Can Dogs Have Nuts?

Amanda Ardente, DVM, PhD
Jul 30, 2020
   |   5 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Can dogs eat nuts? They might seem like a perfectly sized, tasty treat option for your dog, but are nuts safe? Here’s some insight on whether you can give nuts to dogs and the risks that you should be aware of.

Can Dogs Have Nuts? Are They Safe?

Many of the nuts we have in our pantries are technically safe for dogs, but there are a few types of nuts that are toxic to dogs, and any nuts that have gotten moldy are toxic to dogs.

While small amounts of certain nuts and nut butters may be safely fed to your dog, it is important to be aware of all risk factors and potential toxicities. Although they are small in size, all nuts are high in fat and calories. Even when only offered as a small snack or treat, a little goes a long way.

For many dogs, it may be wise to steer clear of nuts and select a safer treat option that provides fewer calories, less fat and salt, and less concern for toxicity.

Here are some risks of giving nuts as treats.

They Are High in Calories and Can Cause Weight Gain

For dogs that are overweight or prone to weight gain, nuts should be avoided, as there are much lower calorie human foods that could be given as treats instead, like green beans or air-popped popcorn that’s free of butter and salt.

If you do give your dog small amounts of peanut butter to take pills, for instance, you should not allow the calories provided by all combined treats (including the peanut butter) to exceed 10% of their total daily calories. This helps prevent treats from unbalancing your dog’s diet.

This table provides the approximate caloric content (kcal/100g)* of various types of edible nuts without shell/hull:

Nut Type Calories (kcal*/100g)
Almonds, blanched 590
Almonds, dry roasted, unsalted 598
Cashews, dry roasted, unsalted 574
Cashews, raw 553
Peanuts, dry roasted, unsalted 587
Peanuts, raw 567
Pecans, dry roasted, unsalted 710
Pecans, raw 691
Pistachios, dry roasted, unsalted 572
Pistachios, raw 560
Walnuts, English raw 654

*Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central database, standard references

Nuts Have High Fat Content That Can Cause Pancreatitis

Additionally, the high fat content of nuts can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset in dogs with sensitive stomachs or those prone to developing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes irritated and inflamed, and it usually requires a visit to the veterinarian.

Symptoms can include decreased or no appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and sometimes diarrhea. Some breeds, like Schnauzers, are prone to this condition, and a high-fat diet in sensitive dogs can sometimes trigger the irritation.

Nuts Can Have Coatings That Are Dangerous for Dogs

Nuts can be coated with ingredients like cocoa or spices like garlic and pepper, and they also can have a high salt content. Those flavorful coatings can cause GI upset in dogs, and the high salt content is dangerous for a variety of reasons.

Some dogs can develop high blood pressure as a result of eating too much salt. For other dogs prone to developing urinary stones or that have underlying heart or kidney disease, high-salt foods can worsen these conditions.1

Which Types of Nuts Are Safe or Toxic for Dogs?

While some nuts are technically safe for dogs, there are still concerns you should keep in mind based on the type of nut.

Can Dogs Eat Peanuts or Peanut Butter?

Peanuts are generally safe for dogs to eat, outside of the considerations mentioned above.

Nut butters, like peanut butter or almond butter, are commonly offered as treats or used to administer medications. However, it is important to remember that like nuts, nut butters are also high in calories, fat, and salt, so they should be used sparingly.

Look at the ingredient list carefully, because some nut butters are made with the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs, as it causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and in some animals, liver failure.2,3

Can Dogs Eat Walnuts?

Be sure you know what type of walnut you feed your dog. English walnuts are generally safe for dogs to eat, outside of the considerations mentioned above. But black walnuts (a type of walnut not commonly eaten by people) are toxic for dogs.

The symptoms of toxicity are vomiting, muscle weakness and tremors, a high temperature, and seizures.4-6  These types of nuts should never be fed to dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Macadamia Nuts?

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs can cause the same symptoms as black walnuts (vomiting, muscle weakness and tremors, a high temperature, and seizures.

Can Dogs Eat Pistachios?

Pistachios, with or without their shells (or hulls), can be choking hazards for dogs due to their size and shape.

Can Dogs Eat Cashews?

Cashews are generally safe for dogs to eat, outside of the considerations mentioned above.

Can Dogs Eat Pecans?

Pecans are generally safe for dogs to eat, outside of the considerations mentioned above.

Can Dogs Eat Almonds?

Almonds, with or without their shells (or hulls), can be choking hazards for dogs due to their size and shape.

References:

1. Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al. (Eds.) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition (5th edition). Topeka, Kansas. Mark Morris Institute. 2010.

2. Murphy LA, Coleman AE.  Xylitol toxicosis in dogs. Vet Clin Sm Anim Pract. 42(2): 307-312. 2012.

3. Bates N. Xylitol toxicosis dogs. UK-Vet Comp Anim. 24(4). 2019.

4. Hansen SR, Buck WB, Meerdink G, et al.  Weakness, tremors, and depression associated with macadamia nuts in dogs. Vet Hum Toxicol. 42(1): 18-21. 2000.

5. Coleman AE, Merola V.  Clinical signs associated with ingestion of black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) wood, nuts, and hulls in dogs: 93 cases (2001-2012). JAVMA. 248(2): 195-200. 2016.

6. Richard JL, Bacchetti P, Arp LH.  Moldy walnut toxicosis in a dog, caused by the mycotoxin, penitrem A. Mycopath.76(1): 55-58. 1981.

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