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Can Dogs Eat Acorns? Are They Bad for Dogs?

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By Nicole Cosgrove

two acorns on the table

As the seed of the mighty oak tree, acorns are responsible for creating some of the longest-living trees on the planet.

Maybe you’ve seen or heard of acorns being ground and used as alternative baking flour, or its use as a foodstuff or coffee substitute in desperate times. If so, you may be wondering whether your dog can eat acorns, too.

We’ll explain in detail why dogs cannot eat acorns, as well as where you might commonly find them. If your dog has eaten acorns, this can cause serious health problems — turn to the last section of the article for immediate advice and call your vet as soon as possible.

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No! Dogs CANNOT Eat Acorns

Dogs most definitely should not eat acorns. Though they are not immediately poisonous, their short-term and long-term side effects can be very unpleasant for your dog. The Banfield Pet Hospital, VetsNow, and ASPCA all confirm that dogs should not eat acorns.

Acorn Facts

Also known as the oaknut, acorns enclose the seeds of oak trees inside of a tough, leathery shell. Depending on the species of oak tree they fall from, acorns can range from ½ to 2 ½ inches long, and from ¼ to 1 ½ inches wide.

Some animals have developed specialized digestive enzymes to be able to eat acorns. This includes jays, pigeons, mice, squirrels, pigs, bears, and deer — but not dogs, cats, or horses.

Rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, the acorn was used as a staple foodstuff by older cultures in North America, Asia, and Greece. They require specialized methods of preparation to be made edible for humans, such as prolonged boiling and grinding.

Image Credit: pasja1000, Pixabay

Dangers of Acorns for Dogs

Acorns are dangerous to your dog’s digestive system because of their very high concentrations of tannins, the molecule that gives red wine its bitter and astringent taste.

According to the ASPCA, tannins can be irritating to your pet’s digestive system. This can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal distress even when eaten in small amounts. Kidney damage can occur after prolonged exposure, but most dogs learn not to eat acorns quickly enough that this won’t be a concern.

Outside of their stomach-irritating tannic molecules, acorns also feature a very hard and sharp outer shell. Larger dogs, in particular, may eat them whole, which carries a great risk for intestinal obstruction or internal damage that can lead to bleeding.

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Can Dogs Eat Oak Leaves?

In addition to the tannins found in acorns, the leaves of oak trees are also especially high in this molecule. With oak leaves abundantly present on the ground during fall, your dog may be tempted to eat them — but they absolutely should not.

Just as the tannins in acorns can cause digestive upset, so can oak leaves. If your dog eats oak leaves, they’ll likely experience vomiting, diarrhea, and intestinal pain just as they would if consuming acorns.

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What to Do if Your Dog Eats Acorns or Oak Leaves

If your dog eats even a small number of acorns or oak leaves, the effects on their digestive system can be intensely painful and distressing. Monitor their situation closely and call your vet immediately if your dog’s condition appears to be getting worse.

Large dogs are at greater risk of serious complications due to intestinal obstruction from eating whole acorns, while small dogs are threatened more by the higher dosage of tannins relative to their body weight. In either situation, a visit to the vet may be required.

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Final Thoughts on Dogs Eating Acorns

It can be difficult to keep your dog from eating acorns and oak leaves during the fall, when they will be abundantly scattered on the ground. Always brings treats and toys during your dog’s walk to help distract them from snacking on oak. If your dog does eat acorns or oak leaves, they’ll likely experience serious digestive problems — call your vet right away if they appear to be in pain.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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