Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs


What is Chokecherry Poisoning?

The chokecherry is a tiny fruit from the tree Prunus Virginiana, and it grows in North America. The fruit of the chokecherry is not edible to humans because of its sour flavor; however, they are directly related to the black cherry. Apple seeds, cherry, peach, pear, plum, and apricot pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous. Eating a few seeds will not cause any real issues; eating a multitude of seeds or pits can be very toxic. 

Chokecherries do attract birds, and the birds disseminate the fruit seeds. The natural cyanide is produced not only in the seeds, but also in the leaves and the bark of the tree. The seeds are quite poisonous, and can also cause gastrointestinal tract obstruction. Cyanide is a highly poisonous and potentially deadly chemical when eaten. Cyanide is found in man-made, synthetic materials and can be in the form of crystals and in gaseous form. It can be found in products used for extermination, burning plastic, and cigarette smoke.

Chokecherry poisoning in canines transpires when canines eat chokecherries. This type of fruit, and related fruits, contain natural cyanide to protect against pest and insects.

Symptoms of Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs

Dogs that eat chokecherry seeds or leaves may collapse from the poison, and the seeds can prove fatal. Symptoms can occur rapidly or within a few hours. Chokecherry poisoning has the following symptoms:

  • Red mucus membranes
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Hyperventilation
  • Collapse
  • Confusion


Cyanide poisoning from the natural seeds, bark, or leaves of the chokecherry can be fatal if not treated early. Types of other natural foods that contain this toxic substance are:

  • Fruits that have seeds or pits (cherries, almonds, peaches)
  • Pears
  • Clover
  • Elderberry
  • Apples
  • Various forms of grass
  • Legumes (vetches)

Causes of Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs

The main cause of cherry poisoning in canines is from the natural cyanide upon entering the body. Specific causes of cyanide poison include:

  • Aerobic metabolism arrest
  • Histotoxic anoxia
  • The absorption of cyanide from the gastrointestinal tract
  • Death of tissue due to lack of adequate oxygen
  • Affects the heart and the brain

Diagnosis of Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs

Cyanide poisoning is very serious and can be life-threatening. If your canine has eaten chokecherries, call your veterinarian immediately. Once you take your canine to the physician, he will ask you questions pertaining to the amount consumed and the time-frame. 

The veterinarian will perform a urinalysis, blood work, and a complete physical examination. Since cyanide poisoning can be lethal, it is important to get to the veterinarian or emergency veterinarian very quickly. If you know that your canine has consumed cherries it is vital to tell the veterinarian approximately how many were ingested and how much time has passed since he consumed them. The veterinarian may do a urinalysis, blood work, along with a complete examination. The physician will also base his diagnosis on clinical signs, as treatment must begin as soon as possible. 

Blood levels of cyanide will show if poisoning has occurred. If the levels are above 3 mcg/mL, then the veterinarian will have a definitive diagnosis. The medical professional may also test the stomach fluid to check for HCN amounts. The physician will take appropriate precautions with gear when collecting contents from the stomach so he won’t be affected by the gaseous substance. The physician may also test samples of tissue from the liver and stomach. While the veterinarian is running tests, he may give an antidote along with oxygen therapy. Successful antidote treatment may include sodium thiosulfate or sodium nitrate.

Treatment of Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs

Treatment must begin immediately in order for the canine to survive. Survival depends on the amount of chokecherries eaten and the level of poisoning. Treatment methods include:

IV Fluids and Gases

Nitrates and the induction of Fe3 into the hemoglobin of the blood will be given. This will alleviate some of the toxins, as amyl nitrate and sodium nitrate (through inhalation) are antidotes for cyanide poisoning.


Detoxification of cyanide toxicity can be accomplished with the administration of rhodanese and thiocyanate. These are given through intravenous fluids or by oral administration. Sodium thiosulfate is the preferred antidote to cyanide. It helps the cells convert cyanide into a type that can be excreted through the urine.

Recovery of Chokecherry Poisoning in Dogs

If your canine ate chokecherry and has responded to treatment, the prognosis is fair. This solely depends on the amount eaten and the time it took for treatment. If treatment comes too late, or if the canine has consumed too much, then this poisoning can be fatal. Once you take your canine home, the veterinarian will give you directions on how to care for him. He will explain to you any typical behaviors in terms of recovery, and will let you know anything you need to know that may be of concern. 

The physician will want to see your canine again during follow-up visits to be sure he is recovering properly. During this time, he will need to have bloodwork done to be sure there is no cyanide content in the blood. It is important to prevent this from occurring by keeping the canine and other pets away from the types of cherry trees and other fruit trees that contain natural cyanide for defense.

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