Acai berries are fruit found on the acai palm tree, which is native to eastern Amazonia, found in the swamplands and floodplains, where it has long been a source of food and nutrients for humans and animals.
Since then it has become something of a superfood in the western world, sold as a food product and health supplement, specifically to aid weight loss (although no FDA research has been conducted).
So, if they are so “super”, can acai berries be safely consumed by dogs?
Acai Berries & Dogs
Like with most sweet fruits, acai berries can be consumed by dogs, but only in small doses.
The first positive is that acai berries are rich in antioxidants, which are great for preventing cancer cell growth, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation, which makes them perfect for older dogs with joint conditions like arthritis.
The dark purple color of the acai berries come from the presence of anthocyanin, which is also responsible for the high antioxidant levels in the fruit.
Antioxidants are also beneficial for treating diabetes, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and cardiovascular conditions, ensuring the overall continued health of your dog.
The second positive is that acai berries are thought to improve brain function in dogs.
When tested on old rats during preliminary trials, those which fed on the pulp of the acai berries showed better function when it came to reference memory, spatial memory, and learning.
Because of this, people are excited to see what further experimentation and testing can bring, particularly as an antidote to canine cognitive dysfunctions, which affect older dogs, and are essentially the dog equivalent of dementia.
CCD can be a scary disease for a dog, leading them to forget the faces of their owners, become unfamiliar in their home environments, develop behavioral problems, and lose their senses of direction, even in familiar environments.
Thirdly, acai berries are thought to help prevent colon cancer in dogs.
The symptoms of this illness can be diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lack of appetite, and the presence of blood in the vomit or feces, and whilst these are similar to a lot of other milder stomach related illnesses, it is always best to visit a vet and have them checked out.
Whilst this research is still in its infancy, preliminary studies have shown that acai powder has reduced cancer cells in mice, making them a promising option for the future of cancer treatment.
Vitamins & Minerals
Acai berries are a great source of calcium, which make them a good choice for improving bone and joint health, especially in older dogs.
Dogs are thought to need around 0.35oz of calcium everyday to maintain good bone health, making acai berries the perfect method of delivery into a dog’s system.
The presence of calcium aids bone and teeth strength/growth, aids cell signaling and nerve impulse transmission, and can lead to smoother muscle contraction in dogs.
It has also been shown to improve blood coagulation, which controls how blood clots, and is paramount for effective healing from wounds.
As well as calcium, acai berries also contain zinc, copper, and magnesium. Zinc is great for helping with enzyme reactions and cell replication, and magnesium is important in keeping the cell membranes stable, as well as boosting hormone secretion and overall function.
Rich in vitamin A and C, acai berries are great for reducing inflammation, slowing down cognitive aging, and getting rid of potentially harmful free radicals (uncharged molecules that are a key factor in oxidation).
However, there are some negative effects of acai berries on dogs.
The main one is the presence of theobromine in the berries themselves, which gives human beings an energy boost similar to caffeine, but which can be a highly toxic substance for dogs when consumed in large amounts.
This substance can also be found in most human chocolate, which is why vets and experts recommend not feeding it to your dog. Of course, it is harmless in small amounts, but symptoms of too much can be vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and bloating.
For dogs to find the substance toxic however, they have to consume a lot of it over a short period of time. This is because they don’t metabolize it quickly enough, and so it remains in the liver for around 18 hours leading to toxicity.
Symptoms of theobromine toxicity can include vomiting, diarrhea, excitability, irritability, a fast heartbeat, an abnormal thirst, muscle twitches, excessive panting, loss of body control, and vomiting blood.
If matters worsen further, symptoms can be seizure, irregular heartbeat, and death.
There has been research to suggest that the antioxidants in acai berries are not as stable, meaning that they lose their effectiveness after certain periods of time, especially if they are not stored correctly.
Compared to the longevity of cranberries and pomegranates, acai berries were shown to have lessened antioxidant properties over time, and experts suggest the only way to maintain their potency is to freeze them for later use.
Acai berries are also highly allergenic, and any dog with an allergy to coconut or similar palm based products will also have an allergy to the acai.
This is why pet owners should be especially careful trying their dogs with new, unfamiliar fruits, especially ones like the acai which haven’t been as thoroughly tested.
So, Are They Worth It?
Whilst the NASC (National Animal Supplement Control) doesn’t recommend acai berries for consumption by dogs, predominantly due to the presence of theobromine, which has the same impact on dogs as chocolate in large doses.
Despite their benefits, there are better, safer alternatives that don’t have the same potential negative effects.
Options include the pineapple and the papaya, both of which are not allergenic, and provide the same collection of health benefits for both dogs and humans.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about the acai berry and its suitability to dogs.
Whilst it does possess a lot of important health benefits, and is perfectly safe and effective in small doses, it is recommended that caution is still taken.
There are plenty of other options that can be explored, and countless fruits that are both safer and equally as nutritious, and ultimately, isn’t the health and happiness of your four-legged friend the most important thing?
The most important thing is to conduct your research, and always look around for the best and most effective alternatives.