Everyone loves giving their good girl or good boy treats and dogs obviously enjoy it, too! But what is safe to give dogs as a treat if typical dog treats aren’t around? Some people give their pups peanut butter as a treat – are other nuts okay to eat, too? This article will explore what nuts are safe for dogs to eat and which can potentially be harmful. Read on for some healthy snack ideas for your pup!
What is a dog’s typical diet?
Domestic dogs in the United States usually eat human manufactured dog foods. These include dry kibble and canned wet foods. Dog foods usually advertise a meat and vegetable basis, but other ingredients can be grains, sodium, preservatives, or other components depending on the quality and brand of dog food. Popular dog food flavors are chicken and grain, sweet potato, lamb and grain, or beef. Peanut butter is also a favorite treat of our fluffy friends and is common in dog biscuits or as the filling for some toys.
Do other animals eat nuts?
For many animals, nuts are a crucial part of their diet. Many birds – including woodpeckers, chickadees, blue jays, and crows – are primarily reliant on various nuts for food. Several species have special adaptations that enable a nut-based diet. For example, Darwin’s famous finches include 18 closely related species on the Galapagos Islands. Each species is equipped with a beak distinctly adapted for the bird’s food source. The large ground finch has a very big and strong beak that can crack hard nuts. The small ground finch, however, eats seeds and vegetation which are much softer and therefore has a smaller beak. Although nuts can be a valuable food source, not all animals can access them.
Many mammal species, especially rodents, also eat nuts. Nuts are a rich source of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates that various wildlife rely on. Foxes, racoons, deer, black bears, and many other species supplement their diets with nuts. As one might expect, the mammal that eats the largest variety of nuts is the squirrel. They commonly feed on acorns, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios and more. They eat about a pound of nuts a week and they store many more nuts in caches they rely on in winter. Squirrels maintain about 1,000 caches at a time and can remember their exact location. They also are capable of burying more than 25 nuts in half an hour! Squirrels can store approximately 10,000 nuts and seeds annually! Squirrels don’t eat all the nuts they bury, so incidentally, squirrels are crucial to their ecosystems. They disperse seeds and nuts helping trees reproduce.
What nuts are not safe for dogs?
So, are nuts safe for dogs? As a matter of fact, no, most nuts are not very healthy for dogs, and some are toxic. The high fat content in nuts can cause obesity and pancreatic issues in dogs of all breeds. Small dogs, like chihuahuas and small terriers, are particularly susceptible to pancreatitis. Nuts are not only high in fat, but they also pose a choking hazard, especially to small dogs. Often, store bought nuts are heavily salted. Excess salt can cause many issues for dogs relating to water retention. Large amounts can lead to polydipsia, polyuria, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, tremors, seizures, and death.
One nut particularly toxic to dogs is the macadamia nut. Ingesting macadamia nuts can cause macadamia nut toxicosis. This syndrome is characterized by vomiting, weakness, ataxia, hyperthermia, and depression of the central nervous system. Symptoms usually present within 12 hours of eating the nuts. There is no specific treatment for this form of poisoning but intravenous fluids for dehydration, analgesics, and antiemetics are helpful to ease symptoms in severe cases.
Chestnuts can sometimes be safe for dogs, but they are risky. They pose a choking hazard like other nuts and are often coated with salt, sugar, or chocolate. Chestnuts also cannot be served to dogs raw – they must be boiled. Certain types of chestnuts, like horse chestnuts, are toxic even when cooked.
What nuts are safe for dogs?
Peanuts, although technically legumes, are the only certainly safe nutty snack for fido. Some nuts safe for dogs in small amounts are cashews, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts. These nuts can be tolerated in small quantities, but there are many healthier alternatives that are much safer. Peanuts and peanut butter-based treats are a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin, a vitamin important for turning food into energy. These treats, however, are only healthy in moderation and are not nutritionally sufficient to be the basis of a dog’s diet. Different brands of peanut butters may also be healthier than others if they have minimal ingredients and have low sugar content.
Some fun peanut buttery ideas for dog treats are homemade dog biscuits and peanut butter Kongs. Peanut butter dog biscuits can be made at home or bought from a number of different brands. For a minimalistic and simple recipe, you can make dog biscuits with peanut butter, oats, and water. You can even add pumpkin puree to the mix! An easy alternative and a puppy favorite is the peanut butter Kong. Many toys, commonly a rubber Kong, allow the owner to stuff a treat inside that their pup will have to work at to get out. Putting peanut butter inside such toys makes a great treat and a fun puzzle for your furry friend.
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- ThoughtCo., Available here: https://www.thoughtco.com/charles-darwins-finches-1224472
- Scientific American, Available here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/squirrels-can-store-the-same-kinds-of-nuts-in-specific-groupings/
- MasterClass, Available here: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/can-dogs-eat-chestnuts
- ASPCA, Available here: https://www.aspca.org/news/animal-poison-control-alert-macadamia-nuts-are-toxic-dogs