Can Dogs Eat Golden Berries? (Cape Gooseberries)

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can dogs eat golden berries

I love golden berries, but they’re expensive to buy from stores in my region. I’ve been told they’ll grow quite easily in my yard, but before I try that, I need to know if they’ll be safe for my dog. So can dogs eat golden berries they find on the ground, or even steal flagrantly from the plant? Unfortunately this fruit is very unsafe for canines when it is unripe, because it contains toxic compounds that affect their digestion, brain, nervous system and heart. Here’s everything you need to know about offering your pooch golden berries, and when it is safe to do so.

Contents

Golden Berries

Golden berries are the fruit of the Physalis peruviana plant. They have over 40 other different common names, including:

  • Cape gooseberry
  • Gooseberry tomato
  • Poha
  • Winter cherry

They’re also commonly mistaken for ground cherries, or misnomered as them. Ground cherries are different though – they are the fruits of two closely related plant species: Physalis pruinosa and Physalis pubescens. Golden berries are also closely related to tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa).

Golden berry plants are native to South America, but they are highly adaptable and can be grown in a wide range of conditions. In fact in some places, like Hawaii, they have been a little too adaptable, and behave more like invasive weeds.

Golden berry fruits are yellow, round, about an inch long, and ripen inside a papery shell, or calyx. They’re tasty as a fruity snack, make a piquant addition to salads, and can be turned into moreish sweet-sharp jellies. Some people regard them as something of a super food, because they are high in

  • Vitamins A
  • Vitamin C
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Antioxidants

But do any of these properties make them good for our dogs too?

Do Dogs Like Golden Berries?

Golden berries are described as having a sharp-sweet taste which is rather like a citrussy pineapple with hints of strawberry. Dogs do not generally like tart, acidic or citrussy flavors, so golden berries aren’t really part of their natural palate. However, lots of pups are open to trying anything once, and they might be particularly interested in this fruit when it is still unripe and the citrus tang hasn’t fully developed yet. Unfortunately, therein lies the problem…

Can Dogs Eat Golden Berries?

Like eggplants, potatoes and tomatoes, the golden berry belongs to the nightshade plant family. Most nightshades are inedible, but a handful, such as the ones just named here, have become table staples around the world. The key to safe consumption of golden berries is simple: only eat the fruits, and only when they are fully ripe. Like all nightshades, unripe goldenberries and the stems and leaves of the plant contain toxic alkaloid compounds such as solanine, that cause digestive upset, as well as having potentially toxic effects on the brain, nervous system and heart.

So technically, dogs can eat ripe golden berries in moderation, as part of a nutritionally balanced and appropriate diet. But is it a good idea?

When Are Golden Berries Toxic To Dogs?

Some people think dogs should not eat golden berries at all. This is because your pet isn’t likely to wait patiently until the fruit is ripe before eating just the berry itself. Why is this so important? Because out of all the golden berry plant parts, only the ripened berry is non-toxic. The outer papery fruit covering, flowers, leaves, stems and roots are all highly toxic to dogs. But lots of hounds are notorious for gobbling up anything even verging on appetizing, a lot of stuff that isn’t obviously appetizing at all, and quite a lot besides simply because it’s small enough to fit in their mouth. My own dog is a promiscuous thief of unripe blueberries for example.

Furthermore, some animals are more sensitive to the toxic alkaloid compounds than others, and there’s no way of predicting whether your pooch will be one of them. So, if you grow your own goldenberries, or they grow wild near you, it’s not wise to let your pup help themselves to a snack, in case they grab a poisonous unripe berry, or have an exceptionally bad reaction to one.

Can Golden Berries Be Safe For Dogs?

Once ripe, the fruit of the golden berry is no longer toxic and becomes a source of vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, phosphorus, and iron. Golden berries also contain antioxidants, carotenoids and withanolides, which can boost the immune system. And like all fruits, they contain fiber, which aids digestion.

So if your pup only eats the ripe golden berry fruit, they shouldn’t suffer any ill effects and may even get some modest health benefits! But bear in mind that dogs are adapted to thrive on a different diet to you and I. For example, they can synthesize their own vitamin C, so they don’t really need extra sources of it in their diet.

What’s important is that most of your pup’s daily food intake – at least 90% – consists of a nutritionally balanced and complete dog food. Treats, including fruit snacks, should make up less than 10% of what they eat.

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Golden Berries

What can you expect if your dog decides to eat a golden berry? It depends on several factors:

  • Whether the berry was ripe or unripe
  • How many berries were eaten
  • Whether your dog ate any other plant parts
  • Your dog’s size, age and overall health profile.

Symptoms of golden berry poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach tenderness or pain
  • Heart rate changes
  • Respiratory distress
  • Tremors
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in neurological function including loss of coordination.

Your dog will likely need prompt medical attention to minimize the symptoms’ severity. Take an example of what they ate to show the veterinarian. They may need to administer oxygen or fluids, induce vomiting or bowel flushing or dose your dog with medications to neutralize the effects of the toxic alkaloids.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Can dogs eat golden berries – summary

Golden berries are members of the nightshade family and are only safe to eat when they are fully ripe. However, dogs are more likely to be interested in their taste when they are unripe, and toxic. If your pup eats any other golden berry plant parts or unripe fruits, the next right step is always to contact your canine veterinarian right away.

Has your pup ever eaten any plant from the nightshade family like golden berries? What did you do to help them feel better fast? Share your stories in the comments section down below.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa’s online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

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