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Can Dogs Eat Walnuts? Are Walnuts Safe for Dogs?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

salted walnuts

When your pup shows you that adorable face, it can be hard to deny them a piece of whatever you are eating at the time. Unfortunately, you have to be very careful about what you give your pooch to eat. This includes nuts.

Walnuts are a healthy treat for humans, but are they safe for dogs? Can your dog eat them? Fortunately, we have a quick answer to this question. No, dogs should not be eating walnuts. Here’s the kicker, though. In the case of this large nut, this is a difference between the different types of walnuts, whether your pooch can eat them, and whether or not they are safe. Let’s look into that a little deeper…Divider 8

Can Dogs Eat Walnuts?

It is important to note that some forms of walnut can be toxic to your dog. Even if they are not, there are many other issues that you will need to contend with. Let’s take a look at the most important aspects.

Toxic Walnuts

There are many different types of walnuts, but the three most common are black walnuts, English walnuts, and Japanese walnuts. The one you want to be extra careful of is the black variety. Take a look at the three different types below:

English Walnut

A bag of walnuts on a table
Image Credit: LubosHouska, Pixabay

The English Walnut is not as toxic as others, and it is less likely they will affect your pooch. That being said, they can still have serious side effects. The most prominent thing to note is mold. Like other walnuts, fungi growing on the outer shells can cause the growth of the toxins.

This mold can infect your pet if it is ingested, causing symptoms such as seizure, upset stomach, and tremors. This type of nut is native to Iran, but it is commercially used more often than others as the shells are easier to break. Be advised, though, this makes it easier for pups to snack on.

Japanese Walnut

Like the one above, the Japanese walnut is not toxic in its raw form. Though it can still cause illness, “walnut poisoning” only occurs when canines eat a moldy shell. This type of walnut is indigenous to Japan, but it was brought to the United States and Canada around 1870.

It has been noted that this particular type of walnut is very hardy. It can survive in extreme temperatures and fluctuations. This is important to note as the plant could be in your area without your knowledge. Again, you should keep your pet from eating any shelled walnuts.

Black Walnut

As mentioned, this is the walnut most likely to cause toxicity in your dog. When the black walnut starts to mold, it develops tremorgenic mycotoxins that will make dogs (and horses) ill. If ingested, it causes a bevy of serious health issues such as lameness, tremors, and seizures. Interestingly, research is limited as to why this happens.

Originating in the Northeastern United States and Canada, this is the most flavorful walnut. They are also more likely to grow in residential areas where your pooch can pick one up for a snack.

Even when the nut is ripe, you need to keep your dog away from these walnuts. If you live in an area where they grow, caution is advised. It is important to not let your pet roam around an area where they may have dropped to the ground.

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Health Issues Associated with Walnuts

Outside of the toxicity of walnut shells, the most important reason why you should not be giving you dog walnuts is because of the possible side effects. The most common and prominent of those ailments are gastrointestinal problems.

Most dogs are unable to properly digest walnuts causing them a lot of discomfort in the process. Some of the issues include gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Be that as it may, it is not the worst of it. The nuts can also cause a stomach or intestinal obstruction.

As walnuts are hard to break down, the pieces can get stuck in your dog’s stomach, bowels, and digestive tract. This can be life-threatening, and you will need to consult a vet right away. Here are some signs of an obstruction:

  • Vomiting (uncontrolled)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Shock

If that was not enough, there are also bladder stones to consider. There is a good quantity of phosphorus in nuts and walnuts in particular. This is what will cause bladder stones in your dog. As many breeds are more prone to this ailment, you want to keep any walnuts in the home off-limits to your pooch.

Why Walnuts Are Not Safe

Even though there are some hefty health risks associated with feeding your dog walnuts, some pups may never have a signal moment of discomfort from this nut. Be that as it may, there are still other concerns you should know about. One of the more concerning issues is the potential choking hazard.

Walnuts, without their shell, are the perfect size to make a small dog choke. On the flip side, walnuts in their shells are more apt to get caught in the throat of a large dog. Canines are notorious for inhaling their food. They will not stop to chew the nut, which can then cause a blocked airway to occur.

There is also their high-fat content to consider. Obesity is a real issue among dogs, and it should not be taken lightly. Weight gain can cause several issues such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Shortened lifespan
  • Tumors
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

Unfortunately, many pet parents feel that a small snack such as a nut won’t make a difference. While that is strictly true, giving them one often leads to two and so on. Couple that with other unhealthy fats, and your pet will end up with some of these issues.

cracked walnut
Image Credit: 1643606, Pixabay

Common Dog and Walnut Questions

When it comes to walnuts and canines, there is not a lot of research. Out of the entire nut family, walnuts fall below the average line when it comes to information. This is likely why there are a lot of random questions about the effects of this nut on your dog.

Should You Worry If Your Dog Eats A Walnut?

Even though there is a lot of info above that might make you nervous, it is important to keep in mind that eating one walnut is unlikely to harm your pet. If one happens to land on the floor and goes over your dog’s teeth and gums before you can prevent it, don’t panic. Chances are they will be fine.

Walnuts are not good for your pet in large quantities. They will make them sick with stomach issues if nothing else. You also want to avoid consistency. Giving them a few every day can be just as bad as giving them a big amount in large quantities. A random walnut, though, is not cause for panic.

If your pet happens to eat a walnut, the best thing to do is monitor them for signs of intestinal blocks, toxicity, and choking. Though these things are unlikely, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. If you see symptoms, reach out to your emergency vet right away.

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Can Dogs Be Allergic to Walnuts?

Nut allergies can occur in canines, and you will find some walnut sensitivities among them. That being said, it is rare. Even the more common peanut allergy is less prevalent in dogs than it is in humans.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know what symptoms to look for just in case. Signs of an allergy include lethargy, persistent ear infections, skin rashes, head shaking, paw biting, and snout wiping. All of these can point to an issue, and you should once again consult your vet.

On a side note, if your pup is allergic to peanuts, they have a higher risk of having the same problem with walnuts. It is advisable to restrict all nuts from their diet in this event.

How to Serve Walnuts

Some people consider walnuts to be a healthy snack for their dog as they contain good levels of protein and other nutrients like antioxidants and omega fatty acids. As mentioned, there are those pups that will be able to eat nuts without any digestive issues.

If that is the case, you still want to pay attention to how the walnuts are being fed to your pet. You want to make sure they are unsalted and without any flavoring. Salt can cause many health issues along with other spices like nutmeg

Something else to note, you do not want to give your dog raw, whole walnuts. Toasted is the best way to go as they will have less fat, and your pup will be less likely to choke. Most importantly, you never want to give you pet whole, in-shell walnuts.

As we talked about before, mold can grow on the shells causing toxicity in your pooch. Even store-bought nuts can have trace amounts of the fungi on their shells. Plus, they are a serious choking risk. Again, we don’t recommend feeding your dog walnuts, but if you think they will be okay, this is the best way to serve them.

What About Food with Walnuts?

Another common question is whether or not you can give your pet food with walnuts already in it. This is another negative. You want to steer clear of foods like walnut butter, cookies, loaves of bread, etc. These products typically have a lot of sodium which is harmful to canines. They also tend to be high in sugar, artificial ingredients, and processed foods.

Most recipes where you would find walnuts will also have things like preservatives and additives that are not beneficial. You need to be wary of baking powder and soda, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, onion, garlic, and many other human foods that are not good for your pet. In general, it is best to stay away from foods that have walnuts.

And Mixed Nuts?

Some pet-parents wonder about giving their pet mixed nuts in their food or other treats. This is also not a great idea. Not only will walnuts typically cause stomach issues and possibly other issues, but other nuts are just as unhealthy. Almonds, macadamia, and pistachios are also not a good idea. If in doubt, avoid nuts altogether.

mixed nuts
Image Credit: ecogreenlove, Pixabay

Walnut Alternatives

If you have a nut lover on your hands, it can be difficult to deny that adorable face. Even the scariest looking canine knows how to put on that sad “how could you not feed me?” look that is agonizing to ignore.

If you are a nut lover yourself and you want to share the snack wealth, there are some alternatives you can try. First, roasted or toasted plain peanuts are typically harmless to dogs. Unless they have a preexisting allergy, this could be a good option.

Dog “designed” peanut butter and cashews are also good alternatives. With all three, however, you need to share them in moderation. Pretty much all nuts are high in fat, so keeping it to small quantities is best. Finally, always check with your vet before adding any new foods to your dog’s diet. They will be able to guide you in what’s best for their health, age, and lifestyle.

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So, are walnuts safe and healthy for your dog to eat? We have to go with no. Although they have nutritional benefits, the health risks are high. Even if the possibility of some of the more severe illnesses is less likely, stomach upsets, weight gain, and choking are real dangers that happen frequently.

Feeding your pup a healthy and nutritious diet is an essential part of pet-parenthood. It’s important to be knowledgeable about their needs, what they can have, and what you should avoid. As always, you should reach out to your vet with any diet questions.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and it has answered all of your questions!

Featured image credit: maxmann, Pixabay

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