Dogs could go nuts for nuts. They are packed with minerals, vitamins and plant-based protein. Small quantities of nuts make up a significant benefit for your dog’s heart, cholesterol and brain. However, you should not overdo it. Some nuts are high in fat, wreaking havoc on their digestive system and eventually leading to obesity. Some nuts are an unhealthy choice for dogs, and some nuts are even toxic. An overview below.
Which nuts are bad for your dog?
Beech nuts, acorns, macadamia nuts, pecans, chestnuts and walnuts are always toxic to your dog. Even small amounts could make him very sick.
- Beech nuts
To prevent animals from eating its fruit, the beech produces prussic acid or cyanide. It’s a popular suicide drug among spies in James Bond films but it doesn’t provide a balanced diet for your dog.
Unfortunately, it is not a myth that cyanide is deadly. It causes acute renal failure when ingested in high doses, resulting in rapid death. So don’t let your dog eat beech nuts. The likelihood that your dog immediately deceases is considered rather small, but it can cause severe stomach upset. Your dog may also vomit in an attempt to excrete the poison concealed in the beech nuts.
Acorns and leaves of the oak tree contain tannin, also called tannic acid. This substance protects the tree against fungi and bacteria, but is poisonous to your dog.
Tannin binds itself to any proteins and iron in your dog’s intestines, causing failure in his intestinal tract. Your dog would have to snuff up quite a few acorns to suffer from oak poisoning, but it could lead to vomiting, nosebleeds and diarrhea in the short term. If your dog eats or chews acorns regularly, it can cause permanent damage to his liver and kidneys.
Peanuts are not actually real nuts, they’re technically part of the legume family. They contain lectins and saponins: toxins with which the peanut tree protects its fruits against bacteria, fungi and insects. In dogs, they inhibit the functioning of vitamins and proteins, and activate the immune system. Thereby creating inflammation in your dog’s body, so he’s far more likely to fall ill.
On the other paw, peanuts also contain a lot of arachidonic acid, which makes them extra pro-inflammatory. They are therefore not a healthy choice for your dog.
- Peanut butter
A heaping spoonful of peanut butter makes a good “disguise” to hide medicine in its creamy goodness plus there’s no denying that most dogs just love it. However, it’s a good choice in moderation because peanuts contain lectins, saponins and arachidonic acid. Due to the presence of these substances, he’s far more likely to fall ill. Be careful with light peanut butter. Although it is lower in fat and therefore healthier, it could contain xylitol: an artificial sweetener that is very toxic to your canine friend.
- Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are very toxic to dogs. It is difficult to pinpoint what causes their toxicity but even ingesting small amounts of these nuts lead to varied symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty walking, depression, tremors, abdominal and joint pain. Although this poison is not fatal – the symptoms usually disappear after 48 hours – we recommend you to keep macadamia nuts far away from your dog.
The horse chestnut contains tannin and saponin. These two toxins lead to vomiting, diarrhea, fever and vision problems. Chestnuts can even cause neurological complications. Symptoms include confusion, seizures, extreme agitation, and coma.
What if my dog ate poisonous nuts?
There is no need to panic if your dog swallows an acorn during an autumn walk. Has he eaten a whole bag of macadamia nuts or do you notice that he is vomiting, waddling, trembling or is he unable to stand or function? Then immediately call the vet or the poison control center (070 245 245).
Which nuts aren’t poisonous to my dog?
The following nuts are not toxic to your dog. You should be vigilant though, because all nuts are high in fat and calories. That’s not very beneficial for your dog’s waistline. A 10-pound dog should not eat more than a handful of nuts (25 grams) per day.
- Sweet almonds
Almonds contain mostly healthy, unsaturated fats. These lower your dog’s bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They are also high in potassium and low in sodium, which contribute to healthy blood pressure.
Note: One of the primary dangers is choking on almonds and blockage of your dog’s throat, windpipe and intestines. Always chop almonds up before giving them to your dog.
- Cashew nuts
Cashew nuts are repleted with vitamins B: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B11. These contribute to good health and muscle growth. Cashew nuts also contain vitamin E (an important antioxidant) and vitamin K (essential for blood coagulation). But try not to go too nuts with this snack, moderation is key!
Hazelnuts contain vitamin B6, folic acid, potassium and zinc. That promotes strong bones, healthy cell growth and the production of red blood cells. Unfortunately, due to its high fat content, large amounts of hazelnuts might cause stomach aches and digestive trouble.
Note: Hazelnuts, like almonds, present a choking hazard due to their size. Your dog getting so doggone excited receiving a savoury snack might end up with a blocked throat, windpipe or intestines. We recommend you to always chop them up before serving them to your dog to avoid constipation or choking.
- Pecan nuts
Pecan nuts are a real ‘brain food’ for your dog. The vitamins B and E in pecan nuts are known for their positive influence on brain function. In addition, this nut is known for its large amounts of magnesium, iron, manganese and zinc. The latter gives your dog smooth skin, a shiny coat and strong nails.
note: Like all trees in the walnut family (Juglandaceae), pecans are prone to molding. Its tree therefore produces a poison called juglone. This substance prevents the growth of other plants nearby. While juglone is not fatal to your dog, the former might result in stomach pains and cause intestinal discomfort.
- Pine nuts
Pine nuts are no real nuts but seeds. We can set your mind at ease right away though, because pine nuts are not toxic to your dog. Dogs can safely eat this crunchy treats in moderation since the high concentration of phosphorus in pine nuts may predispose your pup to urinary tract problems.
If you remove the shells first, pistachios are one of the healthiest and most nutritious snack for your dog. Compared to other nuts, they contain the highest level of antioxidants and the fewest calories. Pistachios are the most appropriate nuts to incorporate in your dog’s diet.
Caution: The shells of pistachios can get stuck in your dog’s throat, windpipe or gut. Remove any part of the pistachio that may pose a choking hazard for a totally safe feeding and eating experience.
- Sweet chestnuts
Sweet chestnuts contain no toxins and are low in calories, making them a healthy snack for your dog. At least, if you roast them first. Unroasted chestnuts might cause digestive trouble for some dogs, which could lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation. Always chop up the nuts to avoid the choking hazard.
It is often said that walnuts contain a toxic constituent to dogs, but that is not true. Walnuts feature important vitamins and minerals, and they lower bad cholesterol. What makes walnuts really unique is the presence of melatonin. This hormone helps your dog fall asleep more easily.
Note: Like all trees of the walnut family (Juglandaceae), the nuts and the wood of the walnut tree produces a poison called juglone. This substance prevents the growth of other plants nearby. While juglone is not fatal to your dog, eating walnuts results in symptoms ranging from stomach aches to diarrhea.
Watch out for moldy nuts
If nuts are left on the ground or on the shelf for too long, they are prone to molding. This creates natural toxins called juglone and aflatoxin: toxic substances that might result in liver failure and neurological problems. We recommend you to avoid serving old or moldy nuts to your dog.
Want to know more about prohibited foods for your four-legged friend? Be sure to check out this blog about sugar.