Macadamia and other potentially toxic nuts, are found in many households, and can unknowingly be given as treats. The best way to prevent an accidental ingestion is to avoid these nuts altogether. Here we will discuss nuts that can pose a problem for dogs, clinical signs you need to be aware of, and treatments needed to remove each toxin from the body.
If your pet has ingested a potentially toxic nut, seek veterinary attention immediately and contact animal poison control.
Macadamia Nut Toxicity
It is not known what makes macadamia nuts toxic, but its effects have only been reported in dogs. These nuts can be found in cakes, cookies, and as a whole nut. Like raisins and grapes, which are also toxic to dogs, individual sensitivity to macadamia nuts may vary, as does the number of nuts needed to cause a toxic reaction.
Potential Symptoms of Macadamia Nut Ingestion
- Abdominal pain
- Ataxia (staggering)
- Weakness in the hindlimbs
- Hyperthermia (elevated temperature)
- Blood changes
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rate
- Pale mucous membranes
Clinical signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and will resolve within 12 to 48 hours. Vomiting and abdominal pain may be the only signs noted when low doses of the nut are ingested. Other signs may include lethargy, ataxia (staggering), weakness in the hind limbs, hyperthermia (temperature increase), and blood changes. When dogs ingest high doses of macadamia nuts, increased heart and breathing rates, as well as pale mucous membranes, may be noted.
Treatment may include gastric decontamination, to remove the toxin, fluid therapy, anti-nausea and pain medication, and muscle relaxants. Oxygen may be needed if there are signs of respiratory distress. Prognosis is good with treatment. Without veterinary attention and when high levels are ingested, here is potential for lethal poisoning.
English Walnut Toxicity
In the 20th century, juglone, a toxin found in the leaves, stems, branches and nut hull of the walnut, was discovered. Ingestion of juglone has been reported to cause an anaphylactic type reaction. Moldy walnuts cause more issues because they release a potent toxin that can damage the liver. Walnuts, because of their high fat and oil content, can also cause gastrointestinal issues and even pancreatitis.
Potential Symptoms of Walnut Ingestion
- Increased Drinking
- Increased Urination
- Jaundice (yellow tint to the skin)
- Nose Bleed
If the walnut was recently ingested, gastric decontamination can be performed. This may include inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, and drinking activated charcoal to bind the toxin and remove it from the body. Other treatments will depend on the severity of the condition. They may include fluid therapy, anti-nausea medication, gastrointestinal protectants, and anticonvulsants. Supportive care to prevent liver damage, blood loss, and to reduce the chance of a blood clot, may also be necessary. If clinical signs of liver damage are seen, the prognosis is guarded to poor.
Horse Chestnut Toxicity
In humans, the horse chestnut has been used as an herbal remedy to treat fevers and hemorrhoids. The bark has the most toxic levels, but there have also been high levels reported in the flowers and leaves. individual sensitivity to this nut may vary as does the number of nuts needed to cause a toxic reaction. If there is suspicion of horse chestnut ingestion, owners should seek veterinary attention immediately.
Potential Symptoms of Horse Chestnut Ingestion
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle tremors
- Renal damage
- Lupus-like Syndrome
- Increased bleeding time
The onset of clinical signs varies, but the majority of poisonings don't show for at least 24 hours. Signs can be gastrointestinal in nature when smaller amounts of the nut have been ingested. Sometimes the vomitus can have blood. Also, consider foreign body potential. Perform radiographs when vomiting is present, because the signs may be more related to an obstruction rather than toxicity. When this nut has been ingested in higher doses, dogs may experience neurologic and muscular effects. Very high doses can result in kidney damage, lupus-like syndrome, as well as increased bleeding time and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
If the chestnut was recently ingested, gastric decontamination can be performed. This may include inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, and activated charcoal to bind the toxin and remove it from the body. Other treatments will depend on the severity of the condition. They may include fluid therapy, anti-nausea medication, gastrointestinal protectants, and anticonvulsants. Supportive care to prevent kidney damage, blood clots, and electrolyte disturbances, may also be necessary. Fatal cases have been reported. But, with early intervention, the majority recover and have a good prognosis.
Gingko Nut Toxicity
Gingko nuts are used extensively as an herbal treatment in human medicine. The seeds and leaves have the highest toxic levels. However, the seeds are the main concern.
Potential Symptoms of Gingko Nut Ingestion
- Muscle Tremors
- Clotting Problems
The onset of clinical signs can happen as early as two hours. Vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are mainly seen with leaf extract ingestion. Muscle tremors and seizures are more likely if the seeds are ingested. Clotting problems can occur with chronic ingestion of this nut.
If the leaf is ingested, basic supportive care with fluids and anti-nausea medication may be all that is needed. If the seeds are ingested, gastric decontamination may need to be performed. Other treatments depend on the number of seeds ingested. In addition to fluid therapy and anti-nausea medication, gastrointestinal protectants, anticonvulsants, support for electrolyte disturbances, and a blood transfusion may be needed. Oxygen will be administered in cases of respiratory distress. Prognosis should be good with early intervention. If seeds are ingested, and early intervention does not occur, prognosis may be guarded.
- Hockenhull, Wayne. Pet Poison App VETCPD. Version 2.3, 2013. Apple App Store.
- Wismer, DABVT, DABT, Tina. "People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets - Veterinary Partner - VIN". Veterinarypartner.Vin.Com, 2018, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=6137821.