In different parts of the U.S., residents are experiencing an abundance of acorns and other types of tree nuts falling to the ground. Mast years occur every 2-to-5-years, when huge crops of acorns, along with hickory nuts and walnuts, are suddenly available to squirrels, chipmunks, deer – and your dog.
My dog especially likes to search for the broken-up pieces of acorns left by hungry squirrels. However, acorns and other tree nuts are better left for the local wildlife to devour. Nuts are a choking hazard for dogs, can cause intestinal blockages and gastrointestinal (GI) distress, and in some cases are very toxic when eaten by our canine pals.
Acorn Danger for Dogs
Acorns are nuts from oak trees containing tannins that are harmful to dogs. When dogs eat them, they may suffer severe stomach upset, kidney failure, and sometimes even death. “If you think your dog has eaten acorns, it’s best to call your veterinarian right away because delaying treatment can lead to permanent damage,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer.
Acorn poisoning, called Quercus poisoning, is also caused by ingestion of oak leaves. The buds and immature green acorns contain the highest concentration of tannins, so they are the most dangerous when consumed by our dogs.
Symptoms can occur within a few hours of ingestion and include:
Treatment for Acorn Poisoning
If you think your dog ingested acorns, do not try to make him vomit. “Depending on how many acorns your dog ingested, the size of your dog, and the severity of his reaction, he may need IV fluid rehydration, an X-ray to determine if there’s a blockage, or surgery,” says Dr. Klein.
The dog may require medication to control vomiting, diarrhea, and pain. The veterinarian may also collect blood samples to evaluate the dog’s kidney and liver function.
“Prevention is the best approach,” advises Dr. Klein. He suggests walking your dog on a leash during acorn season, avoiding areas with heavy ground covers of tree nuts, and teaching “leave it” or “drop” commands to prevent your dog from eating harmful objects.
Other Tree Nuts to Avoid
The nuts that grow on trees offer differing levels of danger for your dog. Most nuts are a choking hazard, especially those with a hard shell. Once tree nuts fall to the ground, they may become moist and develop a type of mold that can be toxic to dogs – causing seizures and other neurological symptoms. Nuts have a high-fat content. They can be too rich for a dog’s diet and cause pancreatitis and contribute to obesity.
Here’s a list of tree nuts and their impact on dogs:
Almonds: While a small amount may not be harmful, it doesn’t take very many almonds to cause GI distress. Many almonds are flavored with salt and other seasonings that are dangerous to dogs.
Cashews: Cashews are not toxic, but they are high in fat and can lead to GI upset, pancreatitis, and obesity. Eating a few won’t hurt your dog if they are shelled and unsalted.
Hazelnuts: Although the nuts aren’t toxic, the shells of hazelnuts are extremely hard and can cause choking and blockages.
Macadamia nuts: Never give your dog macadamia nuts. They can lead to vomiting, ataxia (loss of muscle control), weakness, hyperthermia, and depression.
Pecans: Pecans are toxic for dogs. They contain aflatoxin, which can cause illness and sometimes death. When pecans drop to the ground and become moldy, they can cause seizures. They also have extremely hard shells that lead to choking and blockages.
Pine nuts: In small amounts, pine nuts are safe for your dog to eat. They’re high in fat, so avoid feeding large amounts.
Pistachios: Pistachios, even when shelled, are a size and shape that is easy for a dog to choke on. However, they aren’t toxic.
Walnuts: A small number of fresh walnuts can be a special treat, but you should avoid giving your dog black walnuts.
In a Nutshell
Dr. Klein advises that although some types of nuts aren’t toxic to dogs, many are and all of them contain more fat and calories than your dog needs. Nuts and their hard shells are choking hazards and can cause GI obstructions.
Leaving acorns to the squirrels and other tree nuts to humans is a good idea. There are plenty of other treats that are much healthier for your dog.