If you love nuts and want your dog to experience them too, it's important to know that what are considered healthy nuts for humans are not necessarily good for dogs. Some, like macadamia nuts, are highly toxic to dogs. Most nuts are high in fat, while some are choking hazards for dogs. The salt with which many nuts are seasoned is bad for dogs too. If you want to give your dog a nut now and then, it's important to know those that are safe for dogs and those that are not.
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Get rid of toxic macadamia nuts
It is not known exactly what ingredient makes macadamia nuts so toxic to dogs, but symptoms typically appear within 12 hours of eating them. Even a small amount of the nut can make a dog sick. Symptoms of macadamia nut toxicosis include vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, ataxia (wobbling gait, head tilting, etc.), hyperthermia (overheating exhibited by excessive panting), diarrhea, and depression. If you must have macadamia nuts in the house, keep them in a cabinet or the refrigerator and alert all family members to keep them away from your dogs.
Almonds are a choking risk
While people are encouraged to eat a handful of almonds as a healthy snack, they are a choking hazard for dogs. The elongated shape of almonds make them the ideal size, unfortunately, to lodge in a dog's throat, and their hardness means they might not be chewed enough to become safe-size pieces. The same is true for walnuts and pecans, and all three can also block the intestines if they remain large.
Cashews and others have too much fat
Cashews are not toxic to dogs, but like most nuts, they are full of fat that dogs do not need. Eating too many of them could cause vomiting and diarrhea or could even lead to pancreatitis. The same goes for peanuts, although peanuts are technically legumes. If you give your dog very small amounts of these, the amount of fat will not hurt them, but be sure the nuts are not salted or seasoned.
Giving peanut butter occasionally is OK
It's no secret that most dogs love peanut butter, and it's OK to give them a teaspoonful as a treat now and then. That means the trick of hiding a prescribed pill inside a ball of peanut butter, which has saved many pet owners whose dogs don't like to swallow pills, is still fine to do. Use low-fat varieties when you can and steer clear of chunky style since the pieces can be a choking risk. Also avoid any peanut butter that contains the artificial sweetener xylitol (or any food that uses it) since it commonly causes diarrhea in dogs.
Watch out for allergies
Some dogs, just like people, are allergic to nuts, which is especially important to look out for if you give your dog peanut butter. Signs of allergic reactions include stomach upset, skin irritation, and even the loss of hair. If you notice any of these signs or other troubling symptoms after your dog eats peanut butter, call your vet for advice. Of course, for severe reactions, like difficulty breathing, take your dog to an emergency animal hospital/clinic or call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals poison control center at (888) 426-4435.
Give fruits and veggies instead
While it's true that nuts contain vitamins that can be valuable in a dog's diet, fruits and vegetables do too, and they are much healthier and less risky than nuts. Some fruits and vegetables are toxic to dogs, however, including grapes, raisins, avocados, tomatoes, and anything in the allium family, such as garlic and onions. High-quality dog food should make up most of your dog's diet, so give veggies and fruits only as treats and be sure to count their calories when determining your dog's overall diet.
- American Kennel Club: Can Dogs Eat Nuts?
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control Alert: People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control
- Merck Manual Veterinary Manual: Macadamia Nut Toxicosis in Dogs