Can dogs eat pecans or are they toxic? Dogs shouldn’t eat pecans as a snack, even if they are in ice cream or a pie! Although these tiny nuts seem harmless, these hickory seeds are actually poisonous to our canine companions. Smooth shelled and similar looking to a brazil nut, you’d be forgiven for assuming they are a great treat for dogs just like they are for humans. They are high in antioxidants, fatty acids, proteins and fiber, but they also contain juglone. This isn’t an allergen, Juglone is simply toxic to dogs. In small quantities it can cause stomach upsets but in large enough amounts seizures and neurological issues can occur. Today we’ll look at where the risks in feeding pecans to dogs lie, and what to do if your dog has eaten pecans by accident.
- What is a pecan?
- Are dogs allergic to pecans?
- Can dogs eat pecans and get poisoned?
- Can dogs eat pecans when they are moldy?
- Signs of pecan poisoning in dogs
- Treatment for dogs that have eaten pecans
Pecans are a tasty snack for people and are often used in cakes and other sweet treats. But some of the foods that we enjoy are not always good for our canine friends. In fact, some of the chemicals that occur naturally in some foods that are quite good for us can be detrimental to our pets.
What Are Pecans?
Pecans are a seed that is produced by a variety of the hickory tree. The “nuts” are actually the seeds of the tree. Hickory trees are native to the south-central area of Mexico and the US. The name “pecan” means “nut that requires a stone to crack,” and comes from an ancient Algonquin word.
Pecans look like walnuts, but they are longer and slimmer in appearance. The shells are smooth and pill-shaped, and they’re easier to crack open than walnut shells.
Pecans are sweet in flavor, whereas walnuts can be slightly bitter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, French and Spanish colonists began to grow hickory trees, harvesting the pecans and exporting them around the world.
You may even have a hickory tree growing in your garden that is distantly related to one of the very first imported specimens! These days, pecans are still very popular, being enjoyed as a snack or incorporated in treats such as pecan pie, pecan ice cream, and even pecan flavored coffee.
What’s In A Pecan?
Pecans have a valuable nutritional content when eaten by people.
The pecan seeds contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants. Both these nutrients are believed to be good for your heart, reduce harmful levels of cholesterol, and work to prevent certain diseases including cancer.
Pecans are also high in fiber and protein while being low in saturated fat. The nuts also contain minerals and vitamins, including thiamine, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.
All these things in combination make pecans a very healthy addition to a person’s diet. So why are pecans so bad for dogs?
Are Dogs Allergic To Pecans?
When asking yourself, can dogs eat pecans, you need to know that dogs are not generally allergic to pecans like humans can be to nuts. However, eating pecans can cause your dog to suffer severe gastric upset.
Can Dogs Eat Pecans and Get Poisoned?
So even though pecans are great for people to eat, they are not good for your pet. But what makes pecans toxic to dogs? Pecans contain a toxin called juglone, which is toxic to dogs.
If a dog ate pecans in any great quantity, it would suffer gastric intestinal upset or an obstruction. Although overdoing it on pecans would not be fatal to your pet, it could make him very sick. Symptoms of poisoning in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Orange-colored urine
- Blood in the urine
- Blackened or bloody stools
In severe cases, a dog might suffer seizures or other neurological symptoms.
Can Dogs Eat Pecans If They Are Moldy?
Old pecans are even worse than fresh ones! Moldy pecans can contain levels of a poison called aflatoxin and other tremorgenic mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can be extremely harmful to your dog, and can even be fatal if you don’t recognize the problem and take your dog to the vet quickly.
Mycotoxicosis In Dogs
As we mentioned earlier, eating moldy pecans can cause serious problems for your dog because of the mycotoxins contained in the mold.
There are several groups of mycotoxins. Those most commonly found on pecans and other moldy nuts fall into the tremorgenic family of mycotoxins. The substance that most frequently causes poisoning in dogs is a species of bacteria called penitrem A.
Symptoms of Mycotoxin Poisoning
If your dog has eaten moldy pecans, he may show the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
If other toxic mycons are present, including aflatoxins that are produced by Aspergillus fungi, the dog may become jaundiced as the toxin attacks the liver.
In very severe cases of mycotoxin poisoning, a dog may die. Even non-fatal doses can cause these symptoms for up to a week.
What To Do When Your Dog Eats Pecans
Let’s face it, our canine companions can be crafty when it comes to pinching scraps from our plates! For example, if you’re distracted watching a really gripping movie, your furry friend could easily sneak a few pecans from your bowl before you even realized it!
If your dog only eats a few pieces of pecans, you shouldn’t panic. The pecans should just pass through your pet naturally, without causing any issues. On the other hand, if Fido guzzles a whole bowl or bag of pecans, you could have a problem.
First of all, note how many pecans your pet has eaten. Next, phone your vet and tell him or her when the pecans were consumed by your dog and in what quantity. You may be advised to take your dog straight to the vet.
Can Dogs Eat Pecans and then Get Treatment?
Your vet will initially focus on eliminating the toxin from your pet’s system. This may be achieved by inducing vomiting or carrying out a gastric lavage, which will be done under general anesthetic.
Never try to make your dog vomit! That should only be done by a vet in a controlled environment.
Activated charcoal may be given to your dog to help soak up any remaining toxins in his stomach and to encourage him to poo out any remaining pecans before more toxins are absorbed.
If the poisoning is very severe or advanced, your dog may be given drug therapy to control the symptoms he is suffering. In severe cases, intravenous fluids and electrolytes may be required to support your dog’s liver function. A blood transfusion might also be necessary.
Recovery from Canine Pecan Poisoning
Thankfully, most dogs make a full recovery from eating pecans. The most important thing for you to do is to make sure that the situation doesn’t arise again! Be sure to keep all nuts, especially pecans, well out of reach of your pup.
If you have a hickory tree growing in your garden, be sure to pick up ALL fallen pecans. Nuts that are left lying on the ground for too long, they will start to become moldy!
If you pass a hickory tree on your regular walks, it might be a good idea to change your dog’s exercise route when pecan season is in full swing. Alternatively, leash your dog when you’re walking through the danger area.
Pecans Are High In Fat
As if the above effects weren’t bad enough, pecans (like all nuts) are very high in fat. Too much fat in your dog’s diet can present him with the risk of developing pancreatitis or becoming overweight. Other complications that could arise from your dog eating pecans can include:
- Liver problems
- Bladder stones
Be vigilant if you have a hickory tree growing in your garden. Dogs, especially greedy breeds such as Labradors will readily gobble up fallen pecans (complete with shells)! This habit can mean that your dog is eating pecans without your knowledge.
In addition to the health problems we’ve already mentioned, eating whole pecans in their shells can present a risk of choking. Also, if the shells are crunched up and broken, sharp splinters could injure your dog’s mouth, tongue, and even work into his intestines if swallowed.
Can Dogs Eat Pecans?
You can see from everything we’ve discussed in this article that your dog should NOT be allowed to eat pecans, including in a pie or in ice cream. A few stolen pecans won’t harm your dog, but you should never offer them to him.
If you have a hickory tree in your garden, be sure to clear away any fallen fruit, especially if it has turned moldy. Although some human food can be shared with your dog, pecan nuts certainly can’t!
While you’re enjoying this nutritious, tasty snack, be sure to offer your scrounging hound some of his own wholesome dog biscuits or pet treats!
- BBC Food, “Pecan recipes”
- RHS, “Hickory tree”
- Science Daily, “Pecans, heart disease, and antioxidants”
- Science Direct, “Juglone in walnuts and pecans”
- Vetfolio, “Tremorgenic Mycotoxicosis in Dogs”