Can Dogs Eat Nuts? Safe, Dangerous, Or Toxic? (Updated 2023)
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Can dogs eat nuts?
Well, the short answer is yes. But there is a risk involved with every nut, you feed your dog even though there are some nutritional benefits.
In this post, I will explain the benefits of feeding nuts to your dog and show you which nuts are safe, dangerous, and toxic.
Plus you will learn a definitive answer to the question; Can dogs eat nuts?
What are the benefits of feeding nuts to a dog?
Nuts are high in fat but low in carbs and are also packed full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamins E, and B6, plus copper, magnesium, and potassium amongst others depending on the nut.
So feeding your dog nuts as treats helps to improve the fiber, vitamin, and mineral intake and provides a slow release of energy for those long walks.
What are the dangers of feeding nuts to a dog?
Not all nuts are created equal but almost all nuts are high in fat and calorific value so although they are the perfect size for treats they are dangerously fattening.
So as the number of nuts given to your dog increases so does the risk of obesity and the development of pancreatic issues.
Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes irritated and inflamed and usually requires veterinarian treatment.
Also in recent years, obesity has become a significant disorder requiring treatment by veterinarians as dog owners stray from feeding their dogs a complete, balanced, and treat-free diet.
Puppies and older weaker dogs are at greater risk of accumulating fat which will reduce their potential life span so nuts should be severely restricted or cut from their diet altogether.
Below is a table showing the fat and calorific values for specific nuts based upon a single nut.
|Type Of Nut||Fat||Calories|
Additives or coatings added to nuts meant for human consumption but fed to dogs are also major risk factors and can seriously compromise a dog’s short and long-term health.
For example salt on nuts can lead to water retention, chocolate can poison individual dogs very quickly, and Xylitol has the potential to kill a puppy before treatment can even be administered.
So while small amounts of specific raw and unshelled nuts may be safe for your dog they do not come totally risk-free.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is extremely dangerous to dogs and if you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol you must seek veterinary advice immediately.
In addition, to the above dangers when nuts are past their best or have been stored incorrectly they can begin to grow moldy and all nut molds are poisonous to dogs in varying degrees.
Other dangers from nuts are:
- Every nut is a potential choking hazard.
- Nuts are hard to digest which can create blockage problems.
- Nuts are high in fat which can cause obesity and related disorders.
So it can be argued that no nut is truly 100% safe and in my opinion, it is best to avoid them altogether.
What makes a nut Safe for dogs to eat?
For a nut to be safe for a dog to eat it must be free of any chemicals and this includes any added coatings and additives such as chocolate or salt.
Nuts must also be unshelled, small enough not to be a choking hazard, raw (in almost all cases), fresh, and most importantly, no nut must show any signs of mold.
Mold growing on nuts such as peanuts is called Aspergillus flavus and it produces toxins known as Aflatoxins. At high levels, these aflatoxins can cause liver damage and can be fatal to dogs.
Pure nut butter, (WITHOUT XYLITOL AS AN INGREDIENT) is also safe to eat. However, nut butter is typically high in fats, calories, and possibly salt content therefore should be fed only as an infrequent treat.
Nuts That Are Safe For Dogs To Eat
Chestnuts are safe for dogs to eat only when they are cooked or roasted and free from additives like salt, spices, or special Christmas flavorings.
Amazingly chestnuts are low in fat and are high in fiber, protein vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids which make them a perfect nutty treat.
But, steer clear of raw chestnuts as they contain a high level of tannic acid which is problematic for your dog’s liver and kidneys. If your dog ingests raw chestnuts it could cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.
The shell of a raw chestnut can also shatter and rip and tear at a dog’s mouth and internal organs.
Horse chestnuts contain a toxin called aesculin which can be fatal for dogs so if you suspect your dog has ingested a horse chestnut you must seek veterinary advice immediately.
Peanuts are classed as a safe nut for dogs to eat but the soft and fibrous outer shells are not. A Peanut shell can be chewed and swallowed easily and these fibrous shell pieces can clump together in the digestive tract causing a painful intestinal blockage.
However, peanuts do contain healthy fats and proteins alongside some amino acids that help with blood circulation. Meaning that peanuts can be of benefit to a dog but due to their high-fat content, they must be fed in strict moderation.
The high-fat, protein content in peanuts can also cause a few upset tummies which can result in a short episode of vomiting and diarrhea.
This is especially true of peanut butter which is also very fattening and is an easy way to obesity and pancreatitis.
All variations of nut butter fed to your dog should be pure and free from any additives such as salt, sugar, and Xylitol as all additives carry their own risks.
Please read: 32 Toxic Foods For Dogs + Signs Your Dog Is Poisoned
As a special note please be aware that some dogs are allergic to peanuts so test your dog before offering more than one!
In the question, can dogs eat nuts, walnuts are a little controversial as they can appear on all three lists of safe, dangerous, and toxic at the same time.
This is because English walnuts are considered to be generally safe but are high in fat large in size, and tough for the tummy to digest.
Therefore English walnuts should always be fed to your dog chopped and the portion size recorded before feeding them as a treat.
What makes a walnut dangerous to dogs?
- If a dog eats a whole walnut inside the shell it could block the esophagus or become an internal obstruction so a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.
- Walnut shells are hard and break into numerous small and sharp shards that can rip and tear at the feet, lips, gums, throat, stomach, and intestine.
- Walnuts are big in size and very high in fat so it only takes a few to begin weight gain.
- If an English walnut is old or shows signs of mold then it has become toxic to your dog and if eaten a veterinarian’s advice must be sought immediately.
Black walnuts are native to the Northeastern U.S. and Canada and carry the toxin juglone which is toxic to dogs.
Dogs can eat cashew nuts as they are a good source of magnesium, calcium, protein, and antitoxins but they must be unsalted. Cashews can also be raw or roasted but must be given in strict moderation as cashews can easily lead to rapid weight gain.
Cashews also pose a particular threat to small dogs due to cashews curly shape as small dogs seem to find them difficult to chew and large pieces of nut can prove to be a choking hazard.
Coconut – Coconut Milk – Coconut Water
Surprisingly, coconut can be very beneficial for dogs as it contains lauric acid which helps them to fight off a number of viruses and bacterial problems.
Lauric acid found in the ‘meat’ of the coconut may also dampen some skin allergies and as an added bonus it can also help to temper bad breath!
Unfortunately, coconut shells can break into sharp pieces so it’s best to avoid giving your dog any coconut shells to gnaw on.
When it comes to coconut milk and coconut water the jury is somewhat divided as the AKA says that both coconut milk and coconut water are ok for dogs. But the ASPCA says the liquids are only ok in small amounts as too much coconut milk may end in greasy stools, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
In addition, coconut water is high in potassium which can cause other health problems if it becomes part of your dog’s regular diet.
Maybe your veterinarian, who knows your dog well might be a better judge on these matters!
Hazelnuts are not toxic to dogs but due to their small size, it is easy for owners to misjudge the quantities they are feeding to their favorite pooch.
But like all nuts, hazelnuts in small quantities are fattening so strict portion control must be observed if you want to avoid the exercise required to strip that fat!
What makes a nut Dangerous for dogs to eat?
Surprisingly, different dogs react differently to different substances and in many cases, a substance that might kill one dog might be relatively harmless to another.
This is surprising because it also includes some but not all of some highly toxic substances for dogs such as Zante raisins.
For example, A Great Dane might die from swallowing a single Zante raisin, whereas a Miniature Toy Poodle might be 100% fine.
And in some instances, it is the same for nuts.
It also makes the question, ‘can dogs eat nuts’ such a complicated one to fully answer because there are so many variables to consider.
Therefore, it’s best to think of all nuts as being dangerous and then you can introduce what you believe to be a safe nut, such as a peanut, a little at a time.
By doing this you can monitor for adverse reactions for 0 to 48 hours after ingestion and if required take the appropriate action.
However, The physical dimensions, hardness, fat content, difficulty to fully digest, and capacity of the shells to shatter into a number of extremely sharp shards of varying thickness and sizes do make all nuts dangerous for dogs to eat.
Typical Dangers to Dogs From Eating Nuts
- High in Fat and Calorific content – Can cause obesity and pancreatitis.
- Chocking – Large nuts and small throats do not mix.
- Blockages – Nuts are hard to digest and can block the gastrointestinal tract.
- Shells shatter – Shards can rip and tear feet, mouths, throats, and internal organs.
- Mold – mold can be unseen and contains chemicals very dangerous or even fatal to dogs.
- Additives – Some additives such as chocolate and onion are toxic to dogs.
- Time – Not all signs and symptoms of adverse reactions are immediate.
- Dehydration – Some nuts are high in salt content and overfed puppies could be at risk of sodium poisoning.
Nuts That Are Dangerous For Dogs To Eat
As with most nuts, almonds are not technically dangerous to dogs however they are high in fat which, if overfed, leads to obesity and pancreatitis.
Inflammation of the pancreas is a harrowing, painful, and sometimes fatal condition.
But what makes almonds dangerous is that they are hard to chew and have a tendency to be swallowed whole due to their shape.
This means that whole nuts can easily fall into the throat, and obstruct the airway or move past the airway and cause an internal blockage.
Pistachio nuts have a high-fat content but can also be high in salt which is also dangerous to dogs in large quantities. Regular feeding of pistachios will have the same effect as a high-fat diet which can quickly lead to obesity and pancreatitis.
Puppies are more susceptible to the dangers of Pistachio nuts as the high salt content can increase the risk of kidney damage in these youngsters.
To find out more about salt poisoning in dogs please read: 32 Toxic Foods For Dogs + Signs Your Dog Is Poisoned
Pistachios also contain relatively high levels of phosphorus and urushiol which if allowed to build up in a dog through regular overfeeding can cause issues.
Too much phosphorus can cause bladder stones and urushiol may spark an allergic reaction similar to that of poison ivy, which is face swelling, reddening of the skin, and constant itching.
Brazil nuts are very high in fat content, difficult for a dog to digest, and large, so although the nut itself is tasty to a dog the three factors combined heighten the risk factor.
Firstly, because of the very high-fat content, brazil nuts can easily lead to obesity and pancreatic issues so I believe it is best not to feed your dog brazil nuts.
Secondly, brazil nuts stay in large pieces when a dog chews them and this creates a high-risk factor of choking and blockages for small to medium-sized dogs.
And finally, the shell of a brazil nut is perfectly proportioned for a dog to chew and gnaw upon but it is so hard that there is a real risk of broken or fractured teeth.
All things considered, maybe brazil nuts are best avoided altogether.
What makes a nut toxic for dogs to eat?
Specific nut genera contain chemical compounds within them that react badly with a dog’s metabolic system and in some cases can shut them down completely.
Nuts containing these compounds can be found listed below but for a list of common foods that are toxic to dogs please read my post: 32 Toxic Foods For Dogs + Signs Your Dog Is Poisoned
The growth of mold on nuts makes nuts toxic for dogs to eat.
Mold on a nut is extremely dangerous as it can result in the production of secondary fungal metabolites or mycotoxins leading to the production of several tremorgenic substances toxic to dogs.
In short, mold means toxic substances are present.
These toxins need only to be ingested in low concentrations to cause fine muscle tremors that can last for hours or days but larger concentrations, depending upon the toxin, can cause seizures and death.
For example, the mold Aspergillus favus can grow on corn, peanuts, and other grains and this mold produces Aflatoxins which if eaten in large quantities can cause liver damage and death.
Alarmingly, these toxins can be present even if there are no visible signs of mold!
Therefore, ingesting the mold from any nut, including those on the safe list, is potentially very dangerous for dogs and a small quantity ingested could be fatal for a puppy or sick and elderly dogs.
Another thing that makes nuts toxic to dogs is that nuts meant for human consumption but fed to dogs as treats can be coated with known toxins for dogs.
These toxins can come in the form of various additives including salt, seasoning, spices, chocolate, or artificial sweeteners such as Xylitol.
And unfortunately, each dog may react differently to these toxins so it’s a lottery as to whether the additive is safe or deadly on any given day. Therefore it is best to assume that all nuts not in their pure form and fresh are potentially toxic to dogs.
Nuts That Are Toxic For Dogs To Eat
Black walnuts are native to the Northeastern U.S and Canada and are highly toxic to dogs.
These walnuts share the same dangers with shell size, shards, and mold which if ingested could cause seizures and other neurological complications but they also have another hidden danger.
In the parent tree of black walnuts, particularly the root is a compound called Juglone which appears to be a toxin fatal to dogs. Unfortunately, the exact mechanism of how it works is unknown so the recovery rate is very poor.
Juglone was developed by the tree to kill other trees around its root system to decrease the competition and in the nut to prevent scabbing from fungus.
This means that all parts of the Black Walnut, regardless of mold, have the potential to be fatal to dogs and any contact with them must be avoided.
Depending on the strength of the poison and the number of nuts ingested the symptoms of black walnut poisoning include:
- Severe lethargy
- Increased body temperature
- Decreased nerve and muscle function
Just like the black walnut macadamia nuts contain a toxic compound that is not fully understood but is known to be highly dangerous and possibly fatal to dogs.
It also appears that it only takes a small number of macadamia nuts to promote a reaction which is generally seen within 12 hours of ingestion.
The symptoms of Macadamia nut poisoning can last for 24 to 48 hours but not all symptoms may be present in all dogs and not all dogs may die.
Depending on the number of Macadamia nuts ingested the signs of poisoning could include:
- Severe lethargy
- Increased body temperature
- Decreased nerve and muscle function
- Inability to walk (due to hind limb weakness
The leaves of the Pecan tree contain a variant of the toxin Juglone which is found in Black walnuts however the toxin found in the nut mold is Aspergillus favus.
The majority of this mold was also found to be in the discolored pecan kernels which are removed from shelled pecans during processing.
So the danger from pecans is from the aflatoxin produced from the mold that may have been present on the shell but is now not visible on the nut.
Depending upon the strength of the Poison and the number of infected nuts ingested the signs of Pecan poisoning may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums, or skin due to liver damage)
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Sudden death
If you suspect your dog is showing any signs of aflatoxin poisoning you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
There is no evidence that suggests that dog owners who handle nuts containing aflatoxins are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. However, dog owners should always wash their hands before handling pet foods and treats.
Final Thoughts On Can dogs eat Nuts?
Remember that every dog is different and your dog may not react as expected so a safe nut for dogs may not be a safe nut for your dog.
So when introducing a new food into a diet you should always try a small amount first and then monitor for adverse reactions for the next 0 to 48 hours.
The signs that your dog may not be happy with your new nut treat could include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, or an allergic reaction triggering a skin rash, itching, or paw biting.
So the definitive answer to Can Dogs Eat Nuts… is Yes but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Key points to remember are:
- Nuts are full of fat so should be offered in moderation.
- All nuts pose a risk of choking.
- Every nut offered should be free from additives. (including salt)
- No nut should be offered in the shell.
- All moldy nuts are extremely toxic
- Mold is not always visible and so never offer old nuts
- If a dog shows any signs of nut poisoning veterinarian help should be sought as quickly as possible – time might not be on your dog’s side.