When you grab a handful of nuts as a healthy snack, you may be tempted to share a few with your canine companion as a special treat. However, like many human foods, some nuts are not safe for dogs to eat. Others are largely harmless and even contain nutrients and antioxidants that are healthy for your dog. Learn about the potential dangers to keep your best friend safe.
Most nuts are fairly safe for dogs to eat, but the exception is the macadamia nut, which is extremely toxic to dogs and can cause serious neurological symptoms. Veterinarians are not yet certain which specific compound causes these symptoms, so avoid feeding anything that contains macadamia nuts.
Walnuts and black walnuts are also potentially dangerous, with walnut poisoning accounting for many emergency vet visits. Since walnuts are typically non-toxic, the poisoning effect may be because dogs often dig into old or moldy nuts. Black walnuts and hickory nuts also contain a compound called juglone, which is toxic to many animals. While dogs seem to be able to process small amounts without a problem, it may be better to avoid those nuts.
No matter the variety, never feed your dog old or moldy nuts, even if there is no mold visible yet. Many molds that grow on nuts contain aflatoxins, which have life-threatening effects, including liver failure.
Also be wary of feeding larger or particularly hard nuts, including almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts — dogs typically don’t chew their food thoroughly, so these varieties can cause intestinal blockages and other injuries.
As for the less-harmful varieties, peanuts, cashews, pistachios and pecans are all fairly safe for dogs. However, since nuts are high in fat, be careful about feeding any of these in large amounts. Too much fat can cause weight gain and diarrhea, and some dogs may develop pancreatitis, which can cause organ damage if left untreated. Talk to your vet before adding nuts as a regular part of your dog’s diet, and call an animal poison control hotline or your veterinarian if you think your dog may have eaten something toxic. Supplementing your dog’s diet with nuts can have benefits, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. Some dangers may not be obvious in nut products, such as this common peanut butter additive that is toxic to dogs.
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