Thoughtful Thursday – Our Five Favourite Summer Fruits
For those of us that endured the latest heatwave, we can certainly say that summer is upon us. As well as the rise in temperature, summer brings with it a wide range of seasonal fruits, and many of these fruits have multiple health benefits for our furry friends. We’ve selected five of our favourite summer fruits that are also a delicious treat for your pets!
These recommendations are tailored more towards dogs than cats, as the canine digestive systems allow dogs to utilise moderate amounts of plant matter. Cats are obligate carnivores, so their digestive system is not so suited to intaking fruit. However, if your cat enjoys the occasional fruity treat, everything in this list is considered safe for feline consumption.
Watermelons are not only refreshing but also contain several vitamins that can benefit your pet. These include Vitamin C and A, which both aid in maintaining your pet’s immune system.
As its name suggests, watermelon has a high water content. This is why it tastes so refreshing and is ideal for eating on a hot day. Feeding your pet a slice of watermelon can help keep them hydrated on hot days, but remember that it should not be a substitute for clean and fresh water.
Watermelon is also low in calories and sugar, making this fruit an ideal snack for pets that are on a weight management diet.
If you decide to feed your pet some watermelon, be sure to remove the seeds beforehand and do not allow them to eat the skin. You can also create a frozen treat by blending the watermelon and pouring it into ice cubes moulds. Once frozen you can put them in your pet’s water bowl or feed them to your pet straight from the mould.
Blueberries are included in many pet foods, but why? One reason is that blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, substances that help protect the body against damage caused by stress, pollutants, and processed foods (to name a few).
Just like watermelons, blueberries contain beneficial levels of Vitamin C and are low in calories. However, they do contain high levels of fibre, so we recommend feeding these to your pet in moderation to avoid any digestive upsets.
On top of the already mentioned benefits, blueberries are highly beneficial for bone health and development. They are rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin K, all substances that play a part in maintaining bone density, strength, and elasticity (1). This can be especially helpful for growing puppies and kittens, as well as older pets with mild joint conditions.
Try feeding your pet some blueberries straight out of the pack, mixing them in with their dry food, or try freezing them to create a cooling treat.
As a slightly more unusual fruit, papaya can be easily overlooked as a treat for your pet. In fact, papaya is suitable to feed to pets with various health conditions, including kidney and liver diseases, diabetes, and pancreatitis (2).
Papaya flesh contains a specific antioxidant called zeaxanthin, that is linked to eye health. Once absorbed into the body, it protects the eye from age-related degeneration by helping to filter out UV rays that reach the eyes.
Papayas also contain an enzyme called papain. This enzyme is found exclusively in papaya fruits and plays a key role in breaking down ingested protein. As a result, pets with sensitive stomachs may find papaya useful, as it will help them digest meals more effectively.
Although highly beneficial and low in sugar, be aware that papaya in high in fibre so we advise not to feed your pet too much at once. Also, be sure to remove any seeds before feeding this fruit to your pet, as the seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide (much like with apples).
As with the other fruits on our least, you can feed it fresh or frozen. Alternatively, you can purchase Soopa’s Papaya Chews, which are dried, chewy, and not as messy as feeding fresh fruit.
This is one of our dog’s favourite fruit treats! We have observed her foraging for wild raspberries and blackberries when they are in season. This doesn’t come as a surprise when you learn that even wolves consume berries in the summer months alongside their usual meat-based diet.
As well as containing similar nutrients to blueberries (mentioned above), raspberries have been linked to improved heart health in both human and animal studies (3). This is due to the presence of flavonoids, naturally occurring pigments in the fruit that give raspberries their colour, but also a range of benefits. The specific flavonoids found in raspberries are known to reduce inflammation, especially around the heart.
Studies are also being conducted which focus on raspberries and their role in disrupting cancer cells. It is already generally accepted that raspberries are an effective anti-carcinogenic (4), although scientists are not completely sure how this works within the body. They do at least know, however, that it is linked to the various antioxidants and flavonoids found within the fruit.
As with most of the other fruits on our list, raspberries are high in fibre so should only be fed in moderation. Being a soft fruit, you can easily use them to make a wide range of treats for your pet either by blending them, freezing them, mixing them with other fruit, or any other pet-friendly way you can think of.
Possibly the most surprising addition to our list, gooseberries may be unusual but are still an incredibly beneficial and healthy treat for your pet. Their taste is sourer compared to the other fruits mentioned above, but your pet may still enjoy them.
Gooseberries contain such a large amount of different nutrients, we could write an entirely new article covering just those benefits (maybe an idea for the future?). Instead, we’ve simplified things by highlighting what we consider to be the key features of this unusual fruit.
Gooseberries are members of the currant family, more closely related to fruits such as redcurrants than actual berries. However, they still possess similar nutritional benefits, such as being high in antioxidants. Gooseberries contain some of the highest levels of Vitamin C found in any fruit, helping to boost and maintain a healthy immune system (5). Alongside this, gooseberries are known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when consumed (6).
What really sets gooseberries apart from other fruits is the effect they have on your pet’s liver. Studies have proven that gooseberries help to prevent a build-up of heavy metals in the liver, thus preventing some forms of damage (7). If you’d like to know more about your pet’s exposure to heavy metals, we wrote a specific article about it here.
At just 44 calories per 100g, gooseberries can make for a healthy and perhaps even daily snack for your pet, although we recommend not feeding too many as with any treat. As they are slightly larger than berries, why not try slicing them up before feeding?
(1) Du, C., Smith, A., Avalos, M., South, S., Crabtree, K., Wang, W., Kwon, Y., Vijayagopal, P. and Juma, S. (2019). Blueberries Improve Pain, Gait Performance, and Inflammation in Individuals with Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis. Nutrients, 11(2), p.290.
(3) Burton-Freeman, B., Sandhu, A. and Edirisinghe, I. (2016). Red Raspberries and Their Bioactive Polyphenols: Cardiometabolic and Neuronal Health Links. Advances in Nutrition, 7(1), pp.44-65.
(4) Seeram, N., Adams, L., Zhang, Y., Lee, R., Sand, D., Scheuller, H. and Heber, D. (2006). Blackberry, Black Raspberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Red Raspberry, and Strawberry Extracts Inhibit Growth and Stimulate Apoptosis of Human Cancer Cells In Vitro. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54(25), pp.9329-9339.
(5) Goyal, R., Patil, R., Kingsly, A., Walia, H. and Kumar, P. (2008). Status of Post harvest Technology of Aonla in India-A Review. American Journal of Food Technology, 3(1), pp.13-23.
(6) Gahlaut, A. and Chhillar, A. (2013). Evaluation Of Antibacterial Potential Of Plant Extracts Using Resazurin Based Microtiter Dilution Assay. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 5(2), pp.372-376.
(7) Malar, H. and Bai, S. (2009). Hepato-Protective Activity of Phyllanthus emblica Against Paracetamol Induced Hepatic Damage in Wister Albino Rats. African Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences, 1-2(1), pp.21-25.