Are Nuts Safe For My Dog?
Crosspoint Veterinary Hospital, Covington, Louisiana
The holidays are coming, and nuts will be in abundance for decoration, cooking, and sharing. But is it safe to share these tasty human treats with your dog?
The quick answer is that most nuts are safe for dogs and allergic reactions to nuts are not common. If your pup snags one or two on the sly, that’s not a problem. However, while most nuts are technically safe for your dog, some are toxic and carry serious risks.
Read on to find out which types of nuts are safe and which could spell trouble for your pooch.
Nuts – The Facts
Pet parents should be watchful of curious, nosy muzzles if nuts are around. Nuts are a popular snack and carry loads of healthy fats and proteins we humans can easily digest.
However, this is not the case for dogs.
Dogs love nuts! But they have different digestive systems than we do. Their gastrointestinal system can’t process the high fat and calories in nuts. Since dogs gulp or gobble their treats down, it’s very easy to quickly ingest too many. The large amount of fats and calories can spell trouble for your pooch, besides risking obesity.
Cruising any treat aisle in your local pet store will show many treats flavored with peanut butter. These manufactured treats are fine for your dog because formulators have carefully rationed the amount of nuts in each portion. But if you were to share too many nuts from your mixed-nut snack bowl with your pup, it could cause a terrible tummy ache or worse, the more serious issue of pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is a condition that results from an overload of fats in your dog’s diet, causing inflammation of the pancreas. Acute Pancreatitis is severe and requires a veterinarian’s care.
Another consideration when giving a nut treat to your dog is molds or fungus. All nuts run the risk of containing molds or fungus that can be toxic to your dog if ingested. This is especially true for raw nuts, so only offer your dog roasted or boiled nuts to be safe.
Molds can also be present on old nuts. So, that bag of nuts hiding in the back of your pantry is better thrown in the trash than offered as a treat for your dog.
Finally, we have seasonings. Many nuts have salts, spices, and sweeteners on them. These are not good nutritional options for your pooch. Dogs can’t process seasonings or salts like we can. Eating too much can cause salt toxicity or a bad tummy ache.
If you can’t resist those puppy-dog eyes pleading for a share of your bowl of nuts, try unsalted, cooked, or roasted varieties. They are the safest nut options for your dog.
Nutshells are never a good idea. They are not digestible and pose choking and blockage hazards. Their hard shells can also have sharp edges that may cause perforations in their intestinal tract requiring surgery.
Which nuts are safe for my dog?
Let’s look at some common nuts and see if they are safe for your pooch.
Most of us dog parents think about peanuts first when considering a nut treat for our dogs. What dog doesn’t salivate over peanuts or peanut butter? Mine sure do!
Peanuts, which are legumes rather than nuts, are safe for your dog. But, like all nuts, they contain high-fat content and calories that could pose problems for your pup’s gastrointestinal system. Giving your pooch an unseasoned roasted or boiled peanut or two won’t cause many issues, but large quantities of these tasty treats may.
Peanuts, just as all nuts, can also cause choking or blockage issues. Since dogs gulp or gobble their food, nuts can become stuck in their esophagus, the windpipe, or cause an intestinal blockage. This is especially true for small breeds. Considering pieces of nuts rather than the whole nut may be a better idea when sharing the yummy snacks with your pooch.
A spoonful of peanut butter is a common way for dog parents to easily give their dogs medication. This is fine if you use a small amount, but don’t overdo it. Too much, and your canine companion could end up with an upset stomach or pancreatitis from the high-fat content.
Additionally, pay attention to the ingredients in the peanut butter or any nut butter. Be cautious of any salts, sugars (especially artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes), or seasoning of any kind can cause problems for your dog’s tummy.
Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can be found in a few peanut butter brands and is VERY toxic to dogs if ingested. It can quickly make your dog very sick, sometimes in as little as 10 – 60 minutes.
Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity include dangerously low blood sugar, vomiting, weakness, staggering, and even seizures. Absolutely avoid any products your dog could get into that contain Xylitol.
Cashews are safe for dogs if roasted. Luckily, since they are from the same botanical family as poison ivy or sumac, they’re mostly sold roasted. If you come across any raw cashews or in their shells, don’t feed them to your pooch since ingestion can cause a toxic reaction.
Cashews contain high amounts of fat and calories. For this reason, offer them sparingly. Too many could cause pancreatitis or a tummy ache. They also contain high amounts of potassium, spelling issues for dogs susceptible to urinary tract problems.
Cashews are large nuts, posing a choking hazard, even for large breeds. But this is especially true for small breeds. There’s also the danger of intestinal blockage.
Almonds are not safe for dogs. A dog’s digestive system can’t process them well. So while they are not toxic to your dog, they could cause a gastrointestinal problem.
They also carry a choking hazard or an obstruction issue if gobbled down quickly. The large size and shape of this nut could become lodged in the windpipe, esophagus, or intestines.
Many almonds that we eat contain salts, seasoning, or chocolate coatings. These ingredients can cause issues with blood sugar levels or salt toxicity. In short, giving almonds to your pooch is not a safe treat option.
The most common walnuts are Black and English. Neither of them is completely safe to feed to your dog. Besides the usual choking and blockage issues, there is a darker side to these nuts.
Walnuts (especially Black Walnuts) can carry juglone, a poisonous substance secreted by the roots of the walnut trees. Its purpose is to discourage other plants from growing around them and adheres to the shell of the walnut when they fall from the tree. Juglone causes laminitis in horses and convulsions or seizures in dogs.
Walnuts also can contain mycotoxins, a toxic substance produced by molds and fungi, that also may cause convulsions or seizures. If you have a walnut tree, make sure your pooch stays away from any moldy walnuts that have fallen.
English Walnuts (most commonly used for cooking) are the safest of the walnuts and not toxic to your dog. They contain low levels of juglone, and are not as toxic as the Black Walnut. However, they also contain high fat and calories and should only be offered sparingly and never whole.
Pecan pie or cookies containing pecans are a big favorite on many holiday tables. Pecans are not safe for your dog and fall into the walnut category of being potentially toxic. They contain mycotoxins, which are also known to cause liver damage in dogs. They may also contain juglone, which could cause convulsions or seizures.
It’s best to avoid pecans and keep them out of reach of nosy muzzles.
These tasty nuts fall into the same category as pecans and walnuts for your dog. They’re risky because mycotoxins and juglone could be present. It’s best to avoid sharing this popular snack nut with your dog.
Pistachios are another nut that is very beneficial as human food, but not so much for your dog. While they are not toxic to your dog, pistachios can carry juglone, aspergillus mold, or mycotoxins that can cause liver failure in dogs when ingested.
Pistachios should be offered sparingly because of the high fat and calories in the nuts.
Pistachios can also be a choking or blockage hazard, especially if your dog grabs and gobbles any with the shells on them. If you offer pistachios to your dog, be sure to take off the shells.
These large nuts are safe for your dog. However, they are the fattiest of the nuts. Eating one may not affect your large dog, but offering more could cause an upset stomach or the more serious issue of pancreatitis. For a small dog, even one brazil nut could be unsafe.
Being the largest of the nuts, small breed dogs risk choking or intestinal blockage with these nuts; but this could happen even if your dog is large and gulps their treats.
These nuts are toxic to your dog, regardless of whether they are raw or roasted. Scientists don’t know why the toxicity level exists (much like with raisins and grapes), but studies have proven that dogs should NEVER have macadamia nuts. There is no safe amount of these nuts for your dog.
Macadamia poisoning may be present if your dog shows signs of back leg weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and more serious gastrointestinal problems.
These nuts are not safe for your dog for the same reasons as pecans and walnuts. They can carry mycotoxins or molds that can cause convulsions and seizures.
These nuts are not toxic to your dog. However, they contain high levels of fats and phosphorus, so offer sparingly. Too many can cause gastrointestinal upsets or even pancreatitis. The high phosphorus levels could spell trouble for dogs susceptible to urinary tract problems.
The American Chestnut is a safe nut to offer your dog (not the Horse Chestnut, which is toxic to dogs for the same reason as walnuts). However, they are very large and contain high fats and calories. Your dog should only eat small portions of this large nut, and only if it’s roasted.
These large nuts can cause choking or blockage hazards.
The skinny on fatty nuts
With nuts being a large part of holiday baking, eating, and decorating, take precaution when giving them to your dog, even if they are nuts for them!
It is important to know which nuts are safe for an occasional treat and which carry risk. While most nuts are safe in minimal quantities, some are definitely NOT and should be kept well away from sneaky snackers. Besides their usual dog food, many other fruits and vegetables carry nutritional benefits for your cherished furbaby, like blueberries, banana, broccoli, or pumpkin. There are hundreds of quick and easy treat ideas available on the internet that your pooch will love! Rather than offering them something that may carry a risk to their health, try a safe, healthy snack for your beloved canine!
|Roasted American Chestnuts