When I picked my theme for this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I figured it’d be relatively easy to find dog food ingredients that start with each letter of the alphabet. There are some pretty crazy named supplements and such, even ones that start with “x” and “z”, letters that I found really challenging when I completed this challenge in the past. Well, it turns out, there aren’t very many ingredients used in dog food that start with the letter “j”! I finally came across a brand of dry food for puppies that contains juniper berries. So j is for juniper berries, however obscure of a dog food ingredient they may be.
This post is part of our 2023 April blogging from A to Z Challenge! Join us this month as we go through the alphabet, A to Z, learning more about some of the ingredients that are commonly (or not so commonly, in some cases) found in our dog’s food!
What are Juniper Berries?
The name juniper berries is a bit misleading because juniper “berries” are not technically berries. They are the female cones of juniper trees. The modified fleshy cones look more like berries than traditional tree cones, though. They start out green and, over time, turn a purple-ish color that reminds me quite a bit of blueberries. Depending on the species of juniper, it can take anywhere from 8 to 24 months for the berries to mature. Juniper berries are sometimes eaten or used in recipes, and they have a long history of being used for medicinal purposes.
Why are Juniper Berries Added to Dog Food?
Juniper berries are not a common dog food ingredient. But I did find a dog food that contains them! They are reported to have a number of potential benefits for dogs, which I will outline below.
Cons of Feeding Juniper Berries to Dogs:
However, juniper berries are toxic to dogs. They contain an oil called thujone. Thujone can cause GI upset and kidney issues in dogs (and people!) if it’s consumed in large quantities. Different species of juniper contain different levels off thujone, so some species are more toxic than others.
It’s especially important to avoid offering your dog juniper berries of any sort if he/she is suffering from kidney failure.
Enzymes found in juniper berries can also interfere with prescription medications. If your dog is taking any prescription medications it’s important to talk with your vet before offering him/her juniper berries.
Benefits of Feeding Juniper Berries to Dogs:
If given in very small amounts, so as to avoid causing side effects from the berries being toxic, juniper berries are thought to have a number of benefits including…
- Juniper berries are an effective diuretic and can help dogs who are dealing with urinary tract infections.
- Juniper berries are thought to potentially be able to dissolve kidney and bladder stones.
- Juniper berries may help treat intestinal worms such as tape worms.
- Juniper has been shown to be able to lower blood sugar.
So What’s the Verdict on Juniper Berries? Are they Safe as a Dog Food Ingredient?
I, personally, wouldn’t go out of my way to offer my dogs a food that contained juniper berries. While they may in fact offer some health benefits, I’m not sure I’d feel like the potential benefits would outweigh the cons. I was only able to find one dog food that contained juniper berries as an ingredient. I’m sure they must include the berries in a very small amount to avoid the risk of causing GI upset and kidney issues. I didn’t notice whether or not the food contained a warning that it shouldn’t be used for dogs experiencing kidney failure or taking prescription medication(s). It does make me wonder how much juniper berries are actually included in the food.
If your dog is currently doing well on a food that contains juniper berries, and your vet is comfortable with you using the food, then I wouldn’t worry too much. The negative effects of juniper berries are thought to be much more of a concern when the berries are eaten in excess. My assumption is that any dog food that includes them in it’s ingredient list would do so in very small amounts.