Can dogs eat walnuts? To an experienced dog owner, this question is kind of like asking if fish can swim or ducks can quack.
Dogs are smart and curious and if a pup happens across an unattended walnut, you can bet it will be gulped down in short order!
But should dogs eat walnuts? Are walnuts safe for dogs or are they on the no-no food list? Do walnuts have any nutritional value to offer or are there other, better snacks for your dog?
As it turns out, walnuts are a particularly controversial topic in the veterinary world. Read on to learn what experts have to say about whether dogs can eat walnuts.
Should Dogs Eat Walnuts?
If your dog just ate a walnut and you urgently need to know if you should be worried, the answer is unfortunately not a simple yes or no.
Some dogs can have nut and seed allergies. Itching, vomiting, scratching the ears or the rear end, licking or biting at paws, hives and rashes are all common signs of nut and seed allergies in dogs.
Dogs can also get sick from eating moldy nuts of any kind.
And while all nuts can harbor fungus, especially if they get old or are kept in damp or humid conditions, black walnuts can go these other nuts one better.
Here is a handy guideline.
Medium To Giant Breed Dog
If your dog is a medium size breed or larger and ate just one or two walnuts and you don’t see any immediate signs of distress, you are likely in the clear.
To be safe, you can just continue to watch for any symptoms that indicate digestive or respiratory distress.
Small To Toy Breed Dog
If your dog is a small size breed or smaller and ate a walnut, the first thing you need to watch for is choking.
Walnuts are large nuts. Swallowing a single large whole walnut can easily cause choking or internal impaction in miniature or toy breed dogs.
Otherwise, if you don’t see any warning signs unfolding right away, just continue to monitor your dog for 24 hours.
Are Walnuts Toxic To Dogs?
The type of walnut your dog just ate matters.
There are several varietals of walnut trees that are commonly grown in North America.
The most common of these varietals are black walnuts and butternut walnuts. Butternut walnuts, which are also sometimes called white walnuts, are relatively harmless once you factor out their fat content.
But black walnuts can be problematic. The roots, branches, buds, leaves and hulls of the black walnut tree contain a toxin known as juglone. As the Purdue University Department of Horticulture explains, juglone is so toxic that many other plant species cannot even grow near black walnut trees!
However, juglone is not always toxic to dogs. Some dog breeds and some dogs in general tolerate it better than other dogs.
The nut meats of the black walnut tree – the part that people like to eat – contain the lowest amount of juglone of any part of the black walnut tree. But they do have some juglone as well.
The most common way that dogs ingest juglone is through chewing on black walnut wood, which is a common wood source for home furnishings, furniture and flooring.
The second most common method of ingestion is when dogs go outside and eat black walnut hulls after squirrels have eaten the nut meat and cast the hulls down.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association highlights (AVMA) these as the major reported symptoms of juglone toxicity in dogs:
- Lack of coordination.
- Spontaneous vomiting.
- Neurological (nervous system) disruption: dizziness, weakness, stiffness.
- Musculoskeletal symptoms: weakness specific to hind legs.
Further, Veterinary Bytes points out that certain symptoms are more associated with ingesting certain parts of the black walnut tree as follows:
- Nuts, Nut Hulls, Wood: Spontaneous vomiting.
- Wood, Leaves, Branches, Stems:
- Hind legs weakness.
So these are the major symptoms you need to watch for that may also tell you what part(s) of the black walnut tree your dog may have eaten.
Are Walnuts Safe For Dogs?
After all that information, you may have already stopped reading and started panicking.
We understand. When in doubt, always call your canine veterinarian for guidance.
But not all dogs react badly to juglone. Some dogs, mysteriously, seem to have an “iron stomach” and can eat black walnut meats without any trouble at all.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that walnuts are safe for dogs. It just means that some dogs seem to have less sensitive digestive systems than other dogs. You know your own dog best and so you can infer from this how concerned you need to be (or talk with your veterinarian for personalized guidance).
And even having said that, it is still important to point out that walnut meats in general, whether from the black walnut tree or another varietal of walnut tree, are not the best snack for dogs.
In addition to the toxin juglone, walnuts and other nuts are high in fats. Fats can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Pancreatitis is another dangerous health condition that some dogs and certain dog breeds are more susceptible to than others.
Pancreatitis, as the name suggests, is an inflammation of the organ called the pancreas.
As VCA Animal Hospitals outlines, when a dog’s pancreas gets inflamed, the digestive enzymes that it produces become active right away instead of waiting until they travel down into the stomach.
This causes systemic inflammation and a variety of easily recognizable symptoms, including these:
- Hunched back and raised hindquarters with head on the floor.
- Spontaneous repeat vomiting.
- Bloating and pain in the abdomen.
- Loss of appetite.
You probably already noticed that some of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of black walnut toxicity, or juglone poisoning.
Because it is hard to know whether the symptoms you are observing are caused by juglone or pancreatitis, it is vital to get your dog to the veterinarian or the nearest canine urgent care center without delay for treatment.
Can Dogs Eat Walnuts?
As you now know, while dogs certainly can eat walnuts, they probably shouldn’t. Some dogs will tolerate the occasional walnut treat just fine.
Other dogs won’t be able to eat even a single walnut without having a reaction to the fat or to other toxins that may be present, whether simple mold or juglone.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Walnuts?
No matter how careful you might try to be as a dog owner, there may be a time in the future when your dog finds a walnut and eats it.
The best approach is to simply keep walnuts in a secure place and out of your dog’s reach. When serving walnuts at gatherings, always let the guests know your dog should not eat walnuts (to guard against them offering a walnut treat to your cute pup).
The treatment for black walnut poisoning in dogs will vary based on the amount eaten and how long it has been since the suspected ingestion.
Induced vomiting is often the first response if the walnuts are still in your dog’s stomach. Treatment may also include anti-allergy medications and antibiotics depending on what symptoms are present.
Never try to treat your dog for suspected black walnut poisoning or nut allergies on your own. Always get your dog to the nearest urgent care veterinarian or animal poison control center for professional treatment.
It is smart to learn as much as you can about which “people” foods are safe for your dog to eat and which ones you should never feed your dog.
Walnuts are one of those people foods that really aren’t that good for dogs. This is because walnuts have a high fat content as well as the potential to carry mold and (in the case of black walnuts) the toxin juglone.
For this reason, it is best to choose other treats to keep your dog healthy and happy.