Can Dogs Eat Nuts and Should They?

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Poorly dog lying next to a nut.

Whilst nuts are packed full of fibre, protein and healthy fat, making them an ideal snack for people, dogs have a much more complicated relationship with them. When it comes to nuts, there is not a simple answer

Some nuts are more toxic than other nuts, and while it is generally recommended to avoid feeding your dog nuts, some nuts are safe in small, occasional quantities. If you insist on finding a nutty treat for your dog, we cannot stress how important it is to double and triple check the variety. 

If we’re completely honest, your best bet is to find your dog a different fruit or vegetable to use as a nutritional treat. After all, there are plenty of options to choose from

What are the health dangers of eating nuts?

Bowl of nuts.

One of the concerns in feeding your dog ‘safe’ nuts is that with so many different varieties, it can be difficult to tell nuts apart. And, with some nuts capable of causing serious harm, this is not always a risk dog parents are willing to take. 

Consuming large quantities of these ‘safer’ nuts, however, can still have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health. 

Obesity

Nuts are not a particularly healthy snack choice. Regardless of the variety, all nuts are extremely calorific: 

Nut Type

Calories (kcal*/100g)

Almond (Blanched)

590

Almonds (Dry Roasted, Unsalted)

598

Cashews (Dry Roasted, Unsalted)

574

Cashews (Raw)

553

Peanuts (Dry Roasted, Unsalted)

587

Peanuts (Raw)

567

Pecans (Dry Roasted, Unsalted)

710

Pecans (Raw)

691

Pistachios (Dry Roasted, Unsalted)

572

Pistachios (Raw)

560

English Walnuts (Raw)

654

On top of this, they also have high-fat content. Arguably, some of these fats are good for humans and dogs as they contain omega-3 fatty acids. However, other foods contain this type of omega, such as fish, mangos and berries, to name a few.

For dogs, even a small portion of ‘safe’ nuts can have a negative effect on their diet, leading to canine obesity in the long term. If your dog has already been advised by a vet to watch their weight, it is advisable to find an extremely low-calorie treat food, such as melon chunks and pieces of cucumber.

Dehydration

In addition to being high in fat, nuts also have high levels of sodium. Sodium, being a key component in salt, can be toxic for dogs when ingested in high quantities. If a dog consumes an excessive amount of sodium, this can lead to salt poisoning

A dog should not be consuming nuts in a quantity that can cause salt poisoning; however, a common side effect of too much sodium is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your pup loses the level of moisture within their gums, causing a dry throat and an extreme thirst. Extreme dehydration will affect your dog’s energy levels, decreasing their appetite and causing their energy levels to plummet. 

Unfortunately, a lot of dry roasted nuts are cooked in seasoned with salt. It is best to avoid these nuts and only offer your dog the occasional, unsalted nut. Too much salt can also cause your dog to develop high blood pressure.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Poorly, sad dog.

Due to the high-fat content in nuts, many dogs suffer from an upset stomach and, for some, this can cause more serious gastrointestinal issues. From excessive vomiting and diarrhoea, your dog can be in extreme discomfort. 

If these gastrointestinal problems are prolonged, your pooch can suffer from urinary stones.

Pancreatitis

Similarly, if gastrointestinal issues persist, over the long term, your dog could develop pancreatitis. This condition presents itself when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This gland is responsible for producing enzymes that produce digestion, aiding your body in its ability to process sugar. When the gland becomes swollen it puts pressure on the adjacent stomach, causing some dogs to suffer from a distended belly. 

More common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and a lack of appetite. Other dogs may hunch their backs as they walk, as the discomfort impacts their posture. If you suspect your dog has developed pancreatitis, it is highly recommended that you book your dog in at your local veterinary practise as soon as possible. 

For some breeds of dogs, such as Schnauzers, their sensitivity to high-fat diets means they are more prone to this condition. If you are ever unsure about what is best for your dog, speak to your qualified veterinary surgeon.

Fungal Contamination

Some nuts come with the added risk of containing mould. Nuts such as brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and walnuts, have the highest mould content. For dogs, mould exposure can lead to the fungal contamination of aflatoxin. This toxin is extremely dangerous to both your and your dog; for dogs, however, high levels of aflatoxin can lead to serious health conditions and, in most extreme cases, death. 

Choking Hazard

Nuts also come with an elevated risk of choking, due to their small size and hard exterior. As dogs do not have molars, they are unable to grind down their food. This means, with particularly hard or shelled nuts, dogs may attempt to eat them whole. The chances of these foods getting stuck in their throats increase significantly. 

It is, therefore, a rule not to feed your dog any ‘safe’ nut that has not previously been de-shelled to avoid this risk. We recommend keeping your dog in your sights, allowing you to make sure no part of the nut has become lodged in their throat.

So, which nuts are safe for dogs and which are toxic?

Pistachio nuts.

Now you are aware of all the risks surrounding the nuts deemed as ‘safe,’ it is crucial you can identify the most toxic nuts to avoid them. 

Nuts with a Mild Risk

  • Peanuts - In small, occasional quantities, dogs can enjoy the odd unsalted peanut. You must ensure the peanuts have been roasted and are not coated in anything, particularly not sugar or salt.
  • Chestnuts - These nuts can be enjoyed by your dog; but, again, only occasionally and in small quantities. If your dog overindulges, do not be surprised if they suffer an upset stomach.

It is worth reiterating, that even these safe nuts should never become a regular part of your dog’s diet.

Nuts with a Moderate Risk 

  • Almonds - While almonds are not toxic, they can upset your dog’s stomach as many dogs struggle to digest these nuts. If your dog suffers from gastric intestinal distress, it is best to avoid almonds altogether. 
  • Cashews - These nuts cannot be given to your dogs in their raw form. When raw, cashews share a similar toxin to that found in poison ivy. Therefore, one or two unsalted cashews that have been roasted or baked can be ok for healthy dogs. However, they do contain a high level of potassium, which is not recommended for dogs with urinary issues.
  • Hazelnuts - This nut is not toxic for your dog. The thing to be aware of with hazelnuts is their size; they are small enough for dogs to wolf down without chewing, causing a choking hazard.
  • Pecans - It is best to avoid these nuts as pecans that have gone past their best contain the Aspergillus fungi that produce the dangerous aflatoxin. In addition to this toxin causing liver damage, pecans are also high in fatty acids that can cause gastrointestinal issues.
  • Pistachios - Another nut best to be avoided is pistachios. Not only are they also producers of aflatoxin; but, they also pose a choking hazard and can block your dog’s intestines if not prepared correctly. With a high-fat content too, there is an increased risk of weight gain and pancreatitis. 
  • Pine Nuts - Often excluded from lists of toxic nuts, pine nuts do have high fat and phosphorus levels increasing their ability to upset your dog’s tummy. If your pup overindulges in pine nuts or consumes them too often, they can also increase the chance of pancreatitis and urinary stones.
  • Walnuts - Black Walnuts, however,  are particularly toxic. If your dog ends up ingesting a black walnut, be sure to contact a vet immediately.

Nuts with a High Risk

  • Brazil Nuts - Recognised as one of the fattiest nuts, brazil nuts can extremely upset your dog’s stomach. This upset can lead to a multitude of digestive issues, increasing the risk of pancreatitis.
  • Flavoured Nuts - It is best to avoid all flavoured nuts as the risk is too high that they may contain another food that is toxic to your pup. Lots of nuts are coated in onion, garlic, chocolate or salt, all of which pose additional health risks.
  • Unshelled Nuts - These nuts are a no go, due to their increased choking hazard. Your dog will struggle to break down their hard exterior and could easily end up attempting to eat them whole.
  • Old Nuts - If your packet of nuts has gone past its due date, it is safer to avoid them like the plague. Old nuts can contain aflatoxin which is dangerous to both dogs and people, as it stems from a mould fungus that upsets your system, and can cause liver damage.

A Nut to Avoid at All Costs

Macadamia nuts.

Firmly on the list of foods you should never feed your dog are macadamia nuts. This variety of nuts is as poisonous as grapes for your four-legged friend. Even in controlled, small portions, they are incredibly dangerous to your dog. 

Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that causes dogs to be violently sick, giving them bouts of vomiting. The toxin is also able to cause their joints to swell, making mobility difficult. In extreme cases, large quantities of this toxin can progress causing neurological problems, tremors, seizures and, even, paralysis.

What about Peanut Butter?

Birthday dog awaiting a treat

Peanut butter is often used as a training tool or to disguise medicine and, on the whole, all dogs enjoy the occasional spoonful. Some dog parents like to spoil their pooch with a peanut butter ‘cake’ on their birthdays. There are only two things to ensure when it comes to feeding your dog peanut butter. 

The first is xylitol. This artificial sweetener is highly toxic and extremely poisonous for dogs. Always ensure your peanut butter is doggy-friendly and does not contain any sweeteners or added sugar. 

 The second is moderation. Peanut butter is an extremely unhealthy treat and, therefore, should only be given in small quantities and moderation. If you can guarantee xylitol is not included in the ingredients, a small spoonful is completely safe as a well-deserved treat for your dog. Treats should never account for more than 10% of your dog’s daily intake, as no treat will ever come close to the nutritional value found within a dog’s daily food intake.

What should you do if your dog eats a nut?

If your dog accidentally eats a nut that is ranked at a mild to moderate risk, they should be absolutely fine if this is a one-off event. The only time you need to be concerned is if your dog has a known allergy. In these situations, it is always best to gain advice from your local vet.

However, if your dog manages to snaffle one of the high-risk nuts, you should contact your local veterinary practice. If you are concerned about your dog, do not hesitate in contacting a medical professional.

The Verdict: Can dogs eat nuts?

While there are a few nuts that are safe for dogs to eat, in moderation, unseasoned and salt-free, it is advisable to avoid nuts altogether. 

For us as dog parents, there are too many risks and too much to remember when it comes to a nutty snack. And, when there are so many safer fruits and vegetables out there, it is easy to come up with an alternative food to use as a delicious treat. Your dog can enjoy a boost of necessary nutrients in a range of healthier treats alongside their daily food intake

Are you interested in improving your dog’s diet? At Bug Bakes, we offer healthy dog food full of insect-based protein. This tasty alternative keeps your dog energised, healthy and obsessed with dinner times. All the while having sustainable benefits, too.

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