Why Dogs Don't Like Nuts

Common
Normal

Introduction

Dogs don’t always eat what’s good for them, and sometimes, they may actually eat what is directly harmful to them. When it comes to people food, there are lots of foods that humans and dogs both enjoy. Some are okay to feed your pup, and some are not. Nuts are one of those foods that are potentially toxic, but it’s hard to know which nuts are okay and which are not. Why do some dogs like some nuts and not others? Which are okay to give your dog? What could happen if your dog got into some nuts they weren’t supposed to have? 

The Root of the Behavior

Nuts are a great snack for people—full of healthy fats and proteins, and a great source of energy. But that isn’t the case for dogs. In fact, most nuts are directly harmful or toxic to dogs. Salt on packaged nuts, for example, is bad for your dog because the resulting water retention can lead to other problems. Some nuts just pose choking hazards. And the toxic ones can prove lethal.
Which nuts are the most harmful? Macadamia nuts are one of the most toxic to dogs. In addition to being high in fat, which may lead to obesity, macadamias also have a toxin that can cause neurological problems in dogs. Walnuts and hickory nuts also contain a toxin that can cause seizures or other neurological symptoms. Almonds may cause stomach and other gastrointestinal problems, as they are not easily digested. Pecans, in addition to causing upset stomach and related problems, can also cause seizures. Some nuts, when not properly broken down in a dog’s stomach, can become an obstruction in the digestive tract and require expensive veterinary treatment.

If you have access to whole, unshelled nuts, be particularly careful not to let your dog chew on the shells or husks. In addition to sharp splinters that may possibly tear or obstruct your dog’s digestive tract, some shells or raw nuts contain highly toxic chemicals. So which nuts are safe? Peanuts and peanut butter, in moderation, and free of added sugars or salt. Cashews can also be an infrequent treat for your dog, but be aware that too much can cause stomach pain. Also make sure that the cashews are roasted or cooked, since raw cashews contain a toxin. And hazelnuts, also in moderation, can be safe as an occasional treat for your dog. Just be careful with smaller dogs, as they may be easier to choke on them. 

Encouraging the Behavior

While some nuts can be considered technically safe for your dog, the extra fat may lead to increased risk of obesity and extra weight gain. Treats like peanut butter can be a great motivator during training. Some toys like the Kong are available for purchase that can be filled with kibble and topped with peanut butter or something similar, for a treat that keeps your dog occupied for a while. Just don’t rely on peanut butter all the time, as the extra fat isn’t healthy for your dog.
If your dog doesn’t like nuts or peanut butter, it may be that they’ve already learned their lesson.

Most dogs know to avoid harmful things. Since their noses are far more sensitive than a human’s, dogs may smell some kinds of toxins. Dogs can smell expired kibble, for example, and may know not to eat it by that smell alone. If your dog refuses to eat an offered nut, maybe they know it’s not good for them. Or, maybe they associate the smell with a bad experience or feeling, since dogs can memorize many more smells than a human can. They store those scents as a kind of memory—an association with a positive or negative experience. A dog who has gotten sick on something before may be less likely to eat it again in the future.

Other Solutions and Considerations

While peanut allergies are increasingly common in humans, allergic reactions to nuts are less likely in dogs. But allergic reactions to peanuts can happen. If your dog stars behaving strangely after eating peanuts, you should contact your vet. There are some other seeds, like shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds, that are safe for your dog to eat. You can also substitute peanut butter for some other nut or seed butters like cashew butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, sesame seed butter, and pumpkin seed butter. They should all be used sparingly so your dog doesn’t gain too much weight, but an occasional high-reward treat is fine. 

Conclusion

Most dogs are pretty smart—they learn from experience and from their nose. They sometimes know more than humans do about whether something is good or bad. Most of the time, if a dog won’t eat something, it’s probably because they know better. After all, following your nose is usually a good idea when you have a dog’s sniffer.