It’s not that simple
So, can dogs eat nuts? You won’t be happy to know that there is no simple answer to that question. If introduced to the diet responsibly, nuts can actually offer a great source of protein and fat for canines – however, they can just as well be a deadly threat. It depends on many factors, such as the type of nut, your dog’s individual traits, as well as the frequency of potential nut consumption.
Peanuts, almonds, walnuts… No nut is the same
Different nuts contain different concentration of certain nutrients and substances, some of which can be harmful to dogs. Knowing the composition of common nuts will allow you to determine which types of nuts are generally safe for dogs to eat and which should be avoided at all costs.
These nuts are best to avoid
- Almonds: they contain cyanide in their shells, which can lead to the development of hydrogen cyanide in canines’ blood. Hydrogen cyanide can in turn lead to respiratory issues, paralysis and even death, if ingested by dogs on a regular basis.
- Brazil nuts: just like almonds, they are rich in cyanide, except they possess significantly higher levels of this poisonous compound.
- Peanuts: although rich in unsaturated fats and high-quality protein, peanuts are the main ingredient of peanut butter, which, despite being a popular treat for dogs, usually contains xylitol, which may cause xylitol toxicity and, consequently, hypoglycemia.
- Walnuts: canines can’t digest them properly, since walnuts contain poisonous compounds called juglone and anthycyanins, which are thought to be toxic to dogs – they can lead to increased lethargy and weakened motor skills. If ingested in large quantities, they can even cause paralysis of the hind legs and trouble breathing. Black walnuts are particularly toxic to dogs, especially when mold – they produce tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can give your dog seizures.
- Pecan: these, on the other hand, can prove to be hazardous to dogs’ health in the long run, as they contain high levels of phytic acid. Phytic acid can make minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and zinc unavailable to the body because it blocks their absorption during digestion. This can eventually lead to poor nutrient absorption in general, issues with the digestive system and stool dryness.
These nuts are safe for dogs to eat
Now it’s time to focus on the nuts that dogs can eat without them having an adverse effect on their health. While these can be included in your canine’s diet, you might want to limit their intake to once or twice a week:
- Hazelnuts: they can help canines suffering from arthritis, and even serve as a form of treatment for this condition. They can also be given to canines suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhea, since they can help neutralize their bowel movement.
- Cashew nuts: they can potentially help your dog with inflammatory issues and gastrointestinal problems – mind, however, that they are high in fat and might lead to excess weight gain.
- Hickory nuts: these can help prevent canines’ blood vessels from hardening, while improving their heart health.
- Macadamia nuts: they are particularly beneficial if your canine is overweight or obese, as they can cause a decrease in appetite and help them lose weight.
- Pistachios: their high levels of antioxidants (particularly vitamin A and carotene) can help decrease appetite and improve digestion.
No matter the kind of nuts, you should remember to always get rid of the shell before giving them to your dog. Whole nuts can be particularly dangerous, as dogs swallow them whole without chewing or cracking the shell open, causing them to choke or hurt their internal organs. If this happens, you can have a potentially deadly obstruction on your hands that can require veterinary intervention to remove.
No dog is the same, either
Whether dogs can eat nuts depends largely on their body size. Even healthy nuts can cause intestinal distress in canines if eaten in larger quantities or by small dogs. It is estimated that per every kilogram of its body mass, a dog can enjoy about one ounce of nuts. Doubling that can lead to abdominal discomfort and vomiting, while tripling it can even cause an obstruction in their bowels.
Similarly, xylitol toxicity can be particularly seen in dogs that weigh 1-15 pounds, with smaller dogs being more sensitive to this sweetener than bigger ones. If you’re going to feed your dog peanut butter, make sure it’s completely sugar-free.
Additional risk factors
Another factor to take into account when deciding whether dogs can eat nuts is your dog’s overall health. The most common condition that makes nuts extra dangerous for dogs is allergy to nuts or any substance present in them – it needn’t be explained that if your dog is allergic, it should stay away from nuts altogether.
Another risk factors to take into account are diabetes and pancreatitis, as pancreatitis in dogs is caused by a buildup of too much fat in their blood.
Moderation is key
Can dogs eat nuts? We know now that they can, in fact, eat some kinds of them. The question is, how much nut can a dog have? After all, it’s the dose that makes the poison, meaning that all nuts can be either okay or toxic for dogs in certain amounts. Also, many nuts have a high fat content in them, which slows down the absorption of any dangerous compounds. Though you shouldn’t let your dog eat too many nuts at once, you needn’t worry about him having one or two on occasion either.
Can dogs eat nuts? When in doubt, ask a vet
In summary, whether you can feed your dog any kinds of nuts can often be highly individual. No one knows your dog better than a vet who, on top of possessing veterinary knowledge, has access to your dog’s medical records and can assess individual risk factors. Do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian before you make any change to your dog’s diet.
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