Can dogs eat prunes? Are prunes safe for dogs? Can dogs eat prunes for constipation? What happens if my dog eats prunes? What’s the difference between a prune and a dried plum and does it matter for my dog?
This question is almost always asked in terms of canine constipation rather than along the lines of “are prunes a good snack for my dog”. The question most often asked is, “can I give my dog prunes to help with constipation”.
The short answer to both is “no”. They are not good snacks, nor should you give your dog prunes to help with constipation.
The long answer is, well, longer. :-)
Let’s get the basics out of the way
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What is a prune?
A prune is a dried plum. In fact, many distributors now officially label their prunes as “Dried plums” since prunes are routinely associated with alleviating constipation or as “laxatives for oldsters” which, distributors felt, was a derogatory association. So, since 2001, they have been able to label prunes as “dried plums” thanks to an FDA ruling in their favor.
In our discussion, I’ll be referring to them as prunes, even though you may be looking at a package that says “dried plums”.
What is a prune pit?
The prune pit can be thought of as the prune seed, but there’s more to it than that. Several fruit species are known as “stone fruits“, so-called due to the large stone-like shell in the middle of the fruit. Apricots, cherries, peaches, and mangoes are other stone fruits.
Inside these stone fruits are the seeds to grow more fruits. However, there is also amygdalin which is converted into cyanide when digested. This, of course, is where the danger lies.
For the cyanide to be created, the prune pit (or plum pit) must be crushed and digested. This is unlikely in most instances as the pit is very hard and its nature’s survival mechanism. An accidentally eaten pit will normally pass through the animal’s digestive tract and be returned to the soil.
But a crushed pit is another matter; we all know dogs have strong teeth and jaws. If a dog does crush the pit when eating, it can result in poisoning. If the dog has gotten ahold of several pits, this can be bad news indeed.
Are Prunes Good For Dogs?
Not really – there’s nothing inherently helpful or healthy that a dried prune brings to the table or dog bowl that is reason enough to give your dog prunes. As with most of our advice, stick to dog food to ensure the healthiest diet. Treats or other items are rarely healthy enough to warrant them becoming an actual regular snack.
Prunes, like raisins and figs, have a laxative effect on the body. Sure, this is primarily why most people eat prunes. However, even people keep the servings to a moderate level to avoid worsening the effect. Also, any dried fruit will have a drying-out effect on the body as extra water will be needed for digestion. Lack of water is a reason for constipation, so dried fruits can, in this way, worsen the situation.
Are Prunes Bad for Dogs?
Ok, so there’s not a lot about prunes that are good for dogs, but are they actually bad for them? Can prunes cause harm to my dog?
Yep, they can, in certain instances.
The meat of the prune is safe (although too sugary). The real danger is, as mentioned above, if your dog chews up and swallows prune pits, it can lead to poisoning.
Secondly, there is the sugar that is inherent in the pitted prune. Dogs should never be feed sugary foods.
And then, of course, there is the fiber. This is usually why the question arises. Prunes do a great job of helping humans in this regard, but the fiber content is actually too high for dogs. It can cause additional gastrointestinal distress without actually helping with constipation.
Keep in mind that your dog’s digestive tract is much shorter than yours is, so whereas your digestive process has plenty of time to process that prune and its fiber, your dog’s digestive tract does not.
Here’s the nutritional profile of what 5 prunes gives you (or Fido):
- Calories: 114
- Carbohydrates: 30 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Soluble Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 18 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Note that the overall numbers aren’t terrible, except for the sugar. Dogs should not eat that much sugar. It’s only fair to point out that the numbers above also come with a healthy dose of healthy vitamins and minerals.
For dogs, the high fiber content messes with the digestive system. The high sugar content is a danger for the potential weight gain and susceptibility to diabetes.
Are Prunes Toxic For Dogs?
Prune meat, or the flesh of the dried plum or prune, is not toxic for dogs.
Prune pits are or at least can be, toxic for dogs if crushed and eaten. This is particularly dangerous for dogs as they may crush the prune pit when eating.
My Dog Ate Prunes: What Should I Do?
If we’re talking about one or two, most likely, your dog will be fine. You may have some cleanup work in the near future, as this can cause an upset stomach, but for the most part, everything should be fine.
We recommend keeping an eye on your dog and look for vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or other kinds of unusual activity, and be prepared to visit your vet should your dog take a turn for the worst.
We also advise a preliminary call to your vet to let them know what happened and get their guidance.
Your vet will likely want to know if Fido also ate any prune pits and, if so, how many. And do you see any evidence, or do you think he could have actually chewed the pits up before swallowing?
Why Are Prune Pits Dangerous?
If eaten in sufficient numbers, prune pits can cause an intestinal blockage that is painful and can even be fatal for your dog.
Pits of from many fruits, prunes included, also include a small amount of cyanide. It’s unlikely your dog will eat enough pits for the cyanide to be a problem, though.
What about cooked, boiled, black, canned, etc., prunes?
No, no, no, no, and no. There is simply no reason to feed your dog prunes as snacks or to include them in your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Have Prune Juice?
Prune juice obviously doesn’t carry with it the danger of chewing and eating pits, but there is still the sugar to deal with, and, depending on the juice processing, it likely has even more sugar.
We do not recommend giving your dog prune juice as, again, there’s just no good reason to.
Can Dogs Eat Prunes for Constipation?
If you have not come across any of our “what can dogs eat” articles that reflect the difference in the digestive systems between humans and dogs, it is worth looking.
Dogs are true carnivores, which means their digestive system is meant to process meat. Their bite reflects the gnashing fangs that are good for ripping apart flesh. After a few quick bites down into the gullet, it goes where it can be easily processed.
Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than humans, which means they have a harder time digesting fiber. Prunes happen to have a high fiber content.
Don’t get me wrong here. Fiber is good for dogs, just not a lot of it. Too much fiber is not healthy for your dog since this is typically what gives him diarrhea.
Now, we all accept that when our dogs have loose stools, is seems far more problematic for us than for them. However, loose stool or diarrhea is a sign of damage to the digestive system.
Herein lies the crux of the matter with prunes where dogs are concerned. You can inadvertently produce a laxative dependency in your dog if you regularly feed him prunes. I bet you had no idea.
If a dog eats too many prunes over time, this laxative dependency means the dog will have difficulty passing stools until some form of laxative is delivered to its system. No one wants that, and your dog does not deserve this.
What are good alternatives for canine constipation?
If you’ve followed along so far, you’ll know we aren’t really keen on giving your dog prunes, even with the intent of helping with constipation. We recommend other approaches.
- The most important consideration is actually not fiber but water. Is your dog getting enough? Can you get your dog to ingest more liquids? Perhaps a broth made of beef or chicken? Something to increase the liquid intake is usually the first, best step.
- You can share several fresh veggies with your dog that will give increased fiber and help out. Bell peppers, edamame, or even fermented food such as kimchi (when prepared correctly) are good alternatives.
- If you can increase your dog’s exercise, this will help by increasing the blood flow to the intestines. If the dog has been lazy, move into this gradually, as you don’t want to create a shock to the system that may have the opposite effect from what you are looking for.
- Raw meat acts as a natural laxative for dogs, and you know they won’t hesitate to scarf some down. A bit of liver is a good choice here due to the high vitamin and iron content.
- You may want to consider sprinkling a bit of Psyllium powder into your dog’s food dish – this is a healthy method of increasing your dog’s dietary fiber intake a bit at a time. There are also several high-quality items you can sprinkle onto your dog’s food to help get them healthy probiotics from Amazon or other places.
- Edible grass is an alternative to consider as well.
- Canned pumpkin is an unlikely consideration here as well.
Conclusion – can dogs eat prunes?
There is no health-related reason to give your dog prunes – there is no real benefit. As for using them as treats, given the high fiber and sugar content, we also do not recommend this. Simply put, there are many healthier choices.
We advise that you avoid giving your dog prunes as treats or as a part of the diet. They don’t need them.
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.