Different types of nuts

Can Dogs Eat Nuts?
The Definitive Guide

Nuts might seem like a great treat option for your furry friend. But before reaching for the trail mix to motivate your pup, can dogs eat nuts?

Here’s what you should know, based on science.

Types of nuts

Can Dogs Eat Nuts?

The answer is, as most of the time, nuanced. “Nuts” is in fact a category, not a specific food. So yes, dogs can eat some nuts, but not others.

In fact, while some can be healthy, specific nuts (like macadamia) are poisonous to dogs. This means that not all nut butters might be a good option as a treat for your pup!


Are Nuts a Health Risk to Dogs?

As with most types of foods, nuts pose some health risks to dogs in very specific circumstances. In these instances, these aren’t the best option for your pup. Here’s what you should know before offering nuts to your furry friend:

Nuts can contain mycotoxins

Simply put, mycotoxins are moulds and can be highly toxic. Of course, they aren’t exclusive to nuts, and can affect many kinds of food. For example, bread and cereals such as corn and wheat are often affected. However, it’s not unusual to find alarming levels of mycotoxins in nuts and spices because these are often stored for long periods [6].

Mycotoxins can cause severe reactions in dogs, especially if they are smaller or younger. In general, never give nuts (or other foods) with visible mould to your dog and keep them away from poorly stored food.

Their high fat content might be too much for dogs

One of the benefits of nuts is the high amounts of healthy fats in them. Most nuts are rich in Omega acids, vegetable proteins and trace minerals. However, too many of them can spike your dog’s fat intake.

Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to obesity over time. Or, if your dog binges on nuts they might develop pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas caused by a sudden spike in fat intake. Never give more than 1 or 2 nuts to your dog and watch out for any signs of abdominal pain after eating a fatty treat.

PRO TIP: Pancreatitis can be difficult to detect in its early stages, but prompt diagnosis can be lifesaving for your dog. The problem is that its signs (like diarrhoea) can easily be mistaken for something less serious.

Dogs with acute pancreatitis usually have a “praying position” with their buts in the air and their head low, paws stretched out in front. This specific position somewhat relieves abdominal pain. If you see your dog refuses to eat and/or play, is vomiting, has diarrhoea and favours this position, rush them to the vet!

Nuts are a high-calorie treat

This ties in with the previous point. Nuts are high in fat, and if you’re trying to slim your pooch down, they aren’t the right treat for them.

Obesity is an ever-growing problem among dogs in Australia: around 40% of pets are considered medically obese here! Being overweight puts your pup at a higher risk of diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, and cancer, which will eventually shorten their lifespan. So, if your dog is borderline obese, skip the trail mix.

Additives in nuts can be dangerous to dogs

It’s common to see nuts in different flavours: salted, roasted, fried (!) or coated in chocolate or spices. While these are all delicious, keep them away from your dog!

These coatings, rather than the nuts themselves, could pose a bigger threat to your dog’s health. Chocolate, for example, can be poisonous to dogs in moderate quantities and salt might cause urinary stones or hypertension. Xylitol and other artificial sweeteners can be very dangerous to dogs since it causes a sudden drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) and leads to liver failure when eaten in large quantities.

If you want to feed nuts to your dog, stick to raw, unsalted options.


Can Dogs Eat All Types of Nuts?

Not really. Some specific kinds are highly toxic to dogs and other pets, while others are fine. Here’s what research has to say about it:

Peanuts

Dogs can eat both peanuts and peanut butter. In fact, it’s one of the most popular treats for dogs in the US and Canada! However, contrary to popular belief, peanuts are legumes (like peas or lentils) instead of actual nuts.

Peanuts can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet, with a few caveats. Like with all nuts, they are high in fat so always feed in moderation. This is particularly important if you’re offering peanut butter, which has lots of calories per tablespoon!

PRO TIP: Make sure your nut butter of choice is made with unsalted, raw nuts and doesn’t have any sweeteners. Be particularly wary of artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs.

On the other hand, whole peanuts pose a choking risk for dogs, especially if they tend to swallow their food instead of actually chewing it. Whole or partially whole peanuts can get stuck in your dog’s throat or even cause intestinal blockage, particularly among young pups or small breeds.

Macadamia Nuts

According to research, macadamia nuts are highly poisonous to dogs. However, like with raisins, scientists aren’t 100% sure about what it is in macadamia nuts that are so toxic. In spite of the unknowns, the effects on your pup’s health can be really serious.

Poisoning symptoms after eating macadamia nuts will vary, but in general, a dog will exhibit neurological and motor signs, as well as gastrointestinal distress. Of course, some dogs will show signs earlier than others.

If you think your pup has eaten macadamia nuts, watch out for any of these signs:

  • Muscular and neurological: tremors, weakness, clumsiness, sudden lack of coordination.
  • Gastrointestinal: vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea.
  • Sudden difficulty moving, including joint pain, lameness or being unable to walk.

Once at the clinic, your vet might also diagnose pancreatitis, fever-like body temperatures and arrhythmia.

Macadamia nuts can be very dangerous, so if you suspect your pup got into them, call the vet immediately. As soon as you see poisoning signs, get them to the clinic where they’ll provide supportive care.

Walnuts

Walnuts are another nut that shouldn’t be offered to dogs or other pets. Neither Black or English walnuts are safe for dogs to eat.

These nuts have the usual dangers of mould, choking and intestinal blockage, but they also have specific compounds that can cause adverse reactions. Again, researchers aren’t completely sure about the specific cause, although some believe it has to do with juglone, found in all parts of the tree. In fact, walnut trees are notoriously difficult to keep at home because most plants won’t thrive if planted beneath the canopy! The same juglone that is toxic to other plants can wreak havoc on your dog’s health. In large doses (or if your dog binges on walnuts) it can cause weakness, paralysis and even death.

If you suspect your dog ate walnuts, call your vet ASAP.

Almonds and hazelnuts

Currently, it isn’t very clear whether almonds and hazelnuts are safe or not for dogs to eat. Researchers are split while they don’t have any clearly toxic compounds, their shape can easily lead to intestinal blockages or choking.

In general, there isn’t anything inherently poisonous to these nuts, beyond the fact their high fat content might make them harder to digest. As a rule of thumb, don’t offer these to your dog whole (only in butter form). If your dog does eat an almond or a hazelnut, don’t panic and just keep an eye on them. If they show distress, weakness, apathy, or weird bathroom habits, take them to the vet.

Brazil nuts

These shouldn’t be confused with cashews! While the latter is a safe option for dogs, Brazil nuts might be too fatty for them. These are high in key micronutrients like selenium, so it might be tempting to give them to your dog.

We only recommend them in very small portions, mainly because of their very high fat content. Yes, all nuts are very fatty, but brazil nuts are especially high in omega-6 fatty acids. This makes them easily become rancid and in excess, they might pose a pancreatitis risk to your dog.


Final Thoughts

While nuts can be healthy for your dog, it’s easy to overdo them and cause more harm than good. In general, most nuts should be treated as an occasional treat and not a regular occurrence in your dog’s eating habits.

In some cases, like with walnuts and macadamia, nuts can be straight out dangerous and risky for your dog. Keep an eye out and avoid leaving those out if your dog is a table grazer. If your pup already ate the nuts and they aren’t the toxic kind, just keep an eye on them for a day or two. Most of the time they won’t be affected!

Want to learn more about what types of food dogs can and can't eat? Check out our below guides:

References
  1. Bissonnette, S., & Taylor, J. A. Common Household Foods that Should Not be Given to Dogs or Cats. https://selkirkvet.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Foods_that_Should_Not_Be_Given_to_Pets_2014.pdf
  2. Lee JA. Top 10 Human Food Toxins Poisonous to Dogs and Cats. Small Animal Program, 2020-8986. OVMA_2020_Conference_Proceedings. Pages 224-353. https://www.ovma.org/assets/1/6/OVMA_2020_Conference_Proceedings_v5.pdf#page=220
  3. Hansen, S., et al, 2000. Weakness, tremors, and depression associated with macadamia nuts in dogs. Veterinary and human toxicology, 42(1), pp.18-21. https://europepmc.org/article/med/10670081
  4. Panagopoulou, E., et al. 2020. Food-associated toxicosis in dogs and cats. Hellenic Journal of Companion Animal Medicine, 9(1), pp.17-31. https://www.hjcam.hcavs.gr/index.php/hjcam/article/view/26
  5. Mushtaq, S., et al, 2017. Acute pancreatitis in dogs: A review. The Pharm Innovat J, 6, pp.509-516. https://www.thepharmajournal.com/archives/2017/vol6issue12/PartH/6-12-57-961.pdf
  6. Clavel and Brabet. Mycotoxin contamination of nuts. In Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, Improving the Safety and Quality of Nuts, Woodhead Publishing, 2013. ISBN 9780857092663. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780857092663500054
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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