We all love sharing food with our dogs, but sometimes it’s more for us than them. Before handing over a handful of trail mix to your pup—it’s best to stop and read below!
It’s generally not recommended to feed your dog nuts of any kind. Even non-toxic nuts can pose a choking hazard, create a bowel obstruction, or contain toxic ingredients like garlic or onion powder, chocolate, or high amounts of salt.
Although some nuts are safe to feed if they’re served plain and in small pieces, even these should be eaten in small amounts at most. Nuts are high in fat, and a large volume of them can lead to a life-threatening condition called pancreatitis.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether dogs can eat nuts, what kinds are toxic, and which can be safe if fed properly and in moderation.
Table of Contents:
- Why aren’t Nuts Good for Dogs?
- Which Nuts are Poisonous to Dogs?
- What Nuts Can Dogs Eat?
- Can Cats Eat Nuts?
Why aren’t Nuts Good for Dogs?
Before we get into which types of nuts are toxic or safe for dogs, let’s talk about why feeding your dog nuts is generally a bad idea.
All nuts come with risks, and it’s important to be informed before feeding anything to your beloved pup!
Related article: Can Dogs Eat Coconut?
Even Safe Types of Nuts can Contain Toxins
Even nuts that aren’t toxic to dogs have risks. Firstly, some raw nuts contain toxins known as tannins and must be cooked before serving.
Nuts that contain seasonings or salt can also be dangerous. Many common seasonings, like garlic and onion powder, are toxic to dogs.
- Excessive drinking or urinating
- Decreased appetite
- Lack of coordination
Nuts are a Choking Hazard
Nuts are also choking hazards for dogs and can block their airway if they get stuck in their throat. Small dogs are especially at risk.
Your dog will also be at higher risk if they get ahold of a whole, unshelled nut, as these tend to be larger, rounder, and easier to choke on.
High Amounts of Fatty Foods Can Cause Pancreatitis
Most nuts also contain high amounts of fat. Of course, dogs need fats to survive, so you don’t want to avoid them completely in their diet.
However, too much fat in their diet can cause health concerns—most notably, pancreatitis. This is when the pancreas becomes inflamed, and it’s incredibly painful. Pancreatitis can also be deadly.
When my own dog had pancreatitis, he would become very still and seemed depressed. If allowed, he would drink excessive amounts of water and vomit continuously. He had no appetite.
Other symptoms of pancreatitis include stomach pain, fever, and diarrhea.
They can be Difficult to Digest
Some nuts are more difficult to digest than others, and this can lead to bowel obstructions if your dog eats them. In addition, some parts of the nut, like the shell, can also make them harder to digest.
Small dogs are most at risk because their digestive tracts are smaller, but any dog can suffer from a bowel obstruction.
Which Nuts are Poisonous to Dogs?
Several varieties of nuts are toxic to dogs, and most nuts are unsafe in high quantities. The following nuts are toxic to dogs:
- Horse chestnuts: Also known as conkers, horse chestnuts are toxic to dogs and humans. According to the ASPCA, symptoms of poisoning include severe vomiting and diarrhea, depression or excitement, dilated pupils, convulsions, coma, or wobbling.
- Macadamia nuts: Small amounts of macadamia nuts can cause symptoms such as weakened back legs, depression, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more serious cases, your dog may experience shakiness, fever, and inability to walk.
- Black walnuts: Black walnuts are often moldy and highly toxic to dogs. Symptoms of eating them include incoordination, tremors, and seizures.
- Pecans: Pecans contain a toxic substance called juglone. It can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Pecans containing mold (even fresh pecans!) can cause tremors and seizures.
Many other kinds of nuts are unsafe for dogs, though not technically toxic. These include any nut that can mold easily, is large in size, or is especially high in fat.
Some common examples include almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
What do I do if my Dog Eats Toxic Nuts?
If your dog eats toxic nuts, please call a pet poison hotline or emergency vet clinic immediately.
Different dogs react differently to toxins, and it’s best to be safe and get a professional involved. For some reason, there’s a prevalent myth that emergency vet clinics want your money and will make you come in unnecessarily—but I’ll just say that, in my experience, they’re too busy for that!
Sometimes they can’t even take on true emergencies. I’ve been turned away before in cases where they recommend other clinics in the area or tell me to call back hourly, because they admit my pet is having a crisis but cannot do anything when they’re at capacity.
Rest assured that, if you’re told to come in, it’s because your dog needs treatment.
Many, though not all, emergency vet clinics will also give you advice over the phone to help your pup if needed. Pet poison hotlines are another resource if your clinic won’t do this.
This isn’t an alternative to bringing them in, but a method of keeping them alive in case of severe poisoning. Your dog will still need to see a vet!
Please don’t try to treat your dog at home or induce vomiting without instruction from a professional. This can be dangerous for your dog, especially with hard objects like nuts that could hurt or cause damage coming back up.
It’s also often a bad idea to wait for symptoms to arise. Some toxins can cause organ damage and other internal issues, like damage to red blood cells. In these cases, you may not see symptoms from the outside until it’s too late.
What if the Nuts aren’t Toxic?
There are still risks to non-toxic nuts, as we discussed above. So, what do you do if your dog gets into them?
A few non-toxic nuts likely won’t hurt your pup. In most cases, you can simply keep an eye on them for the next few days and follow up with your veterinarian if you notice symptoms.
However, there are exceptions:
- If your dog chokes on a nut, you’ll need to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Once their airway is clear, see an emergency veterinarian for further help. Your dog may need to be hospitalized to recover after having their airway blocked.
- If your dog eats a large amount of nuts, the fat or salt content can harm them. It’s best to follow up with your veterinarian after an incident like this, just in case. Also watch your pup for symptoms of pancreatitis or salt poisoning, and visit an emergency vet clinic if needed.
- Large nuts like almonds, or shelled nuts, can cause bowel obstructions. Follow up with your veterinarian if your dog eats these. They can run scans to look for obstructions and either provide treatment or rule them out.
- The nuts or food they’re in contain other toxic ingredients, like chocolate, garlic, onion, or raisins. Follow the instructions above for dealing with toxic nuts in this case—call a pet poison hotline or emergency vet clinic immediately.
What Nuts Can Dogs Eat?
Before we talk about which nuts dogs can eat, let’s go over what to look for in any nut before feeding it to your dog. As we discussed above, even the nuts on this list can be toxic or dangerous in certain circumstances.
- Some nuts must be cooked before feeding to your dog, as they contain toxins called tannins when raw.
- Nuts must be unsalted, as too much salt is bad for your dog and can cause salt poisoning in high amounts.
- Nuts should be unseasoned, because many common seasonings like garlic and onion powder are toxic to dogs.
- Nuts shouldn’t be covered in sugar or chocolate. Excess sugar isn’t good for dogs, though a bit likely won’t hurt them. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and can make them ill.
- Feed them in moderation only—nuts shouldn’t be a consistent treat or fed by the handful. A few is plenty!
- Avoid moldy nuts, as the mold can make them toxic for your dog to eat. Sometimes the mold can be unnoticeable, which is why you should avoid feeding nuts that commonly mold as discussed above.
Now, onto the nuts that your dog can eat in moderation:
Peanuts are probably the most-fed nut for dogs—but most people feed peanut butter, rather than the nuts themselves!
If you do want to feed plain peanuts, they must be shelled and broken into small pieces. Don’t feed seasoned or salted peanuts, or those covered in chocolate.
The best way to feed your dog peanuts is a dog-safe peanut butter. Avoid peanut butters, or any other products, that contain xylitol—a sugar substitute that’s toxic to dogs. Xylitol is sometimes listed as birch sugar, wood sugar, or birch bark extract.
Peanut butter can be used as an occasional treat and is great for giving pills to your dog. It can also be placed in KONG toys or on lick mats and frozen to keep your pup busy and mentally stimulated (see also ‘Kong Dog Bed Review‘).
Just don’t give them too much—remember, peanut butter is quite high in fat and can make your dog extremely ill in high amounts.
No treat should ever exceed 10% of your dog’s daily calories, but peanut butter should fall below this percentage as it’s not the healthiest snack for dogs and can cause harm when eaten in excess.
Cashews are another nut that, while not healthy for your dog, isn’t bad for them if fed in moderation. This means just a few cashews, rather than handfuls or more.
Remember to feed only unsalted, unseasoned cashews. Avoid trail mixes or foods containing other nuts, as they might not be safe.
Most chestnuts are non-toxic to dogs as long as they’ve been cooked. However, horse chestnuts are toxic to both humans and dogs.
Before feeding a chestnut to your dog, cook it without seasonings or salt. Remove the shell and rinse to remove any other hard pieces. Then, break the nut into small pieces.
Can Cats Eat Nuts?
Nuts tend to be more dangerous for cats than dogs. Part of this is that cats are small, so more at risk of choking, bowel obstructions, or poisoning.
They can also get pancreatitis, like dogs, from the high fat content. Overall, it’s simply not worth the risk when there are better, healthier treats to give your kitty.