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Are Nuts Safe For Dogs To Eat?

Is your dog nuts? It's one thing if your dog acts a little nuts, it's another thing if they're eating them. Nuts can be a delicious and healthy natural snack for humans, but the same can't necessarily be said for our canine companions. So, are nuts safe for dogs to eat? Find out the answer here and more.

Can Dogs Eat Nuts?

In general, nuts are are not the best snack for your dog. While a few occasional non-toxic ones shouldn't cause your dog any problems, it's a good idea to avoid feeding nuts to your dog. Here's why:

1. High fat content

Nuts have a lot of fat, which dogs have trouble digesting. For example, just one ounce of almonds has 14 grams of fat, one ounce of walnuts has 18 grams of fat and one ounce of cashews have 12 grams of fat. Too much can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, obesity and, in severe cases, pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening to dogs. Symptoms of pancreatitis include decreased or loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and occasionally diarrhea.

2. High in calories

Nuts are also high in calories, which can lead to weight gain or obesity. For instance, just one ounce of almonds has 161 calories, one ounce of walnuts has 183 calories and one ounce of cashews have 155 calories. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central database, 100 grams (or 1/2 cup) of blanched almonds have 590 calories, raw English walnuts have 654 calories and raw cashews have 553 calories.

3. Choking hazard

Nuts are small and because of this, they can be choking hazards for dogs. For smaller dogs and toy breeds, whole nuts can cause intestinal obstruction, which can make it difficult for them to poop and may even require surgery to resolve.

4. Additives, coatings, salt and sweeteners

A lot of nuts come with coatings, additives and sweeteners that can be toxic to dogs. For example, some nuts have cocoa dusting or chocolate coating while others have garlic, onion and various spices. In addition, many nuts contain a lot of salt, which isn't great for dogs. Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and water retention. In addition, salt can worsen the conditions of dogs with underlying heart or kidney issues, as well as those prone to developing urinary stones. 

5. Mold

One hidden danger of nuts is actually mold. Those that have been around for awhile, especially those left sitting out, can develop a mold that contains tremorgenic mycotoxins. If ingested, these dangerous compounds can cause neurological issues, seizures and even death in dogs.

Pro Tip: Store nuts in the fridge or freezer to prolong their shelf life and delay the development of mold.

    Which Common Nuts Are Toxic vs. Safe?

    While several nuts are technically safe for dogs to eat, it's recommended you avoid giving your dog nuts at all for the reasons mentioned above. Here's a list of common nuts and whether they are toxic or non-toxic, Just remember that even the safe options are high in fat and calories, potential choking and intestinal obstruction risk, and can develop toxic mold:

    • Almonds (not toxic)
    • Brazil nuts (not toxic)
    • Cashews, cooked (not toxic)
    • Cashews, raw (toxic)
    • Hazel nuts (not toxic)
    • Hickory nuts (not toxic)
    • Macadamia nuts (toxic)
      • Signs of toxicity: vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, tremors, dizziness, difficulty walking, head tilting, depression, cold intolerance, hyperthermia (overheating) and excessive panting, high temperature, seizures, temporary paralysis and other neurological issues.
    • Pecans (not toxic)
    • Pistachios (not toxic)
    • Walnuts, Black (toxic)
      • Signs of toxicity: vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness and tremors, a high temperature, and seizures.
    • Walnuts, English (not toxic)

    If you think your dog may have ingested nuts and is exhibiting signs of toxicity (which typically arise with 12 hours), consult your vet as soon as possible. Make sure to tell your vet whatever information you know (such as type of nut ingested) so they can provide proper treatment. The outlook for dogs who ingest nuts is typically good, as things often resolve on their own within 48 hours. If your dog is showing signs of pancreatitis, contact your vet immediately and think about bringing your dog to an emergency animal hospital.

    How To Prevent Your Dog from Eating Nuts

    To prevent your pup from eating nuts, keep them out of your dog's reach and stored in air tight containers they can't get into. Storing nuts in the fridge or freezer not only prolongs their shelf life and delays mold, but also keeps them inaccessible from your dog. If you don't want to store them in the fridge, you can place them in upper cabinets or on top shelves in a pantry. Just make sure to always keep cabinet and pantry doors closed and remove any nuts from countertops, tables and purses. Also remind children and guests not to give your dog any chocolate (or table scraps and other human food, for that matter). Watch children that have been given nuts to ensure all are eaten, none are dropped and you can clean up anything that has been left behind.

    What About Peanuts And Peanut Butter?

    Peanuts are not technically a nut, but rather a legume and are not toxic to dogs. That being said, they are high in fat and calories. In addition, peanuts can contain a naturally occurring mold byproduct called aflatoxins. Rigorous U.S. food safety measures minimize the risk of being exposed to it in peanut products, however. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that there have been no human illness outbreak due to aflatoxins in the country. So peanuts are safe in moderation, just make sure they are unsalted, unseasoned and shelled.

    Similarly, peanut butter is safe for dogs in moderation. But it is also high in fat and calories, plus many commercial products have added sugars or sweeteners and salt. Because of this, it's recommended to give your dog a natural peanut butter product with no additives. No matter what, make sure there is no artificial sweetener Xylitol (often found in "sugar-free" peanut butters). Xylitol is very toxic to dogs and can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or liver failure if ingested.

    Look For Signs Of Allergies

    Just like humans can have nut and peanut allergies, dogs can too. So make sure to keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction if your dog has ingested nuts, peanuts or peanut butter. These often include:

    • Gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea
    • Skin redness, irritation and itching
    • Hair loss
    • Difficulty breathing (severe case)

    If you observe any of these, contact your vet and take your dog to an emergency animal hospital or clinic for any breathing issues.

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