Bananas for Dogs?

RMF’rs feed bananas to dogs a lot, so recently in our Facebook group we posted the above banana graphic showing the various stages of ripeness.  We asked members to vote on their favorite stage, for themselves and their dogs, and the results were interesting. What stage of ripeness is best for dogs?

bananas for dogs
Photo courtesy of David Wolfe.

Why are bananas a good choice for dogs?

Personally, I am not a huge banana lover for my own consumption. I just prefer more watery fruits. But I’m a big fan of bananas when it comes to feeding dogs.  They are cheap, accessible, they ripen off the tree and most dogs love them.  They are also easily digested by dogs, not requiring much chewing. This is important, because dogs don’t have a lot of surface area even on their flattest teeth. 

The proper stage of ripeness

And that’s one reason why we want to feed bananas in a pretty advanced stage of ripeness.  In the chart, I probably would not feed a banana to a dog in a stage lower than 4, even though I might consume one myself in a lower range. For dogs, 5-7 are better. But anywhere between slightly spotted and fermented is good for dogs.

The ripening process

As bananas ripen, their starches (long chain sugars) convert to simple mono-sugars.  Dogs have far less capacity than we do to break down starches.  These long chain sugars require enzymes that the bodies of dogs just don’t produce in sufficient quantities.  Simple sugars do not require those enzymes and don’t have to be broken down at all.  They are immediately usable by the body.  Ripe fruits that contain mostly simple sugars are sometimes said to be “pre-digested” because of this.  And this is true for dogs as well as humans.

Green bananas for dogs?!

I have been rather aghast recently to read that green bananas are currently be touted for their “health benefits” for humans.  The articles are even being posted on dog groups and forums.  This is meant to imply, I suppose, that they are healthy for dogs too.  Well, when you look closer at the research, you find that it’s not even bananas that are being used, but banana derivatives like flour and puree.  This is not science.  This is research that is aimed at finding the next “miracle food” to foist onto the credulous masses.  Our job is to recognize the difference. 

Admittedly that’s getting harder to do.  That’s why having some basic knowledge about the composition of foods and the true biological needs of both humans and dogs is so important.  It gives us the foundation we need to ignore the nonsense and feed our dogs real food with confidence.

Dogs can usually be trusted

When it comes to bananas, you can usually let your dog decide whether a banana is edible.  You know if you have one of those dogs who will eat everything.  Except for that kind, dogs can generally be trusted to know what they can digest.  

If you feed a banana to your dog and you see large chunks coming out in the poop, that may be an indication that the banana was not ripe enough.  This means that the banana was not made use of at all, it just burdened the body with its elimination.  Poop that is the same color as bananas is fine, but it should not contain recognizable fruit. 

The dog has final say

I have known some dogs that love almost all fruits except bananas.  If you have one of those, you’ll just have to focus on other fruits.  Bananas are hard to beat for their low cost and availability, but pears come pretty close as they are soft, sweet, digestible by dogs, and nearly as cost effective as bananas.  There are many other fruits that are appropriate for dogs as well.  This is covered in the book and will be the subject of a video I’ll be making very soon.  Watch this space. 😊

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