Help! My Dog Ate An Almond

Try searching “can dogs eat almonds” and you’ll see dire warnings, like “7 Dangers of Almonds for Dogs” or “Why Almonds Are Bad for Dogs“.

This is absolute rubbish and internet myth-making at its worst. Why is everyone so afraid of almonds? Because they only read each others’ blogs instead of trusting evidence or experience.

It’s always safer to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’, isn’t it! Here I’ll go through each of those ‘seven ways’ and demonstrate their lack of accuracy.

And what do you know, they actually missed a real problem too.

Are Almonds Safe For Dogs?

Almonds consumed in small amounts appear as safe for dogs as humans.

There is no evidence that sweet almonds sold for human consumption are dangerous to dogs. There appear to be no published papers of danger to dogs, nor any anecdotal reports from vets despite extensive experience.

The (Supposed) Dangers Of Almonds

So, you are thinking, what are those 7 dangers? I’ll demolish each in turn then give you that eighth.

  1. Choking hazard. There is no doubt that a human would be at higher risk than a dog. The horizontal position of a dog’s airway makes choking much less common, and besides, dog biscuits are often the same size. Just please don’t throw almonds for a dog to catch, just like you wouldn’t throw kibble.
  2. Gastrointestinal upsets. This is as true for almonds as it is for eating anything out of the ordinary. There is nothing special about almonds over, say, a chicken breast. Small amounts should be OK for most dogs.
  3. Fluid retention. Sure, if a dog eats a whole packet of salted almonds, you’d better call a vet, but just a few? No problem. There’s much more risk from salt in many other common foodstuffs.
  4. Pancreatitis. There’s a kernel (hehehe) of truth here in that dogs prone to pancreatitis should not be fed oily or fatty foods. But this is a small percent of dogs, and you’ll run into much more danger from everyday dog treats you buy at the pet store. If your dog vomits or goes off their food frequently, get a checkup with your vet.
  5. Bladder & kidney stones. Nuts are not especially risky, and you’d need to eat a lot even if it could happen (for which there’s no evidence of course). Dogs prone to bladder stones are fed special prescription diets as all regular foods increase the risk.
  6. Allergies. This list of allergy foods is the best evidence we have, and almonds were not identified. All foods can potentally cause an allergy but unless we feed our dogs nothing we have to take a risk somewhere.
  7. Aflatoxins. These are mould toxins, and if your dog is being poisoned, then so are you! Of course the risk is very low with correct storage.

A real danger occurs with bitter almonds. These are closely related to sweet almonds but contain significant amounts of cyanide. They are mostly only sold for special uses such as herbal remedies. I also suspect that some old almond trees are of the bitter variety but I understand they’re fairly unpleasant to taste.

How Many Almonds Can A Dog Eat?

I’m certainly not advocating that you start feeding almonds to your dog. However, if you are eating almonds and you drop a few, your dog can eat them as safely as many other foods. Just don’t make a habit of it. If they keep doing it they will get a sore tummy, and probably sooner than you.

Which Nuts Are Toxic To Dogs?

Of the commonly available nuts, only macadamias are known to be bad for dogs. They are associated with tremors or shaking, but rarely anything worse due to the amount required to be eaten.

I have never identified a case of macadamia poisoning and consider it one of the rarest poisonings of dogs.

Other nuts will have their own issues. Pistachios contain excess salt, many others are coated in toxic chocolate, and you can read about the safety of walnuts here.

So let’s all relax a bit. Heaven knows, there’s enough to worry about as it is.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Andrew

3 Replies to “Help! My Dog Ate An Almond”

  1. Thanks for another informative post Dr Andrew. I’ve got a question about macadamia nuts as a friend has a large and very prolific macadamia tree in his yard and both of his dogs have eaten the nuts since they were puppies – one, in particular, eats quite a few. They’re both bigger dogs (one’s a choc lab & the other a large mix) and don’t seem to have any effects from eating them – could they have developed a tolerance for them?

    1. Hi Judy. It’s a good question, but I wonder how the dogs can get through the shells without breaking their teeth, and why their owner would waste such lovely nuts on the dogs! Though seriously, I’ve got a tree myself and it does tend to drop nuts without warning.
      We don’t know the toxic principle behind the nuts but I’ve done a quick bit of research and the toxic dose for dogs averages at around 4 macadamia nuts per kg body weight. This is larger than the amount that would fall sporadically from a tree, and is more typical of a dog getting into a whole bowl at a time.

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