Though almonds provide a wealth of nutrients for humans, the protein-packed snack can pose serious risks for our four-legged friends, ranging from intestinal blockages to conditions like pancreatitis. Because they're high in fat and often contain other not-so-healthy additives like salt, nuts should generally be avoided for our dogs (the macadamia nut, in particular, is considered especially toxic).
Are Almonds Safe for Dogs?
Almonds are chock full of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals, which have been shown to do everything from lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels to reduce blood pressure in humans. However, our canine counterparts unfortunately can't take full advantage of the health benefits of nuts.
While almonds may not necessarily be toxic to dogs, they are difficult for our pets to digest—especially when consumed in larger quantities. The high fat content of almonds and other nuts can actually lead to serious health conditions in dogs, including gastroenteritis and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, while gastroenteritis occurs as a result of a dog's gastrointestinal tract (particularly the stomach and intestines) becoming inflamed.
The other concern surrounding the consumption of nuts like almonds for dogs are their shape and hard consistency. Since dogs don't always properly chew their food, gobbling up a handful of almonds could actually become a choking risk. Almonds can also become lodged in a dog's stomach or intestines, causing a blockage. While a medium or large breed dog may be able to digest an almond or two, a small or toy breed that eats an almond is at a higher risk for an obstruction.
Like many nuts, almonds are often packaged with various flavorings and seasonings, and these could potentially be harmful to our pets. Salted or roasted almonds aren't toxic, but any sort of chocolate-covered almond—or one containing the sweetener Xylitol—could prove fatal. Just like humans, too much salt can lead to issues such as dehydration, and your dog's sodium needs should already be met through their regular diet.
What About Almond Butter (or Oil)?
When almonds aren't in their natural form, the risks associated with choking or intestinal blockages disappear. And since your pooch probably goes absolutely bonkers for peanut butter, many pet owners wouldn't hesitate to offer other nut butters.
The good news is that dogs can enjoy a bit of almond butter every now and then—and they can even experience some of its health benefits. Almond butter is rich in fiber and vitamins like vitamin E, which promote a healthy skin and coat (it's why almond oil and almond butter can be found in so many skin, hair, and nail treatments for humans). In fact, topical almond oil can be used to naturally treat dogs' itchy, dry, flaky, or otherwise irritated skin, and it can also be offered as an occasional treat to help combat skin issues from the inside out. A non-greasy moisturizer that doesn't leave an oily residue, almond oil will slowly absorb into your dog's skin and provide active healing and soothing benefits all day long.
However, just as when offering your dog peanut butter, moderation should be exercised with both almond butter and oil—though almond butter actually contains larger amounts of minerals like magnesium and iron and only 14 percent fat (compared to PB's 50 percent fat). Consuming too much fat still puts your dog at risk for conditions like pancreatitis. Also be sure you're choosing plain, natural almond butter without any added flavors or salt.
Generally, one or two tablespoons of almond butter are considered safe for most dogs. Try filling up your pup's favorite Kong toy with almond butter, or bake your own homemade dog treats at home by addition nutritious and Fido-friendly ingredients like pumpkin or banana.
What to Do if Your Dog Ate Almonds
If your pet snagged some almonds while you weren't looking, pet owners should monitor their dog for symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea for the next several hours. Any changes in appetite or indication of stomach pain or discomfort would warrant a trip to the vet. Other symptoms could include a refusal to eat their food as well as lethargy.
If a large quantity of almonds were consumed in a short period of time, your veterinarian may opt to use a medication to make your dog vomit the contents of his or her stomach. However, if an almond is stuck in a portion of the stomach or intestines and has caused an obstruction, abdominal surgery would be required to remove the almond.
People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets. ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Pancreatitis and Other Disorders of the Pancreas in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual