Help! My Dog Ate A Walnut

This week on our homemade diet page there is the grim spectacle of people telling other people off. One feeds their dog walnuts, and the other tells them they shouldn’t.

This debate is but a taste of what appears online. But who is correct?

Like with all internet myths, there’s a grain of truth in there. Let’s find it!

Are Walnuts Safe For Dogs?

Walnuts are safe to feed to dogs, as long as you keep five things in mind:

  1. Walnuts in shell can be dangerous especially for small dogs. In a dog’s rush to eat them, they may swallow the shell leading to intestinal obstructions.
  2. Walnuts fallen from the tree are extremely dangerous due to a black mould that causes tremors and seizures. These are almost indistinguishable from snail bait poisoning.
  3. Black Walnuts are toxic. This is a rare tree in Australia as the nuts are not edible for humans either.
  4. Dogs prone to pancreatitis can get sick from any oily or fatty food, such as nuts. If your dog vomits frequently or goes off their food without good reason, see your vet for a blood test.
  5. Too much of any unusual food can upset a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to vomiting or diarrhoea, but should resolve within 24 hours.

These considerations should also apply to pecans.

Help! My Dog Ate A Walnut

So you drop a walnut kernel and your dog gets to it before you do. What do you do? Answer: not worry too much.

I still would not make a point of feeding walnuts for the reasons listed above. Giving walnut oil is definitely not advised in the same way as any fats or oils. But even if you do deliberately give the odd walnut, you’re unlikely to do harm.

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. Therefore, macadamia poisoning is rarely seen by vets.

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 almonds here.

The main threat is to those dogs that have a walnut tree in their yard. These trees are best either fenced or stripped before the nuts mature, just to be sure. If that’s out of the question, then at least keep the grass short underneath the tree and pick up fallen nuts every day.

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

2 Replies to “Help! My Dog Ate A Walnut”

  1. Thanks for your article, it weas excellent. I do have 1 question, it relates to oak trees and acorns. We have a huge oak tree that dominates our 1/4 acrer block, and we have a golden retriever. She is obsessed with finding acorns and eating the kernal. We have trained her as much as possible not to eat them, and I do think they disagree with her. They also get green mould if they sit on the damp ground. Are they toxic?

    1. Hi Vicki. Acorn poisoning is rare, but that’s because most dogs don’t eat them. I think if a dog eats enough acorns they will certainly develop kidney damage and possibly also liver injury. It’s a shame your dog is showing interest. The risk is even greater if there is any mould, as it’s a rare mouldy item that is not poisonous.

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