Nut Dangers to Dogs

Nuts are always popular treats, not just as an easy snack, but also in all sorts of baked goodies and other recipes. It is important that dog owners not share many of those snacks and treats with their pets, however, because of the different nut dangers to dogs. Understanding those dangers can help dog owners keep their pets safe.

Some Nuts Are Okay – In Moderation

When dog owners first learn that nuts can be dangerous to dogs, they may be shocked to see peanut and peanut butter-flavored treats available for dogs from pet stores, major retailers and even specialty pet bakeries. The truth is that not all nuts are equally hazardous, and peanuts and peanut butter in limited quantities can be a fine treat for dogs if the nuts are offered appropriately. Roasted peanuts without any added salt or flavorings are best, and nuts should be already shelled. If offering peanut butter to dogs, low sodium varieties are best, but avoid any peanut butter with sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners as they can be extremely toxic, even fatal, to dogs. It is also important to note that some dogs can have peanut allergies, so peanuts and peanut butter should be offered cautiously until pet owners are sure their dogs have no adverse reactions.

In addition to peanuts and peanut butter, several other types of nuts are also suitable for dogs if offered appropriately. Almonds, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts can be eaten by dogs, but always offer these treats only rarely to avoid too much fat, choking hazards or other potential problems.

Say Never to These Nuts

Many nuts that are popular favorites as human treats are never suitable for dogs and can cause drastic health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, neurological damage, hives, disorientation and pancreatitis. While every dog's tolerance for different nuts will vary and some dog breeds and even individual dogs are more sensitive than others, these nuts should never be offered to dogs:

  • Cashews
  • Hickory nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

Even small amounts of these nuts can be dangerous to dogs, and for some, such as cashews, the dangers are much stronger with raw nuts rather than roasted, but the risk is still there.

Hidden Dangers All Nuts Pose to Dogs

The dangers nuts create for dogs go beyond just ingesting potentially toxic foods. All nuts, even those that are considered safe for dogs, can still be dangerous in different ways.

  • The high fat content of most nuts can quickly lead to  health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, loss of mobility and other concerns, especially if the dog's diet is not adjusted for all the fat and calories added by nuts being offered as treats.
  • Nuts are hard and can cause choking hazards, especially for smaller dogs and puppies, though large nuts can be problematic for bigger breeds as well. Internally, large pieces of nuts or whole small nuts can also cause intestinal or digestive tract blockages.
  • The sharp edges of broken shells a dog may bite on could cause cuts and scratches to sensitive tissues such as the gums, lips and tongue, as well as internal damage to the throat, stomach or intestines if the shell pieces are swallowed.

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Nuts

Fortunately, it is easy to keep your dog completely safe from nuts with a few simple steps.

  • For the safest course of action, avoid offering any nuts to dogs at all, especially from mixed nut cans that may have the more toxic nut varieties mixed in.
  • Keep dishes, bowls, cans or jars of snacking nuts out of reach of pets at all times, including off low coffee tables or other locations where dogs could sneak a bite.
  • Don't feed backyard birds or other wildlife any whole nuts or mixes with nuts, as many birds will spill or bury foods and dogs could find the nuts.
  • Never offer dogs any baked goods with nuts, and keep plates of cookies, brownies, fruitcake and other treats with nuts well out of reach of pets.
  • Do not use nut-producing trees in your landscaping, or if they are already there and cannot be removed, clean up fallen nuts right away so dogs are not tempted.

Because all types of nuts, even the "safe" varieties, can be risky for dogs, it is best for many dog owners to simply avoid feeding their pets these morsels. With a good understanding of dangers nuts can pose to dogs, however, it is easy to choose safer, healthier treats dogs will enjoy just as much without any of the risks.

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