By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
While pets can certainly benefit from a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate fresh food diet, there are items that may seem healthy for human owners, but may be the opposite for your pets. If you’ve wondered if it’s okay for your cat or dogs to eat oranges or drink orange juice, this article may answer your pressing questions.
Are Oranges Good for Dogs?
According to Dr. David Dilmore of the Banfield Pet Hospital, oranges, tangerines and clementines are nontoxic to dogs.1 Oranges are OK as dog treats, as these may provide nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and fiber, while being low in sodium.2
These nutrients may promote better immune system health in dogs, too. Vitamin C in particular may play a role in improving dogs’ immune system function and promoting weight loss.3 When dogs eat mandarins, oranges and tangerines, they also get other vital nutrients such as beta-carotene, potassium and folate.4
In a PetMD article, Dr. Stephanie Liff of the Brooklyn Care Veterinary Hospital notes that vitamin C may be useful for dogs who have ingested toxic substances such as onion powder, propylene glycol and other toxins.
Dr. Christine Keyserling of The Animal Medical Center in New York also adds that while most dogs do not require additional vitamin C supplementation, giving your canine companion just the right amount of orange can be helpful. This is because the ability of your dog’s liver to produce vitamin C can decline due to extreme exercises or long periods of stress.5
How Much Oranges Are Safe for Dogs?
Dilmore advises that one to two orange segments daily may be good for dogs, as higher amounts may increase the risk for obesity or other issues.6 Before giving oranges, discard their seeds, and check how many calories and sugars are found in oranges and if these will affect the dog’s health in the long run.7
Speaking of sugar, it’s vital to feed your dog oranges and other citrus fruits in moderation. Liff reiterates, “Oranges can affect blood values in diabetic dogs, more due to the vitamin C than the sugar levels, and would be best avoided in these patients.”
Oranges may be potentially bad for already obese dogs, because the sugar in the fruit can exacerbate poor health conditions, while excessive intake may lead to gastrointestinal upsets.8 As a rule of thumb, stop giving oranges to dogs once side effects or unusual behavioral changes develop.9
Can Dogs Eat Orange Peels?
Do not feed dogs orange peels. These are rough on your dog's digestive tract, difficult to break down in the digestive tract, and may result in digestive problems like gastrointestinal upset.10,11 Furthermore, pet insurance company Trupanion highlights that poisonous oils found on orange seeds, leaves, peel or stems may cause potentially life-threatening adverse effects if consumed by dogs.12
Is Orange Juice Good for Dogs?
While your dogs can have a small amount of oranges, you should be cautious about giving orange juice, as too much of it is bad for your dog’s health.
In general, dogs should not drink commercially produced orange juice because it’s often loaded with high quantities of sugars (natural13 or artificial) that may trigger health problems or worsen existing health conditions. For instance, orange juice may lead to dental problems such as a decrease in the enamel of your dog’s teeth.
Allowing dogs to have orange juice may also expose them to high amounts of citric acid. While this substance is naturally found in oranges, too much of it can trigger stomachaches or increase the risk for chronic stomach problems. In some cases, your dog may pass acidic stools or experience a burning sensation when defecating.14
Can Cats Eat Oranges?
While these citrus fruits are potentially beneficial for dogs, oranges are not good for cats at all. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) emphasizes that oranges are toxic for cats and other animals like horses.15 To begin with, cats aren’t able to eat oranges or other citrus fruits,16 since they have a natural aversion to them.
Oranges also contain essential oils that would need a liver enzyme called glucuronyl transferase to be metabolized effectively.17 Although this is found in humans, cats don’t have it, so there’s a very high possibility that these essential oils will build up in the cat’s body and trigger adverse effects. Menthol that may be found in oranges’ oil can be toxic too because cats’ bodies aren’t able to metabolize it properly. Lastly, oranges’ psoralen content may cause indigestion and depression in cats.18
Oranges have also been known to trigger photosensitivity, vomiting or bad diarrhea in cats,19 while their citric acid content may cause irritation and other health problems in these animals’ central nervous system.20,21
Stay on the Safe Side: Feed Your Pets Oranges Sparingly
Although oranges have always provided benefits to humans for years, the same cannot be said for your beloved pets. Ideally, responsible pet owners should be cautious about allowing their cats or dogs to have oranges, mandarin oranges or tangerines because these have been linked to various health problems. The same principle applies if you plan on giving orange juice to your dogs or cats.
If you want to enrich your pet’s diet by feeding them fruits and vegetables, consult your veterinarian to find out which foods are suitable for your pet’s health status and know what other foods can be harmful for their health.