Ripe, tropical bananas are a great, healthy fruit that we can all enjoy on the go and in prepared treats. Humans and primates enjoy bananas regularly.
You may have wondered whether your dog will enjoy this potassium-packed power fruit as much as his primate cousins? The answer is yes: provided you only offer in moderation, your dog can enjoy this tropical treat as much as you.
What are the Health Benefits of Bananas For Dogs?
Bananas are well-known for including potassium, but the yellow fruit is also packed with a range of vitamins that can all be beneficial for your dog. Some veterinarians actively encourage dog owners to feed bananas as a treat instead of less healthy alternatives, including some that are marketed specifically for dogs.
As well as vitamins and minerals, bananas contain naturally occurring fiber, which is beneficial to your dog's digestive system and keeps their bowels functioning correctly.
The potassium content of bananas maintains kidneys and heart function and can also help with muscle development. Bananas are also loaded with vitamins A and C, which can boost the immune system as well as contributing to healthy skin and coat, shiny eyes, and nervous system. The antioxidants in vitamin C can even help to prevent some types of cancer.
One of the best things about bananas is that they are so easy to transport, already neatly packaged in their own skin. Some treats can be difficult to take with you on a walk as they are strong-smelling and can make a sticky mess. Your banana will remain inconspicuous in your bag or coat pocket until you decide it's time to unpeel and give your four-legged friend a treat.
When to Watch Out
You may be thinking that bananas are a super-food that can give your dog everything they need but remember, treats should only make up a maximum of 10% of their overall diet. It is important not to overfeed bananas as this could cause some significant health problems.
While potassium is good for maintaining a healthy heart, too much can be bad for your dog's heart. It can cause a condition known as hyperkalemia that can damage the heart and lead to a heart attack. Too many bananas can also cause constipation, especially if you feed bananas that are not quite ripe as these will contain too much starch.
Perhaps the main reason why you should feed bananas in moderation is the fact that they contain a great deal of naturally occurring sugar, which can lead to weight gain and diabetes.
How Much Banana Should I Feed My Dog?
Moderation is the keyword when it comes to feeding treats, and banana is no exception. When you first introduce any new food to your dog, you need to start very slowly. As ripe banana tends to be soft, it is easy to swallow without too much chewing, so it is safe to feed your dog slices or chunks.
A few slices or about half a banana is probably enough: a whole banana is likely to lead to changes in bowel movement and can lead to constipation. Young dogs and smaller breeds should be given about a quarter or a third of a banana.
As always, follow the 90/10 rule, making sure that 90% of your dog's diet comes from regular dog food and no more than 10% treats. This is the advice given by expert veterinarian Dr. Katja Lang, from the Heart of Chelsea Veterinarian Group.
She says that it is important that dogs receive at least 90% of their calories from regular food to maintain the correct balance of vitamins and nutrients to keep their bodies functioning as normal. Furthermore, Dr. Lang emphasizes that dogs are omnivores; therefore, they need plenty of carbohydrates and protein in their diet.
While bananas can never replace your dog's usual food, they can be an excellent choice for a tasty snack, especially since they are lower in salt and calories than some commercial dog treats. Feeding bananas could even help overweight dogs get back in shape!
What About Banana Peel?
While the fruit of the banana is an excellent treat for your dog, the skin is not as beneficial. Firstly, it can be difficult to chew and could cause a choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs. In addition, banana skin contains more fiber than the fruit, and too much can be difficult for your dog to digest, leading to diarrhea or constipation.
Most worryingly, solid banana peel can block your dog's intestine, causing a painful medical emergency: without surgery, blockages like this can be fatal.
Other Ways of Eating Bananas
Once your dog is comfortable eating slices of fresh bananas, you can introduce some different ways of feeding this delicious fruit. Frozen banana slices can be very refreshing in hot weather, and you can also make some home-made treats for a tasty change. You can even mash some banana to mix in with other foods or stuff inside a toy for longer-lasting fun.
It's best to avoid feeding prepared banana chips as you may find these contain unnatural preservatives and sweeteners that can be harmful to your dog. You can easily make your banana chips by using a dehydrator or even cooking in an oven. If you prefer to purchase a ready-made alternative, be careful to make sure they are entirely natural without added ingredients.
This traditional, old-favorite recipe can be fed to dogs. Still, you need to be very careful and make sure only to allow a minimal amount. If your dog has problems tolerating grain, you will need to avoid banana bread. As mentioned, bananas already have a higher sugar content than some other fruits, and banana bread contains even more added sugar. It's not advisable to offer banana bread to any dog at risk of developing diabetes. Some banana bread recipes also include raisins, which you need to avoid as raisins can be poisonous.
Mix Banana with other treats
Other ways of feeding banana can be to mix with other treats such as natural yogurt. Make sure you choose a variety that does not contain any added sweeteners or xylitol. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is poisonous to dogs. You can also blend bananas with other healthy fruits like watermelon as a smoothie treat.
As well as the health benefits included in bananas, if your dog enjoys the taste, you can use bananas to your advantage in other ways. For example, if your dog is off their kibble, you could try stirring in some mashed bananas or adding a few slices as a topping to encourage them to eat. You may even be able to disguise any medication your dog might need by stirring into some mashed banana.
Just remember, moderation is vital. While a medium or large dog can probably cope with half a banana at a time, smaller breeds and puppies should only have a couple of slices. There aren't many treats that you can enjoy as much as your dog, so next time you go on a walk, why not take along a banana to share?