Acai is a newer superfruit where claims have been made that it’s the ultimate health food. But can dogs have acai? Is acai poisonous? See what our research has to say.
Believe it or not, acai is a newer superfood on the market. It originally came to light and is marketed for weight loss in humans (clinical claims do not support this theory). But let’s dive a little deeper because honestly, research on acai berries, in general, is pretty thin.
What is Acai?
It’s actually a small fruit, similar to a grape in size that comes from a palm tree, and originated in South American rainforests.
Just like blueberries, strawberries, papaya, and blackberries, acai berries are filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Some human studies show that they may have cholesterol-lowering properties along with cancer-fighting benefits.
Technically they aren’t really a berry at all because they contain pits (or one large seed), which makes them a part of the drupe family. The pit constitutes about 80 percent of the berry itself, so you would need to eat a good amount for a serving size (referring to fresh berries).
Acai berries cannot be bought fresh in America, or any other region they aren’t native to due to their short shelf life. So, they are often sold in powders, purees that are frozen, and juices.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Dogs Acai
Risk of Theobromine Poisoning
Livestrong reports that acai contains theobromine, which is a stimulant that acts similar to caffeine and structurally is almost just alike. Dogs are way more sensitive to caffeine and its effects when compared to humans.
McGill University goes into more detail about how dogs cannot metabolize theobromine properly, which is why foods like acai and chocolate can make canines sick.
Overall, theobromine poisoning depends on the dose and the size of the dog. While your pup may have eaten some type of acai product (or chocolate) and was totally fine, it means that their size overpowered the dose that was ingested.
He may have dodged a bullet that one time, but you wouldn’t want him to take another chance.
Be sure to check out: Is Pineapple Safe for Dogs?
High Sugar Content
When people use acai products to make smoothie bowls, they are often filled with extra ingredients and have a really high sugar content. If you refer to the consumption of the actual berries, they are really low in sugar (actually lower than most fruits). We know that a canine diet that is filled with excessive sugar and processed ingredients can lead to gastrointestinal issues and should always be avoided if your pup has diabetes.
Chagas Disease (American trypanosomiasis)
This disease is a pretty prevalent public health issue when discussing Latin/South America (where the acai berries come from). The CDC reports people testing positive, and the acai juice they were drinking, containing traces of Trypanosoma cruzi. This study linked the two together.
Trypanosoma cruzi is a parasite that is transmitted to humans and dogs via an insect. The actual disease that one gets is Chagas.
Signs of Acai Poisoning in Dogs
If your dogs ingested acai in any form and you are worried they may become sick, you should call your vet immediately. Effects may not begin until several hours after ingestion.
These chemicals can also cause extreme harm to canines who are pregnant or have pre-existing health issues, so don’t wait to contact your veterinarian or pet poison hotline.
Some common symptoms that are demonstrated in theobromine poisoning and caffeine overdoses are:
- Overactive or hyperactive activity
- Rapid heart rate
- Overall lethargic
The ASPCA states, “Based on ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experience, mild signs occur in animals ingesting 20 mg/kg of theobromine and caffeine, severe signs are seen at 40-50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at 60 mg/kg (ASPCA/APCC Database: Unpublished data).” While this evidence-based article is reporting on chocolate intoxication, acai berries contain both caffeine and theobromine, so the conclusion could be similar.
Dog Allergies to Acai Products
Just in case you were wondering if your pup could be allergic, the answer is always yes. You really don’t know what they are allergic to until they try it, or have allergy testing completed.
However, Livestrong says that if there is an allergy present regarding coconuts, dates, or “any foods from the palm or Arecaceae family of plants” there may be a predisposed allergy to acai berries. This data is mainly discussing human allergy reactions, but the immune response is the same as canines in terms of allergies.
Conclusion: Don’t Feed Your Pups Acai Anything!
It’s also worth mentioning that the NASC advises keeping dogs away from acai despite what others may say.
So why take the risk of giving your dog acai berries, when you can treat them with someone else without all of the worrying?