Are acorns and conkers poisonous to dogs?
As we head into winter you may be noticing more seeds, nuts and berries in the hedgerows and on the ground when out walking – and so will your dog. Like human babies, young pups – and even old dogs – like to explore the world with their mouth and may pick up nuts and sticks on your walks. But conkers and acorns can be hazardous to your pup’s health – they are poisonous to dogs and can give them an upset stomach, or in more severe cases they can be fatal.
Acorns are most commonly found on the ground underneath oak trees in September and October so this is when you need to be extra vigilant to ensure that your dog hasn’t eaten any whilst snuffling about in the autumn leaves. Some dogs like to chew and crunch on bits of woods and nuts before spitting them out and whilst fatalities are rare, they can happen so always take care with your dog around oak trees this time of year.
Autumn terrier photo by Isabel Vittrup-Pallier on Unsplash
If you suspect that your dog has eaten some acorns there are several symptoms of poisoning that you need to look out for. If they begin vomiting, they collapse, they have diarrhoea, tummy pain, dehydration or toxic shock within a few hours of being exposed to acorns then get them to a vet immediately.
Other animals such as pigs eat acorns with no problems at all, so why are they so poisonous to dogs? It’s because they contain tannins – a bitter plant compound which stops the body from absorbing nutrients. These can cause tummy upsets and if you have a smaller dog there is a chance they could suffer from a blocked intestine too.
As well as keeping your dog away from acorns on walks this time of year, make sure that you don’t have any lying around the home that they can get their paws on either. Don’t leave decorative acorns on display or let your children bring them in and leave them lying around. Also ensure that if they have an outside food or water bowl that it is not underneath an oak tree in case acorns fall into it. Not only can acorns be poisonous they are also sharp and hard and could cause a blockage if swallowed whole.
Autumnal collie photo by David Izquierdo on Unsplash
If you spot an acorn in your dog’s mouth when you are out walking – or you suspect that they have picked one up. Make them drop it immediately. Sometimes this can turn into a game so try distracting them with a toy or a treat to divert their attention from the acorn and encourage them to open their mouth naturally.
If you suspect that your dog has swallowed an acorn, get them to a vet as soon as possible – the sooner the better - so that they can begin an appropriate course of treatment – and it’s not just the acorns that are poisonous, oak leaves can cause similar symptoms in dogs although they are less likely to eat these in large quantities.
Photo by Sdf Rahbar on Unsplash
Bonkers for conkers
Acorns aren’t the only autumn nut that can be toxic to dogs. Conkers are too. Team Dogs spoke to vet Zoe Costigan who explained that conkers – which come from horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) can be moderately toxic to dogs:
“The bark, leaves and flowers of the horse chestnut tree are the most toxic to our furry friends due to the presence of aesculin. Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree and contain starch and approximately five percent aesculin.
“If a dog ingests conkers or other parts of the tree you will usually see clinical signs of toxicity within six hours. Common signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, hypersalivation, sore tummy, excessive thirst, inappetence and dehydration.
“There is also a risk that the conkers can pass through from the stomach into the intestines and cause a blockage which could result in a surgical emergency. Most dogs will vomit up an ingested conker, however, it's best to contact a vet if you know your dog has eaten one as supportive treatment may be required such as fluid support and anti-sickness medication.”
Poodle type dog photo by Todd Mittens on Unsplash
As with acorns, look out for conkers on the ground on your walks. Unlike acorns fallen conkers tend to be encased in spiky green casings which are less fun to chew – but not always. There may be some nuts on the ground which are all too tempting for your dog to pick up and throw around. Don’t keep conkers in your home where your dog may be able to access them and make sure that if your children pick up conkers that they don’t leave them lying around.
If your walks take place where conkers and acorns are likely to be lying on the ground, stay vigilant and check your dog’s mouth if they appear to be chewing something small. Thankfully conker and acorn poisoning is quite rare which is why you may not have heard of it before but it does happen and it is another thing that you should be aware of at this time of year as being able to spot the symptoms and join the dots as to what has happened just might save your dog’s life.
Main Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash