Bananas are among the most popular fruits in the world. The fruit has been on the face of the planet for more than 10,000 years and has benefited mankind during times of hunger and illness over centuries. The question is whether this goodness of bananas is restricted to humans alone, or canines could benefit from consuming the fruit too.
Dogs can certainly eat bananas but in moderation or as a treat or occasional snack, thanks to the fruit’s high sugar content. On the positive side, however, bananas are high in vitamins, potassium, magnesium, fiber, copper, biotin, etc. that can benefit dogs in several ways.
Keep reading to learn how dogs should be fed bananas, the pros and cons, and everything else the concerned pet owner in you would like to know.
Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Bananas
Bananas are any day a healthy replacement to salty, fatty treats since it’s low in sodium and cholesterol. As mentioned before, bananas are packed with nutrients. But since bananas are a lot more affordable and accessible than pretty much every other fruit, those nutrients end up benefiting a lot more living creatures, including dogs.
Here are the nutrients found in bananas and their benefits for dogs:
Potassium: An Essential Electrolyte
A banana and potassium are almost synonymous. A mid-sized banana has approximately 425mg of potassium, which is the highest among fruits for that size or weight.
Potassium is an essential electrolyte as it helps with controlling brain function, nerve impulses, heart function, and muscle activity. Low potassium levels could lead to irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmia.
Potassium, in association with vitamin B6, helps keep the blood pressure at healthy levels. Normal blood pressure means a healthier heart function. Potassium also helps reduce or mitigate calcium loss in bones.
Vitamin B6: Regulates Blood Functioning
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps with metabolizing proteins and regulates blood cell functioning, helping increase the oxygen supply to your dog’s muscles and brain. Besides boosting your dog’s heart health, B6 promotes your pet canine’s cognitive capacity as well. Moreover, the vitamin helps secrete melatonin, a hormone responsible for the sleep cycle of both humans and animals.
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Melatonin helps regulate your dog’s internal sleep clock, normalizing its sleeping tendencies. If your pet canine has sleeping troubles, a few bananas could help it sleep better. And it would not take too long for the fruit to have a positive impact on your dog’s sleeping habits.
Vitamin C: Offers Antioxidant Benefits
Vitamin C, on the other hand, is an antioxidant that helps build cartilage and decrease cell damage. It helps fight against glaucoma, cataracts, joint inflammation, kennel cough, arthritis, etc. Also, vitamin C boosts your dog’s immunity or its resistance to sickness. Most dogs, under normal conditions, make their own vitamin Cs in their bodies. However, with age, dogs become less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin. Bananas help cover that gap.
Magnesium: Key for Your Dog’s Bones and Muscles
A mid-sized banana contains about 33mg of magnesium. The high magnesium content of a banana assists with absorbing other vitamins offered by the fruit and other healthy foods. Magnesium also helps with the bone, since it is an essential mineral for strong, healthy bones. Magnesium plays an important part in muscle maintenance as well.
Active dogs would find magnesium’s bone and muscle-building properties quite beneficial. And if your dog is growing or has developed age-related bone and muscle concerns, magnesium can help alleviate those troubles to a great extent.
Biotin: For Healthy Hair and Skin
If your pet has been eating bananas a few times a week over a period, you would start noticing its skin and coat looking a lot healthier than before.
Bananas pack in biotin, or vitamin B7. It’s a vitamin responsible for healthy skin and hair in both humans and animals. Besides cosmetic gains, biotin offers several other benefits too. It helps maintain healthy cardiovascular, nerve, and digestive functions.
Dietary Fiber: Helps With Digestion
Because the banana is high-fiber, it’s great for your pet’s stomach. A regular-sized banana has approximately 2.5 grams of fiber. If your dog already has gastrointestinal problems, a banana may or may not soothe things, but it certainly will not exacerbate those issues. Also, bananas are prebiotic, which helps feed probiotics or the gut’s good bacteria.
Some of the other minerals and vitamins dogs can get from bananas include vitamin A, iron, folate, zinc, niacin, and riboflavin. If your pet needs a healthy dose of vitamins and antioxidants, bananas offer a more natural supply of those nutrients than synthetic supplements do.
Drawbacks of Bananas for Dogs
When you feed your dog bananas a tad too many or too often, there are certain problems your dog is likely to encounter. The following are the reasons why excessive banana consumption is problematic and what those issues are:
The High Sugar Makeup Could Cause Weight Issues
As mentioned above, bananas are high in sugar. A regular-sized banana contains six grams of starch and 14 grams of sugar. Bananas pack in three kinds of natural sugars – fructose, glucose, and sucrose. It goes without saying that dogs have a sweet tooth and can, therefore, get easily swayed by the fruit’s sweet smell and taste.
The high levels of starches and natural sugar found in the fruit could harm your dog, particularly if it’s an obese or diabetic pet. If your dog is overweight and you want to help it shed those extra pounds, bananas should definitely not be in the picture. Excess sugar could also lead to digestion issues, such as diarrhea, in your dog.
Banana Peels Pose Digestion Problems and Choking Hazards
Peel the banana before feeding it to your dog. Peels are not inherently bad or hazardous. But they have a tough build and are, therefore, difficult to digest for a dog. This structural integrity can be attributed to the lack of fiber in the peel.
And due to this relative rigidness, banana peels are potential choking hazards too. Also, banana peels don’t taste as good as the actual fruit and may cause your dog to throw up.
On the other hand, feeding your pet dog too many bananas without the peel could lead to stomach upsets. The high fiber content of the fruit would do more damage than good if the ingestion is excessive.
Higher Potassium Intake Could Lead to Hyperkalemia
Too many bananas in the gut could mean excessive levels of potassium in the blood, which may cause hyperkalemia in your dog. When not treated, the condition could cause heart issues and even cardiac arrest in worst-case scenarios. When the potassium concentration is more than 7 mEq/L, ECG abnormalities and other conditions such as weakness, depression, lethargy, and cardiac arrhythmias are likely.
Improper kidney function could also be the cause of the condition. Hyperkalemia usually results when your dog is not able to urinate and remove excess potassium from within its body. If your dog has kidney problems, feeding it bananas would only aggravate the condition. If you see hyperkalemia signs in your dog, consult your vet for a proper and complete diagnosis and treatment. Just stopping with the bananas may not be enough.
Allergic Reactions Cannot Be Ruled Out
As with any and every human-friendly food you feed your dog, there is always the likelihood of allergies. If your dog is allergic to bananas, it could exhibit the following signs:
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing and sneezing
If your dog develops any of these issues after a banana treat, contact your vet right away.
How to Feed Your Dog Bananas
Do not assume that your dog would be fine eating bananas. If you’re considering adding bananas to your pooch’s diet, talk to your vet and confirm if it’s the right thing to do. If your dog has obesity issues, your vet may not be too pumped about the idea, thanks to banana’s high sugar content. Your vet would also let you know about the quantity and frequency of bananas you could safely feed your dog.
If you receive the green signal from your vet, go ahead and feed your dog some bananas. Start slow and small as gorging on the fruit doesn’t take much time and effort. If your dog ends up gulping too many bananas within a short span of time, it could end up with a troubled stomach.
If you want to make things interesting, here are a few innovative things you could do:
- Mash up the fruit and mix it with your pet’s regular food. Your dog would appreciate this fusion if its regular food has been the standard affair. You need not offer your dog a banana separately if you’re going this route, by the way.
- Freeze the entire banana; peel and slice it for a frozen, refreshing treat. On hot summer days, your dog would appreciate the frozen bananas more. If it is absolutely cold outside, refrain from giving your dog these frozen treats. Not to mention, freezing and slicing bananas is an extremely simple task.
- Mash the fruit and blend it with some peanut butter. You may even mix it with another treat. There are many banana dog treat recipes. The peanut butter and banana combination is quite a hit on the Internet. Just make sure the butter has no xylitol in it. Some kinds of peanut butter could use them as a sweetening agent.
When you experiment with the bananas and not just feed your pet the fruit the traditional way, you are not just helping the pet enjoy the banana better but are also making it easier for your pet to ingest the fruit.
Incorporate bananas into your pooch’s diet only as a snack and not as some meal replacement or a regular diet feature.
What If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Bananas?
Some dogs may not like bananas – irrespective of how hard you try to make it taste great. If your dog expresses its apathy or disgust for the fruit, acknowledge the sign instead of forcing the fruit down its throat.
Your dog not liking bananas is not abnormal and certainly nothing to worry about. There are several other fruits you may feed your puppy if a banana isn’t its thing. Apples, pineapples, strawberries, etc. are other fruits you could try. If your dog is a fan of veggies, cucumber, celery, carrots, etc. are ideal replacements too. As always, keep your dog’s consumption of the various fruits and veggies under control.
Green or Ripe Bananas?
Unripe bananas and ripened bananas differ from each other in terms of taste and texture. These differences are also indicative of their nutritional profile. Compared to ripened bananas, unripe bananas usually:
- Are lower in sugar
- Have higher micronutrients and resistant starch
- Have lower glycemic index values
- Are not easily digestible
- Have lower antioxidant traits
With age, a green banana changes in its qualities, the health benefits it offers, and also taste. Green bananas generally taste more like a veggie and less like a fruit. Based on the kind of nutrition you’re looking to provide your dog, you may choose between the two types accordingly.
If your dog is a fussy eater or is very particular about taste, it may not fancy unripe bananas. But if it’s not very choosy about what it eats and has obesity issues to boot too, you are advised to serve it raw bananas.
How Many Bananas Can Your Dog Eat?
The size and/or the number of bananas your dog can eat usually depends on its size. Generally,
- Medium to large canines must be fed only half of a regular-sized banana.
- Small dogs must limit their intake to a couple or three tiny slices of the fruit. The slices shouldn’t be any longer than an inch.
- Active and working dogs that burn more calories in a day compared to other dogs can be fed slightly more.
Irrespective of how big and/or healthy your dog is, bananas should never be your dog’s everyday or routine food as the fruit sits at the top on the glycemic index.
Whether you are feeding your dog banana with some other food or giving it unadulterated, make sure it’s less than 10% of your dog’s total food intake on any given day. The “treats” component of a dog’s everyday food consumption should be 10% or below, and bananas should only be a part of that. If vegetables and other fruits have already filled up that 10% quota, save the banana for some other day.
What If Your Dog Ended Up Eating Too Many Bananas?
If you happened to inadvertently feed your dog a banana or two more, or you suspect your dog ate too many bananas when you were looking in the other direction, get your vet on board immediately.
Thankfully, your dog is likely to react to the excessive banana consumption so that you won’t have to assume your dog is having trouble with the bananas in the first place. Therefore, watch out for the signs.
Signs of discomfort usually include restlessness, yelping or whining, panting, and dilated pupils. Difficulty passing bowels, vomiting, and diarrhea are some other symptoms. Hyperkalemia, disorientation, physical weakness, and failing to hold a stance are some of the more serious signs.
Can You Feed Your Dog Banana-Derived Products?
Like bananas, products derived from the fruit are also perfectly fine for dog consumption. But, like always, ensure the intake is limited.
- Banana Chips
Dehydrated banana chips could be a nutritious and tasty treat for your pet. The chips, however, shouldn’t be processed as those are likely to have an excessive amount of sugar and preservatives in them. All-natural or homemade banana chips are easy to carry along on outdoor adventures, such as hikes. They are also solid rewards to use while training your pet.
- Banana Bread
If you’re considering feeding your dog banana bread, you may have to tread a bit more cautiously. This is particularly the case if the bread has chocolate chips or raisins in it, as both the food items are deemed toxic for canines. And since it’s a “bread”, you cannot overlook the fact that the bread is likely to have a few other ingredients – for instance, sugar.
If the bread is not specifically made for the dog, it is not safe for its consumption. And even if the bread is devoid of all the ingredients considered toxic to a dog, bread is still not completely safe for dogs to eat.
Therefore, if you have the choice, steer clear of the bread. But if your dog likes banana bread and the bread is made using all the dog-friendly ingredients, you may incorporate the bread as a treat or as an occasional snack.
Dogs are carnivores, but they usually have no problems mixing up things or eating veggies and fruits for a change. But since dogs require more protein than arguably any other macronutrient, a veggie or fruit such as a banana cannot be a major component of their diets. By throwing in a banana, you are certainly adding an assortment of important vitamins and minerals to the mix.
As clearly stated above, moderation is key. If you are feeding your dog bananas and would like to reap the benefits and steer clear of the negative effects of the fruit, limiting the consumption is critical. The sugar profile of the fruit is just too high for everyday consumption.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.