Most pups love playing with acorns which are abundant in the fall, but what happens if they go even further and eat them?
If you have an oak tree or love exploring the nearby forest, the chances are that your dog will show an interest in acorns. If you, like many worried dog parents, are wondering are acorns bad for dogs, then we have bad news for you. Yes, both they and the oak leaves can be toxic for canines.
So, before the fall, now is the time to learn more about acorn poisoning, the symptoms, and the best ways to prevent such incidents.
Acorn – Quercus Poisoning in Dogs
Acorns and oak (Quercus) leaves can lead to poisoning if a dog eats substantial quantities. The toxins in the leaves and the acorns are tannins. These chemicals come from the micronutrients called phenolic acids and have the task of stopping herbivores from eating them.
The level of the tannins in acorns and oak leaves reaches its peak right before they are fully ripe so that animals don’t pick and eat them.
The good news is that the toxin levels drop as soon as they ripen and fall off the tree.
But still, it is advisable to keep your four-legged companion away from them, even when they are on the ground.
The tannins in the acorns and the oak leaves bind with the proteins, starches, cellulose, and minerals and transform into a substance that is resistant to decomposing and dissolving. This makes the acorns highly resilient to freezing and drying, increasing their chances of growing into new oak plants.
So, they remain as dangerous for canines in the winter and spring as they are in the fall.
This is another good reason to keep your yard clean of fallen acorns and oak leaves throughout the year.
Related: Why Does My Dog Eat Leaves?
What Are The Common Symptoms of Acorn Toxicity in Dogs?
Since the tannins in acorns are very toxic to dogs, 3 out of every 4 dogs which eat acorns will display symptoms of poisoning. Before you start panicking, you should know that if you take immediate action, the chances of your pup recovering fully are great.
This is why it is vital to call or visit your vet as soon as you see the first symptoms or see your dog gobbling up some acorns.
The problem with tannins is that they come in different types, which can affect your pup’s organs differently.
Dissolvable (hydrolyzable) tannins, known as HT, can cause damage to the cells and protein denaturation of the liver and kidneys of the dog. The condensed tannins known as CT are more likely to affect the absorption of nutrients and can damage the mucosa of the pup’s gastrointestinal tract.
While larger dogs may get away with only some mild symptoms after eating a few acorns, smaller and toy-sized dogs are in greater danger of more serious adverse effects and long-term health problems, such as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
The most common symptoms of canine acorn poisoning include:
- Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
- Excessive urination (polyuria)
- Abdominal discomfort and pain
- Constipation followed by hemorrhagic diarrhea (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis)
- In severe cases, the dog may develop hepatic, gastrointestinal, and renal dysfunction
- In extreme cases, the dog can die
The Best Way to Prevent Acorn Poisoning
The best way to ensure that your dog is safe and does not get poisoned by acorns or oak leaves is to take preventive actions.
Instead of removing every acorn your dog gets in its mouth, you and your pet should teach it the “leave it” command and thus eliminate the risk of poisoning altogether.
The “leave it” command is one of the most important commands you can teach your pup, as it can literally save its life.
The training requires some dedication and patience from the dog’s parents, but the result is absolutely worth it.
The goal is to train your dog to forget about a potentially edible object and turn its attention back to you so that you can reward it.
Here is a short guide by experienced dog trainer Wendy Volhard which will help you teach your furbaby the “leave it” command.
Training Your Dog to Respond To the “Leave It” Command
Sequence # 1
Hold a tasty treat between your thumb and index finger with your palm up, and let your dog see and sniff it. As soon as it tries to take it, say “leave it” and fold your hand into a fist hiding the treat with your palm facing down.
At this point, your untrained dog will most likely continue nudging your hand, barking, staring at your hand, and trying to get that treat.
Watch your dog’s eyes, and as soon as it turns away to glance at something else, say “good” and give it the treat as a reward.
Continue repeating this sequence until your dog starts responding to your command.
The trick is to ensure that your pup is truly responding to the “leave it” command rather than that you are turning your hand over to offer it the treat.
Place the treat on the floor with your hand on top of it. Once your pup starts trying to get the treat or turns its attention to your hand, say “leave it.” as soon as it turns its attention away from your hand, praise the dog and reward it.
After that, you can do the same exercise but this time, cover the treat with your index finger only.
The next thing to try is to do the same by holding the treat between your index and middle finger.
Continue repeating this until your dog begins responding to the “leave it” command.
Put your pup on a leash standing next to you and drop the treat on the floor. If it tries to get it, say “leave it” and stop it with the leash if your pup fails to respond to your command. If your furbaby responds, then pick the treat up and reward it. It is important to pick it up so your dog learns not to pick up anything (acorns included) from the ground.
Once you think your pup is ready, you can test the training results with the dog unleashed. Drop a treat on the floor and say, “leave it.” even if your pup doesn’t obey you and grabs the treat, do not shout or punish it. Instead, go back to sequence three and the training on the leash.
When you feel confident that your furry friend is obediently responding to the “leave it” command, you can test it in real life. Place non-dog snacks such as crackers or popcorn on the ground before taking a walk so your dog can see them. Don’t forget to take some of its favorite treats with you as well. Once you reach the place where you have dropped the food items, say, “leave it.” If your pup obeys the command, praise it and reward it with one of its own dog treats. Please do not allow it to eat the food items you have intentionally dropped!
Are There Nuts Which My Dog Can Eat?
Now that you know to keep your pup away from acorns, you may be wondering whether other nuts are safe for it.
While nuts are not a natural component of the dog’s diet, there are some nuts that you can give to your dog as occasional small snacks, including:
Small unsalted almonds can be given to dogs but only in small amounts and on special occasions. Make sure the almond is small enough for the dog to swallow it to reduce the risk of choking, especially in smaller pups.
Chestnuts are packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and can be excellent occasional dog treats. Make sure to peel them and break them down into manageable pieces or blend them before giving them to your furbaby.
Treat your pet with some chestnuts in moderation because overeating them can lead to digestive problems due to their starch and salt.
These delicious nuts are loaded with protein and fat, so only give your dog one or two of them on occasion. Eating too many cashews and fat can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and even pancreas inflammation and painful pancreatitis in canines.
Please note that even the nuts which are not toxic for dogs can lead to digestive problems and pancreatitis when given in excess.
Plus, never give your pet nuts that are salted or seasoned.
Also, keep in mind that not all nuts are safe for canines. Some can be highly toxic to them.
So, make sure to keep the following types of nuts safely away from your four-legged friend at all times:
- Macadamia nuts – highly toxic
- Moldy or old walnuts – highly toxic
- Black walnuts – highly toxic
- Pistachios – should be avoided
- Raw cashews – should be avoided
- Hickory nuts – should be avoided
- Pecans – a risk of mold, should be avoided
- Brazil nuts – high in fat, should be avoided
Acorn poisoning can lead to unpleasant symptoms and, in more severe cases, to serious health problems and even death.
This is why you should keep your pup away from eating them or oak leaves. This is best done by teaching your dog to respond to the “leave it” command.
Provide your dog with a healthy balanced diet, and make sure you train it so that it stays happy, healthy, and safe.