoms after suspecting a lychee seed was swallowed, be sure to seek medical assistance from your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Intestinal blockage is a concern here and must be managed by your vet.
If a lychee seed gets stuck, impeding your dog’s ability to breathe, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver to try to dislodge it.
Nutritional value of lychee
More than 80 percent of the lychee fruit is water. This fruit is high in vitamin C, which dogs tend to produce on their own without any assistance in their diet. There is seldom a need to give dogs any vitamin C supplement.
There is a compound in the fruit called methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which may be a culprit in malnourished children that can cause hypoglycemia, vomiting, and encephalopathy, which is brain dysfunction.
While the chemical is non-toxic to humans and dogs, it is another reason to approach sharing this fruit with great caution.
The beneficial elements found in lychee include:
- Vitamin C
- B Vitamins
However, the high sugar content results in calories that can cause weight gain. Certainly, you should avoid feeding canned lychee to your dog as the product contains even more sugar.
Health benefits of lychee for your dog
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It is important for dogs in helping to form iron, fortify the immune system, as a preventative against cancer, a requirement for adrenal gland function, and a variety of other health benefits for your dog.
As a dog gets older, their Vitamin C production can suffer. Some dogs may have a Vitamin C deficiency. Both of these cases are better served by consulting with your vet instead of resorting to self-diagnosis and proceeding with your own treatment.
B Vitamins help regulate metabolism in your dog as well as facilitate enzyme function. They are also responsible for glucose generation and for the function of red blood cells and the nervous system as well as mitochondrial protein synthesis.
The fiber from lychee can certainly assist the digestive system, particularly if your dog is having diarrhea. It is also known that higher fiber in the diet can help regulate canine diabetes and reduce glucose fluctuations.
Calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth, and phosphorous help brings along the rigidity and shape of these structures.
Iron is the central component of hemoglobin, and myoglobin is instrumental in carrying oxygen through the blood and muscle.
Magnesium, potassium, and sodium are essential macrominerals that can only be obtained through what is provided in the diet and are necessary for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body.
Manganese helps produce energy, metabolize protein and carbohydrates and make fatty acids.
Potassium is an electrolyte critical in blood cells, heart, and muscle performance. However, lychee should not be considered a treatment for low potassium or hypokalemia. This is another condition you should seek treatment for from your vet.
Zinc is a mineral important to immune health and for enzymes, proteins, and hormones.
Here is our perspective on dogs eating lychee:
Keep the amount of lychee you feed your dog to the level of an occasional snack or treat. Sure, it is easy to lose track of just how many snacks you have given your dog sometimes, especially if there is more than one person in the household doing so.
Be sure only to feed the dog small pieces from the white, fleshy fruit and avoid the outer skin and seeds altogether. This way, when wondering if lychee is safe for dogs, you can be assured that you are only feeding your dog the safest part of the fruit to eat.
Remember the high sugar content of lychee, so again, use it as a treat in moderation.
Can dogs eat other fruits and vegetables?
As with lychee, this should be done sparingly and should not constitute the bulk of any of your dog’s meals, but veggies such as bell peppers, olives, edamame, or jicama are great snacks for your pup. Again, in moderation.
We have created a comprehensive list of foods your dog should and should eat: Can dogs eat…? 75+ food items reviewed
Can dogs have lychee? Conclusion:
Is Lychee safe for dogs to eat? We agree that it is a fruit you can share with your dogs. However, it is one to be most careful with.
If you feel compelled to share your lychee fruit with your dogs, do so with caution. You should not give your dog the whole fruit to munch on. Instead, peel off the outer skin and access the fleshy fruit. Safely discard the seed.
We conclude that there are health benefits contained in lychee fruit but as a healthy snack or a treat occasionally. It should never make up most of your dog’s diet, so try not to overdo it. Dogs should eat dog food primarily rather than human food – Lychee and other food should only be considered an occasional treat.
If you wish to give your dog lychee, you should also do so after consulting with your vet on the subject. Your vet can give you helpful information with respect to your dog’s size and breed.
We often hear, “Can dogs eat [fill in the blank]” so we are working on a series of articles to discuss these topics. Please see our additional articles on our main dog health page.
Also, for a more informative overview about what your dog should and should not eat, be sure to take a look at our “Can dogs eat article” where we cover over 80 different items.