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Walnuts are very flavorful and nutritious snacks for humans. They are rich in fatty acids that humans would do very well to eat regularly. But the question some pet parents are asking is, can dogs eat walnuts? The short answer is, sometimes. But it's complicated and usually not recommended.
English walnuts are safe for dogs to eat in moderation, but black walnuts are toxic to dogs and can cause life-threatening symptoms if ingested. Additionally, it’s important for pet parents to watch out for mold-contaminated walnuts which can cause potentially dangerous side effects.
In this article, we’ll explain when walnuts are safe and unsafe for dogs, discuss the signs of toxicity, and suggest some alternative snacks for your furry friend.
Can Dogs Eat Walnuts?
English walnuts are generally safe for dogs to eat with approval from your vet. However, walnuts are susceptible to mold which can cause toxicity in dogs. This particular type of fungi produces metabolites called mycotoxins which can cause dangerous side effects such as seizures and tremors.
Additionally, pet parents should never feed their dog black walnuts. Black walnuts are toxic to dogs and can cause fatal side effects if ingested.1 The black walnut tree produces a chemical called juglone, which is considered the likely toxin that causes toxicity in dogs and horses. If ingested, black walnuts can result in an inflammatory response which may cause rapid breathing, urination, hypothermia, and convulsions.2
If you live near a black walnut tree or even have one on your property, be extremely cautious around falling fruit that your dog could easily access if unsupervised. It's a good idea to prune or clean the area regularly and always supervise your dog when they are outside.
Should You Feed Your Dog English Walnuts?
Walnuts are known to be very nutritious and they work great in a lot of interesting recipes for humans to eat. They contain a high density of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, as well as fatty acids that can be hard to get in a normal diet. However, walnuts are high in fat and may lead to weight gain in your pet, which may contribute to diseases such as canine diabetes.
Ultimately, feeding walnuts to your dog is not necessary as they should be getting all of the nutrients they need from their dog food. If you’re concerned about your dog’s diet and nutrition, seek help from a veterinarian. Your vet can help ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients they need and recommend supplements to support their overall health.
Additionally, walnuts are susceptible to mold which can be toxic to your pet. Overall, walnuts are not a necessary part of your pet’s diet and are best not shared with them.
Are Dogs Allergic To Walnuts?
Like humans, dogs can develop allergies to certain foods, including walnuts. Therefore, some dogs may be allergic to walnuts. This is why it’s a good idea to get clearance from your vet before feeding your dog a new food. Additionally, it’s important to monitor your pet after feeding them something new to ensure that they do not have any adverse reactions to certain foods.
Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- Itchy skin
- Skin and ear infections
If you believe your dog is having an allergic reaction to walnuts, or any food, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Signs Of Walnut Toxicity
In addition to allergic reactions, walnuts pose additional risk if they are moldy or of the black walnut variety. As discussed, black walnuts contain a chemical that can cause severe reactions in dogs.
If you believe your dog may have ingested black walnuts, it is important to watch for symptoms of toxicity and call your veterinarian if symptoms develop.
The potential symptoms of walnut poisoning in dogs include:
- Elevated body temperature
- Excessive salivation
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of coordination
- Liver damage
- Pancreas damage
- Intestinal distress
If your dog has or is suspected of having eaten black walnuts, you should watch for the symptoms listed above and take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435 for guidance.
Treatment And Recovery From Walnut Poisoning For Dogs
The first step to treating walnut poisoning is diagnosis. Your veterinarian will need to know what the symptoms are and if possible, it can be helpful to bring a sample of the food eaten. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment can begin. The veterinarian will first examine the dog quickly for visible signs of poisoning or an allergic reaction. Then the veterinarian will decide whether or not to induce vomiting.
Fluids may be administered via IV. This is done to flush the toxin out of the animal's system and protect the kidneys, liver, and other filter organs. The IV fluids will also help keep the animal hydrated if vomiting is persistent.
The veterinarian will administer medication if vomiting, tremors, and seizures are severe and need to be controlled. Some animals will need to be sedated or even completely anesthetized if these signs and symptoms interfere with treatment.
Are shelled walnuts safe for dogs?
Store bought English walnuts are generally safe for your pet if accidentally ingested. However, it’s not necessarily a good idea to offer them to your dog. While it’s true that English walnuts are less susceptible to the mold that causes toxicity in dogs, the mold can be found in either shelled or unshelled walnuts. Therefore, the risks of feeding walnuts to your dog certainly outweigh the benefits.
Additionally, with quality dog food, your pet should be obtaining all the necessary nutrients to live a healthy life. If you have questions about your dog’s nutrition, seek guidance from a veterinary professional.
What happens if your dog eats a walnut?
It depends on the individual dog as well as the quality, quantity, and type of walnut eaten. Dogs should never eat black walnuts, which contain a toxic fungus that can cause fatal side effects. However, English walnuts should not cause any serious reactions so long as they have not been contaminated with mold.
Keep in mind that every dog is different. Some dogs may have sensitivities or allergies to English walnuts while others may tolerate them just fine. If your dog eats a walnut, monitor them carefully and contact your vet with any questions or concerns.
Which nuts are toxic to dogs?
In general, it's best to say no to nuts when it comes to sharing food with your dog. In addition to black walnuts, there are several other nuts that are either toxic to dogs or should be avoided, including:
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw cashews - not directly toxic but can cause severe stomach upset and should be avoided.
- Hickory nuts - can cause intestinal blockages; not directly toxic.
- Pistachios - high in fat and can cause pancreatitis and other health issues; not directly toxic.
- Old and moldy walnuts
- Almonds - not directly toxic but are difficult for dogs to break down.
- Pecans - like walnuts, pecans are prone to mold which can be toxic to dogs.
- Brazil nuts - not directly toxic but are difficult to digest and have high fat content.
Are any nuts safe for dogs?
Yes. Pistachios, peanuts, chestnuts, cashews, and almonds are all safe for your dog to eat as long as they are grown and kept in clean, safe conditions and only fed in very small amounts.
Before feeding your dog any new food, be sure to get approval from your vet. Not all “dog safe foods” are safe for every dog – for example, walnuts and other high fat foods are not recommended for dogs that are overweight or at risk of developing diabetes. Additionally, some foods may interact negatively with your dog’s medication or other factors of their health.
You should never feed black walnuts to your pet. And while English walnuts are technically non-toxic, they do not offer any nutritional benefits that your dog doesn’t get from their regular diet. Ultimately, it’s best to save nuts as a nutritional snack for yourself rather than share them with your dog. Nuts are high in fat and many pose risks to your furry friend. Instead, consider sharing some safe fruits and veggies with your pet. Dogs can eat carrots, apples, and blueberries, to name a few.
If your dog accidentally eats black walnuts, monitor them carefully and take them to the emergency vet or call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435.
Questions about your pet’s nutrition or wondering what dogs can and can’t eat? Dutch connects pet parents with licensed vets from the comfort of home. We offer ongoing support to help you get your most important and most curious questions answered in less time than a traditional vet visit. Plus, prescribed medications can be delivered directly to your door. Learn why pet parents are choosing Dutch with a consultation today.
“Can Dogs Have Nuts?” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_dog-owners-guide-to-nuts-and-seeds.
Alonso, Nathalie. “Can Black Walnuts Poison Animals?” Home Guides | SF Gate, 20 July 2021, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/can-black-walnuts-poison-animals-84606.html.