It is not uncommon for the dog’s big eyes to watch when walnuts are cracked. Their high-fat content makes walnuts an irresistible delicacy for dogs.
But can dog owners give in to begging?
What to do if my dog ate walnuts? – Can dogs eat walnuts?
No, dogs should better not eat walnuts. Although walnuts are very healthy and contain many valuable nutrients, dogs shouldn’t get them. This is because walnuts can be attacked by mold that makes the nuts poisonous for dogs. Such poisoning can even be fatal.
Nut allergies are not uncommon
Nuts contain a lot of protein. This is a curse and a blessing at the same time because, on the one hand, the proteins are quite healthy if the organism can tolerate them. On the other hand, in the case of an allergy, the immune reaction occurs because of a specific protein.
The walnut has three that are suitable for it. In addition, cross-allergic reactions to walnuts are possible in birch pollen allergy sufferers.
Allergy symptoms caused by a cross-reaction are usually less dramatic than those of a primary allergy. Anaphylactic shock can even occur here.
A mold on walnuts that is dangerous for dogs
Unfortunately, walnuts are often attacked by the mold Penicillium Roqueforti. Does the name sound familiar to you? That’s right, that’s exactly the mold that is used to make the blue cheese of the same name.
Molds are living things, even if that is difficult to imagine. Like all living things, molds also have metabolism. No digestive processes take place there that are comparable to those in human or canid bodies, but there are nonetheless metabolic processes that produce degradation products.
Molds produce so-called mycotoxins. These are usually the toxins that turn mold into pathogens. One of the mycotoxins produced by Penicillium Roqueforti is Roquefortin C.
So the toxic substance is not the mold itself. It is therefore not helpful to remove the mold from the surface. Unfortunately, the toxin cannot be eliminated in this way.
Roquefortin C is extremely toxic to dogs. Why dogs respond much more strongly to the neurotoxic effects of Roquefortin C than humans is still unclear. What is certain, however, is that it has a similar effect to strychnine.
Strychnine disrupts your dog’s nervous system by over-stimulating the nerves in the spinal cord. This leads to a stiffening of the muscles and consequently to shortness of breath.
It is better not to serve dogs walnuts or blue cheese.
Reliable information on the toxic dose for dogs is unfortunately completely lacking because it is always uncertain whether a walnut is even infected with mold. The infestation may not even have to be visible to the naked eye.
But even if you knew this, it would still not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the amount of poison produced by the mold.
Hence, there is no way of knowing how many walnuts a dog could tolerate before poisoning causes serious problems. What is certain is that puppies, very small dogs, and weakened animals would be particularly difficult to cope with poisoning and must therefore be supervised particularly well.
Beware of self-service at walnut trees
Dogs who like nuts occasionally take care of themselves. It is better not to create many opportunities for this in the first place. The mold sits mainly on the bowls, so dogs are not allowed to play with the spherical nuts if they are still intact.
Because molds feel particularly comfortable in a damp environment, walnuts that have fallen from trees and are on the ground are the greatest danger to dogs. So if you have a walnut tree in your garden, you’d better think of something to keep your four-legged friend away from it.
Maybe you can build a small fence. Of course, you can always collect fallen nuts immediately, or you can not leave your dog unattended in the garden during the walnut harvest.
Your darling may have been nibbling from your walnut tree for years, unscathed. Then, in all probability, the nuts were free of mold.
Unfortunately, it cannot be determined at all whether this will continue to be the case in the future.
Even when walking, walnuts can unexpectedly lie on the ground. It doesn’t hurt if, to be on the safe side, you take your usual route to look for walnut trees. Depending on the weather, you should expect walnuts there from around the end of September.
How about walnut cookies or nut cake?
The same applies here: Best not for the dog. The toxic mycotoxin cannot be rendered harmless by heating. Therefore, preparations with roasted or baked walnuts are unfortunately no less critical. It is questionable, however, whether a few chopped walnuts in a cookie can reach a toxic concentration.
You probably don’t have to worry if your four-legged friend accidentally stole a few cookies. But it is certainly more sensible not to feed them on purpose, because the dog will not miss out on important nutrients.
Symptoms of poisoning your dog with Roquefortin C
If your dog has managed to get walnuts and played with them or swallowed the kernels, you should watch him very carefully afterward. Poisoning may include tremors, cramps, stiff limbs, or vomiting.
In severe cases, poisoning can also lead to epileptic seizures or death.
So it is better not to take any chances at all. If you know that your darling could have been poisoned by walnuts, it makes sense to see the vet at the first sign of malaise, even if the dog may initially show only slight fatigue.
If you’ve caught him red-handed, it won’t hurt to give him charcoal pills. It may still be possible in time to bind some of the poison that may have been ingested.
However, it is just as possible that nothing will happen, because whether a walnut has mold or not can be predicted.
Can walnut oil be harmful too?
Walnut oil has not yet been tested for Roquefortin C. Like the nuts themselves, the oil of the walnut can be completely harmless if the pressed nuts did not have any mold.
However, if they were infected by Penicillium Roqueforti, it can be assumed that the mycotoxin from the nut can also get into the oil.
The mold colonizes the nut from the outside. The most toxic is therefore usually the shell and also the thin membrane that covers the nut kernel. Anyone who has ever cracked walnuts themselves knows exactly how difficult it is to remove the thin skin.
If you now imagine that the walnuts for oil production are peeled by machine, it is hardly conceivable that the peel and skin are removed so thoroughly that none of them get into the oil press.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that there is no Roquefortin C in walnut oil. On the one hand, this is a shame because the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids contained in walnut oil is ideal for dogs.
On the other hand, there is no reason to take a risk. If a dog needs a lot of omega-3 fatty acids for health reasons, appropriate food supplements are the better way anyway, because they can be safely dosed.
Such preparations for supplementing omega-3 fatty acids are predominantly based on salmon oil. When it comes to giving the dog an overall high-quality oil, rapeseed and linseed oil are real and inexpensive alternatives.
Are other nuts unhealthy too?
If your dog likes nuts, there are a few varieties that you can safely give him: Hazelnuts, pecans, and cashews contain many healthy nutrients and will not harm dogs, provided they can handle the calories.
However, numerous types of nuts are not recommended at all:
- Peanuts very often trigger allergies and can also be colonized by Penicillium Roqueforti.
- Macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs and can kill them.
- Almonds are dangerous because sweet almonds are difficult to distinguish from bitter almonds. Bitter almonds contain poisonous hydrogen cyanide.
- Brazil nuts are also often attacked by a harmful mold.
- The same goes for pistachios, which are also not good for the liver and kidneys.
Is there dog food with walnuts?
No, you don’t need to worry about that. A ready-made feed with walnuts is not produced.
There is a canned food made with walnut oil. The Dog’s Love Classic with Turkey, Apple, and Zucchini contains 0.9% walnut oil. In this low concentration, intoxication by Roquefortin C is rather unlikely, because, as always, the same applies here: the amount makes the poison.
It’s a shame about the walnut
In the end, it’s almost a bit unfortunate, because walnuts are full of healthy proteins, antioxidants, and fatty acids – but the risk of getting moldy nuts simply cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Accordingly, veterinarians regularly warn against walnuts for dogs. The risk of allergies is another reason not to feed dogs with walnuts of all things.