That’s NUTS!!

So we all know that dogs can go to some lengths to share our food.  Sometimes it’s the famous “puppy-dog eyes” and sometimes the head on the lap, pawing at us or even bringing us a toy or other “trade” tool 😀 But there are some serious concerns when it comes to sharing what is normally a healthy snack — nuts.  All nuts are not created equally — some can be safe for your dog and some can be fatal, so please read on to learn more.

Caesar's willing to bring us treats... if he can have his own!!

Caesar’s willing to bring us treats… if he can have his own!!

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are dangerous for dogs to eat. This is one that could be fatal.

Level of toxicity: mild to severe!!

Common signs to watch for:

  • Severe lethargy
  • Increased body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Joint stiffness
  • Inability to walk

The toxic mechanism is unknown but can effect nerve function (specifically, the motor neurons, neuromuscular junctions, muscle fibers or neurotransmitters).  Lack of muscle coordination, high fever, tremors and an increased heart rate are the most common symptoms of ingestion. Adding to the danger of macadamia nuts is the fact that they are often found, and eaten by dogs, in combination with chocolate. The combined effects of a reaction to the nuts and the chocolate can be fatal for even the healthiest dog.

Moldy Nuts

You know that most dogs will eat just about anything — including moldy nuts. Moldy walnuts and pecans are often eaten by dogs, but any moldy nut can cause serious problems as moldy nuts of any variety can contain tremorgenic mycotoxins which can cause seizures or neurological symptoms such as loss of motor ability/poor coordination. In large amounts they can be deadly.  Please remember also that we cannot always see mold as mold on nuts — that white film on the inside of peanut shells is a mold that can be particularly challenging to both human and dog immune systems (but often this is missed as we’re not inspecting shells or the peanuts may not be in their shells).  Dark spots on roasted nuts may look like a function of the roasting process but may in fact, be mold.

English Walnuts (light-tan coloured shells)

Walnuts can cause a stomach ache or can lead to intestinal blockages. Dogs aren’t so good at chewing up walnuts. They tend to get in a hurry and swallow large chunks. These chunks don’t break down very easily in the stomach and can move into the intestine and stop up the entire digestive system. If it goes untreated, the blockage could be fatal. Walnut shells (of course) can have the same effect — but I really hope your dog is not getting these shells!!

Note: According to VPI Pet Insurance, walnut poisoning is one of the most common claims for toxic ingestion. The average cost to treat walnut poisoning is $315.74. The average cost to treat an upset stomach, according to VPI’s claims data, is $214.69.  Best to try to avoid any unnecessary vet bills and most importantly — avoid unnecessary doggy-distress!

Here are some more details about nuts:

Black Walnuts

Black walnuts contains a toxin called juglone which can cause a vascular disease in horses known as laminitis, but doesn’t appear to cause the same problems in dogs. For dogs, eating black walnuts can, however, cause gastric intestinal upset or an obstruction.

Pistachios

Like English walnuts, pistachios are not really toxic to dogs, and an occasional pistachio isn’t likely to have much effect on a healthy adult dog. A large amount of pistachios, however, can cause pancreatitis , or a swelling of the pancreas (particular concern for miniature schnauzers especially) . Many cases of pancreatitis can be successfully treated, but if too much damage is done there is not much that a veterinarian can do to save your dog. Even though they aren’t necessarily poisonous, it’s best to keep pistachios to a minimum with your dog.

Pecans

Pecans also contain the toxin juglone that can cause laminitis in horses. Feeding dogs pecans can cause gastric intestinal upset or an obstruction. Like walnuts, moldy pecans can cause seizures or neurological symptoms.

Almonds

Dogs love the taste of almonds, particularly the flavored variety (jalapeno, barbecued, smoked, vanilla, cinnamon, etc.).  While not toxic, almonds are not easily digested can give your dog an upset stomach and create gastric intestinal distress.

Cashew Nuts – a healthy (“healthier”) choice?

Cashews provide fiber and have nutrients beneficial to your furry friend. Cashews contain antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids, which the ASPCA says that, in the correct balance with omega-3 fatty acids, help heal inflammation in the body. They also contribute to healthy skin and a soft, shiny coat. Cashews include calcium, copper, flavanols, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin K and zinc. Dogs benefit from all of these vitamins and minerals in moderate amounts.

BUT:  Although cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts, they are still high in fat and calories. Too many calories and too much fat in your dog’s diet causes unhealthy weight gain and increases his/her risk of developing pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas (again, this is of particular concern with miniature schnauzers especially). Cashews usually come salted, and too much sodium causes problems for dogs just like it does humans. There have also been reports that regular consumption of cashews can lead to bladder stones caused by the high phosphorus content.

So then,cashews are OK for your dog to eat in moderation unless he/she is allergic or already prone to pancreatitis or bladder stones. And like any other nuts, use only unsalted or reduced-salt cashews to limit your dog’s sodium intake.

Overall

Dogs are not really meant to eat any type of nut. While nuts have a lot of protein, they also have a lot of fat. In large amounts, just about any type of nut could be fatal, either by causing pancreatitis or salt toxicity. Peanuts, for example, are not necessarily toxic, but can be dangerous because of their high fat content and the fact that large amounts of salt is usually added. Many dogs, just like people, are also allergic to certain nuts. A severe reaction could cause the throat and nose to swell rapidly, choking your dog to death. Most of the research I’ve done shows that don’t need nuts as part of their diet, so it’s better to be safe and avoid them altogether.

If you are convinced to share nutty treats with your dog due to one of their many persuasive tactics, just be careful in the choice of nuts and the quantity shared (stick to 2-4 nuts at most on any day) to be safe — and NO moldy nuts, walnuts, or worst of all, macadamia nuts!

FYI: Caesar absolutely loves nuts (and most food really) but I am able to break the nuts that we occasionally share (almonds, cashews and pistachios) into smaller pieces so he gets two to three “treats” from any single nut! 🙂  Keeps us both happy.

Remember: “Puppy dog eyes only work on the naive “- Author Unknown 

Dr. Menen (and I bet we’ve all been naive at some point with our dogs…!)

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2 responses »

  1. kimscaravelli says:

    Very informative! I did not know that nuts could be a problem for dogs… although truthfully, my standard schnauzer Buster is such a picky eater that he really isn’t much for eating anything that drops on the floor (If it doesn’t cost a fortune and come from an inconveniently located, organic pet store, he’s uninterested!). Keep writing!

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 Glad you learned something here! Sounds like there’s no real worry (except financially!) for Buster!!
      Have a great day!
      Dr. Menen

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