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 human 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. So, can dogs eat nuts? Can dogs eat almonds? What about peanuts, pistachios, cashews and other nuts?
Can dogs eat nuts? Well, the answer to, “Can dogs eat nuts?” isn’t so straightforward.
Can dogs eat nuts in their shells? Although some nuts 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. Can dogs eat nuts out of their shells then? 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.
Can dogs eat nuts covered in chocolate or other candy coatings? These types of nuts are even more dangerous. Chocolate is toxic to dogs.
And can dogs eat nuts that are raw? 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.
So, can dogs eat nuts of any kind? With all these cautions and provisos out of the way, let’s look more closely at the question: Can dogs eat nuts? And can dogs eat nuts like almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc.?
Can dogs eat almonds and if so, are almonds good for dogs? 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.
Peanuts are one of the most common nuts that come to mind when thinking, “Can dogs eat nuts?” 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 food 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.
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. Also, make sure any peanut butter you’re feeding your dogs does not contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
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.
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.
As with most of the nuts when wondering, “Can dogs eat nuts?” 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.
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.
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.
This is the most toxic nut when thinking, “Can dogs eat 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 Hawaii, 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.
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.
Thumbnail: Photography by dogboxstudio / Shutterstock.
This piece was originally published in 2014.
Melvin Peña is a writer, editor, and social media manager who spends most of his time in Durham, North Carolina. His interests include his dog, Baby (of course!), art, hiking, urban farming and karaoke.