Can Dogs Eat Almonds? Are Almonds Safe For Dogs? Here's What You Need To Know

by Richard Walther, DVM
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Can Dogs Eat Almonds? Are Almonds Safe For Dogs? Here's What You Need To Know
dog with a bowl of almonds

Almonds have a number of science-backed benefits to people, but are they good for dogs? The answer is no. While almonds are not as toxic as other nuts, like walnuts and macadamia nuts, they can still pose potential health issues for your canine companion and should be avoided.

Pro tip: Save this post as a guide to which nuts might be toxic and how much the average vet costs to treat pups that have eaten a toxic nut is. If you want to be sure that you're covered in an accident like nut toxicity, be sure to consider pet insurance options.

The Potential Hazards of Almonds for Dogs

While it is true that almonds are rich in vitamin E that can help reduce the risk of heart disease, antioxidants that protect against harmful free radicals, and magnesium that can help lower blood pressure, the dangers almonds pose to your furry pal outweigh the health benefits.

If the almonds are properly processed they are not directly toxic to your canine companion but their system cannot properly digest the proteins present in nuts. Here are some of the dangers that might come along if your furry pal ingests almonds.

Indigestion

Although a few almonds probably won’t cause major indigestion problems in bigger dogs like Labradors, toy breeds and puppies might experience serious bowel obstruction. If your four-legged companion eats almonds, chances are you will find bits of them in their stool, possibly accompanied by some blood.

Choking Hazard

Pups seldom chew their food, which means that almonds are a choking hazard. Consuming whole almonds can lead to life-threatening obstructions of the esophagus and the windpipe, especially in toy breeds and small puppies.

Allergies

If your pooch is allergic to tree nuts, even a single almond can impact their health. Keep an eye on any possible symptoms of an allergic reaction such as coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and hives. If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet immediately.

Fluid Retention

Pups love the taste of almonds, especially the flavored varieties — cinnamon, smoked, barbecue, etc. The problem is, packaged nuts contain high amounts of salt, which can make your furry friend very thirsty and result in increased fluid retention. Fluid retention is especially dangerous for pups with heart issues and it also hurts the kidneys. Eating too many packaged almonds could also result in salt toxicity. Finally, flavored almonds contain artificial flavors and other additives that are also harmful to your dog’s health.

Kidney and Bladder Stones

Almonds are rich in phosphorus which can increase the risk of kidney and bladder stones. What’s more, if the obstruction is not removed, the bladder might rupture, which can be fatal if not treated immediately. Dachshunds, Pugs, Bulldogs, and Beagles are genetically prone to bladder stones.

Pancreatitis

Almonds are high in fat, which is the main contributor to developing pancreatitis. This condition is usually marked by loss of appetite, abdominal pain, lethargy, dehydration, difficulty breathing, fever, heart arrhythmias, weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting. If left untreated, pancreatitis can be fatal.

Aflatoxin Poisoning

Aflatoxins are poisonous substances found in crops and nuts, like peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. They’re produced by the common Aspergillus mold that causes food spoilage and even though aflatoxins are only mildly toxic to people, our furry pals are acutely sensitive to them. Signs of aflatoxin poisoning include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice, and liver failure. dog in front of almonds (Image source: Dog Pack)

The Nut Problem - What Almonds Types to Avoid

Here's a few almond varieties that might be especially problematic for dogs:

Chinese Almonds

These are not actually almonds but the kernels of several apricot varieties grown specifically for their seeds. They contain trace amounts of cyanide and can be very dangerous if ingested in big amounts. For that reason, they should always be roasted or blanched before eating.

Bitter Almonds

These almonds are a variety of regular, sweet almonds. They also contain cyanide and cannot be sold unrefined in the US due to the danger of toxicity, but can be found in almond liqueurs and almond-flavored extract.

Other Nuts to Avoid

In general, all nuts are dangerous for dogs if consumed in large amounts. However, the nuts on this list can be toxic to your four-legged friend and cause a number of health problems, even if fed as treats.

Macadamia nuts

Whether roasted or raw, macadamia nuts are toxic to canines. Pets who have ingested macadamia nuts can experience vomiting, diarrhea, fever, shivering, and weakness in their legs. Even a single macadamia nut can seriously harm your pup’s health, so if you suspect they have eaten these nuts and notice any of the mentioned symptoms, make sure to contact your vet right away.

Pecans

Nothing beats a slice of pecan pie on a cold, snowy day but your canine companion should stay away from these nuts. In addition to aflatoxin, pecans also contain juglone, a toxin that can be harmful to dogs and horses.

Pistachios

Like almonds, pistachios contain aflatoxin which can damage your pet’s liver. They’re also a choking hazard and can cause intestine blockage, especially if they are not shelled.

Walnuts

Black walnuts, English walnuts, and Japanese walnuts should not be fed to dogs as they can contain fungi called tremorgenic mycotoxins. If your four-legged companion is exposed to it, they can have symptoms like vomiting, tremors, and seizures. Contact your vet immediately because your pet’s condition could be fatal if left untreated.

Cashews

For healthy pups, a couple of shelled, unsalted cashews won’t do much harm. Raw cashews in their shell contain urushiol, a toxin that causes an allergic skin reaction similar to that caused by poison oak and poison ivy. Still, even though these nuts are technically safe for your canine companion, they contain high amounts of potassium and can cause health problems in pups prone to urinary problems.

Hazelnuts

In theory, your pooch can eat hazelnuts. As long as they stick to a couple of unsalted and uncoated hazelnuts, they shouldn’t have any health issues. However, there’s still the risk of choking and intestinal obstruction. Smaller dogs can easily choke on these nuts, while larger ones tend to swallow them up without chewing, so they can end up stuck in the dog’s intestines and cause significant problems.

Are there any safe alternatives to almonds?

Yes, there are safe alternatives to almonds that have the same nutritional benefits.

Peanuts

Plain, unsalted peanuts are generally safe for pups to eat. Coated, salted, caramelized, or candied peanuts should be avoided. Dogs also shouldn’t eat peanuts in shells. Be careful though - peanuts are quite high in fat, so be sure to feed them in moderation.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is safe for dogs, as long as it doesn’t contain xylitol, artificial preservatives, sugar, or sodium. So, before feeding this delicious nut-based treat to your pooch, be sure to check the label for any potentially harmful ingredients. Also, be mindful about the amount you give - one or two spoons a day is ok but too much peanut butter can lead to obesity or gastrointestinal upset.

Roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts won’t harm your furry companion, but again, they must be fed in small amounts. Similar to peanuts, chestnuts are high in fat so if your pup overindulges, they could end up with an upset tummy.

Don’t forget about the 90-10 rule when it comes to how many treats you give your pooch. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily diet and the rest should be regular dog food.

Can You Give Your Pup Almond Butter, Oil, and Milk?

Since many pups love peanut butter, your pooch probably won’t mind indulging in some almond butter as well. The good news is, there’s no harm in an occasional spoon of almond butter. First of all, you don’t have to worry about intestinal blockages or choking. Second, almond butter offers a number of health benefits - it is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin E, which promote a healthy coat and skin. That’s the reason why almond butter and almond oil are present in many hair, nail, and skin treatments for people. It can also be offered as a treat to help with skin issues internally.

Just as with peanut butter, almond butter and almond oil should be given in moderation. Although almond butter contains only 14% fat compared to peanut butter which contains 50% fat, eating it in large amounts can put your canine companion at risk for obesity, pancreatitis, etc. In general, 1-2 spoons of almond butter should be enough. Finally, make sure to choose plain, natural almond butter without any salt, sugar, or added flavors. In smaller dogs butters of any kind should be avoided due to higher risk of pancreatitis which can be life threatening.

When it comes to almond milk, pet authorities don’t recommend it as dogs don’t have the enzymes required to break down lactose. For that reason, your pup could suffer from vomiting and diarrhea if they drink large amounts of almond milk. This is also true for puppies. Young dogs should only drink their mother’s milk, but if the mother is absent, they should be given a specially-designed formula. dog smelling almonds (Image source: Dog Time)

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Almonds

A couple of almonds aren’t likely to do any harm, as long as your pup isn’t allergic. If your pup manages to swallow some almonds, make sure to monitor them for any signs of choking. You should also be on the lookout for symptoms of intestinal blockage, diarrhea, or vomiting and contact your vet right away if you notice them.

However, if your dog ingests lots of almonds, don’t wait for symptoms and call your vet or poison control immediately. If you call within half an hour of your pooch eating the almonds, they will instruct you on how to induce vomiting. If more time has passed, you might need to rush your pup to the emergency vet for treatment. Your canine companion might be given intravenous fluid, medication to reduce symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, supportive care to prevent liver damage or treatment for pancreatitis.

__Many dog insurance plans help cover emergency treatment for accidental poisoning and help pet owners with the costs of unexpected veterinary bills. __

Ricky Walther, DVM

About the author

Richard Walther, DVM

Associate Veterinarian - Blue Ravine Animal Hospital

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner at Blue Ravine Animal Hospital in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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