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Can Dogs Eat Nuts? If So, Which Kinds Are Safe?

Dogs enjoy a little peanut butter as a treat, so why are the majority of nuts bad for dogs?

 |  Apr 10th 2014  |   1 Contribution


As humans, we seem to have an inherent desire to share the things that give us pleasure, especially foods. With a world of information available at our fingertips, it only makes sense to inquire what foods are safe for dogs to eat before we offer them to our pets. Dogster has looked into various food groups and asked if dogs can eat fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Now, we turn our attention to popular snack nuts. Can dogs eat nuts?

Although they may not contain native toxins that adversely affect dogs, the shells of all nuts present the risk of tearing tissue as they move through a dog's digestive tract. The meat of many nuts contains high quantities of fats that can cause upset stomachs. Many store-bought, commercially-available nuts are also packaged with salt and other chemicals, which can dehydrate or even poison dogs.

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Can dogs eat peanut butter? Yes, creamy, unsalted peanut butter is safe for dogs in moderation. Black Dachshund dog enjoying peanut butter by Shutterstock.

Nuts covered in chocolate or other candy coatings are even more dangerous. On the whole, even raw nuts seem to be unwise food choices for dogs, even if they are given in moderation as treats. Old nuts that have mold on them present a whole load of other problems and should be kept away from dogs. Mold toxins can cause seizures, neurological distress, and liver problems for dogs. In fact, moldy foods of any kind or variety -- no matter where they sit on any version of the food pyramid -- should be disposed of properly. With all these cautions and provisos out of the way, let's look more closely at some popular nuts.

Can dogs eat almonds?

As with most of the nuts we're looking at here, almonds are not technically toxic for dogs. However, as with most of these nuts, almonds are high in fat, making them difficult for dogs to digest in large quantities. Fatty foods can be dangerous for dogs because they exceed the capability of their pancreas to break them down and process them. Too much fat in a dog's diet can lead to pancreatitis.

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Most nuts are simply too high in fat for most dogs. Angus the black lab blood hound in a nut orchard in the Willamette Valley near McMinville OR by Shutterstock.

Can dogs eat peanuts?

If they are raw or roasted, removed from their shells, and unsalted, dogs can safely eat a few peanuts. Dogs don't tend to experience peanut allergies as frequently or as violently as humans do, but those allergies do exist. Peanuts do contain more fat than is usually good for dogs, so a few peanuts should be okay, but proceed with caution. This is especially true if your pet tags along to dog day at your local baseball park, where peanuts may litter the bleachers.

Can dogs eat peanut butter?

Whether dogs can eat peanuts and whether they can eat peanut butter seem to be different questions altogether. Creamy peanut butter, with as low of a sodium content as possible and in limited quantities tends to be a safe and entertaining treat for dogs. If amusing YouTube videos are any evidence, dogs really seem to enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter. Here at Dogster, though, we wouldn't recommend feeding a dog anything simply for entertainment.

Can dogs eat pistachios?

Removed from their shells, pistachios can be okay for dogs, but are not recommended. Pistachios are not toxic to dogs, but have too high a fat content for dogs in large quantities. Do not give dogs pistachios that are still inside the shell, which, like other nuts in the shell, can cause digestive blockages that can be dangerous in their own right. 

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Dogs don't tend to chew their food sufficiently, so most large nuts can cause blockages or digestive difficulties. black labrador puppy sitting in autumn with leaves, pumpkin, flowers, quince, apples and nuts by Shutterstock.

Can dogs eat cashews?

Cashews are high in fat, and it doesn't take many for a dog to reach the limit of their recommended fat intake. Too many can lead to weight gain and pancreatitis.

Can dogs eat walnuts?

No. As with most of the nuts here, walnuts are too high in fat for dogs. That aside, walnuts also tend to be larger than nuts such as peanuts or pistachios. Dogs don't chew their food as thoroughly as humans do, so larger nuts, like walnuts, are more difficult to digest. Unprocessed, larger nuts can obstruct a dog's bowel movements.

Can dogs eat pecans?

No, and for all of the same reasons as walnuts. Not only are they too high in fat, but too large and difficult to digest. Another frequent problem for dogs and nuts is stomach upset if they eat too many. 

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Most nuts are not toxic for dogs, but enough of them can cause pancreatitis. guardian of the nuts by Shutterstock.

Can dogs eat sunflower seeds?

If they are unsalted and removed from their sharp shells, yes, sunflower seeds are okay for dogs in small amounts. Another one to watch out for on the ground or in the bleachers at ballgames. 

Can dogs eat macadamia nuts?

Macadamia nuts are the grapes and raisins of the nut kingdom. They are highly toxic to dogs, even in limited quantities, but no one is yet certain why. Of course, unless you live in Hawai'i, Australia, or certain countries in Africa or South America, a dog's risk of accidental ingestion is probably small. A few macadamia nuts can cause real short-term neurological problems for dogs -- tremors, dizziness, and even temporary paralysis. Your dog is better off without macadamia nuts.

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The general rule of thumb is that even if dogs can eat nuts, they probably should be kept away. Halloween picture of a three months old chihuahua puppy dog with pumpkins by Shutterstock.

It is important to remember that, voracious eaters as dogs can be, they are generally much smaller than people. This means that dogs will often have trouble processing and digesting things that present humans with relatively few issues. Based on our research, it seems the best course of action when it comes to dogs is to keep them away from nuts.

This may sound a bit vulgar -- something you'd probably hear from Snoop Dogg rather than Dogster -- but unless you are a licensed breeder, dogs shouldn't have nuts of any kind. Even if it's a terrible pun, it's a good reminder to spay and neuter your dogs.

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