What is Almond Poisoning?
Properly processed almonds are not directly toxic to your dog but the canine system does not properly digest the proteins in nuts. Eating large quantities of almonds, whether all at once or frequent smaller amounts given regularly, can cause gastrointestinal distress, obesity, and pancreatitis. In addition to the dangers posed by the almonds themselves, they may also harbor Aspergillus mold. Dogs are particularly susceptible to the aflatoxin produced by this mold and exposure can have serious consequences for your pet.
Although almonds are not directly toxic to dogs they are not advised. The canine system is not designed to process nuts and they can cause gastrointestinal distress, obesity, and pancreatitis.
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Symptoms of Almond Poisoning in Dogs
Signs your dog recently overindulged
- Greasy appearing stools
Signs of Aflatoxin poisoning from Aspergillus mold
- Liver failure
- Loss of appetite
Signs of pancreatitis
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart arrhythmias
- Lack of appetite
- Orange urine
- Severe abdominal pain
- Swollen abdomen
- Weight loss
Types of almond that may be particularly problematic for your canine:
Bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide when untreated. These almonds cannot be sold unrefined in the United States due to the danger of toxicity, but can be found in almond extract and liqueurs.
These are not actually almonds but rather the seeds of an apricot. They also contain trace amounts of cyanide and can be deadly if ingested in large amounts. The lethal dose for an adult human is 50-60 kernels and the lethal dose could be considerably smaller for your pet depending on the size of the dog.
Causes of Almond Poisoning in Dogs
Although properly processed almonds aren’t poisonous, in and of themselves almonds do present a number of secondary risks. These risks can include:
Almonds that humans get to snack on for themselves often have salt and other seasonings added to them. Too much salt can cause increased water retention in dogs and possible injury to the kidneys. This can be particularly dangerous for dogs with heart conditions.
Aflatoxin is caused by the mold Aspergillus. Although aflatoxin levels in foods are only mildly toxic to humans, dogs are acutely sensitive to it There are often trace amounts of these molds on tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, and pistachios.
High phosphorus content
The high phosphorus content in most nuts can eventually increase the likelihood of forming bladder stones.
Dogs do not always chew their food as effectively as humans and this may lead to a choking hazard due to the hardness of the nut combined with its size and shape.
Nuts are quite high in fat which is a primary contributor to developing pancreatitis, a painful illness which can considerably shorten your canine’s life.
Diagnosis of Almond Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms related to this condition will prompt your veterinarian to get a full history of the patient, taking particular note of what foods your pet had access to recently. Typically, a general physical examination will be given and a complete blood count and chemistry profile will be completed as well. Urine, stools, and vomitus will also be tested and may expose underlying diseases or toxins such as aflatoxin. A preliminary diagnosis based on the physical exam and history may prompt treatment even before the final diagnosis is completed.
Further testing will depend on the symptoms that are being exhibited. If your dog is showing signs of damage to the esophagus or showing signs of dehydration, an x-ray or ultrasound of the throat and chest area may be recommended to check for tearing of the esophagus or enlargement of the heart. Ultrasounds can be used to image the abdominal area and may reveal enlargement of the pancreas or fluid accumulation in this area.
Treatment of Almond Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment will depend on how the almonds have affected your pet. Supportive treatment will be given for any immediate concerns such as IV fluids for dehydration and medication will likely be prescribed to alleviate symptoms. These could include anti-nausea medications, antibiotics, or pain management medications which can be given intravenously or by an intramuscular injection. In the event of aflatoxin poisoning, in particular, there is a risk of damage to the liver and vitamin K treatments and hepatoprotectants are often recommended. The supportive treatment is vital to the chances of recovery from aflatoxin as there is no antidote. In the event that your pet is vomiting persistently or severely as is sometimes seen with pancreatitis, your veterinarian may recommend a period of withholding food by mouth, sometimes for several days. The idea behind this treatment is to allow the pancreas to heal enough for the swelling to go down. If the dog is willing and able to eat on its own, several low-fat, low-protein, high-fiber meals are generally recommended per day to speed healing. Supplements of pancreatic enzymes can be given to relieve abdominal pain, but it usually does not alter the course of the disease itself.
Recovery of Almond Poisoning in Dogs
Making sure that your pet completes the full measure of their medications and keeping the recovering patient in a calm and quiet environment will help speed recovery. Medications such as antibiotics, stomach and liver protectants, and antacids may be prescribed to combat the symptoms. Dogs subjected to aflatoxin poisoning will likely need follow-up appointments to check their liver function. Dogs with pancreatitis will most often be placed on a diet restricted to low-fat, high-fiber foods for the remainder of their lives. Pancreatic enzyme supplementation, while unlikely to change the overall course of the disease, may provide some relief from the severe abdominal pain.
Almond Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 20lbs Havanese Bully has eaten a bit of some cookies (1-2 inch chunk) of a shortbread cookie that contains almond extract. He seems fine but I was wondering if I should be concerned? It’s been about an hour since he ate it and there has been no change.
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I just arrived home and my four month old male American Bully name Storm appears to have eaten almonds. He was in his cage in the garage when I left him this morning. I get home and he is running around outside of his cage in the garage. I see remnants of almonds on the garage floor.
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