What is Beech Trees Poisoning?
Species of beech trees, belonging to the genus Fagaceae, are native to Europe, Asia, and North America. European and American beeches are the most well-known species that grow into classic tall trees with silver-gray bark and branches starting high up the trunk. Asian species are part of an alternate sub-genus with several compound trunks and low hanging branches. The leaves of the beech are typically 5-15 centimeters long and sparsely toothed. Individual differences in the leaves are the best way of telling the species apart within each subgenus. Beech trees flower in the spring, shortly after their new leaves appear, and produce a triangular shaped fruit called beechnuts in the fall. Beechnuts have historically been consumed for food, but they are high in tannins and have a strong bitter taste. In large quantities, they are toxic to both humans and dogs especially when they are green or uncooked.
There are varying estimates for safe consumption levels in humans, but children seem to be more at risk and individual sensitivity may also play a part. The European beech, Fagus sylvatica, is also believed to be more toxic than the American, Fagus grandifolia. Dogs are more prone to beech tree poisoning because they will also eat the husk of the beechnut where the strongest concentration of toxic compounds is found. Dogs that ingest large quantities of beechnuts may experience gastrointestinal upset with vomiting and abdominal pain. Some dogs may be more sensitive than others, and the weight and size or your dog will also play a factor.
Beechnuts are often consumed as a food, but unripe or raw nuts are toxic in large quantities. Dogs that ingest a large number of beechnuts can experience gastrointestinal upset.
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Symptoms of Beech Trees Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the signs that could indicate your dog ingested beechnuts. Severe symptoms would only be found if a very large number of beechnuts were eaten.
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils (mydriasis)
- Unripe – these are the most toxic type of beechnut, they are found early in the season and can be identified by a green smooth husk
- Ripe – ripe nuts found later in the season have a reduced toxicity level, they can be identified by a brown cracked husk
- Roasted – much less toxic than raw
- Oil – oil extracted from the beechnut has little or no toxicity
- Coffee – no toxic effects have been found with roasted ground beechnuts that are used as a coffee substitute
Causes of Beech Trees Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the risk factors for beech tree poisoning.
- Beech trees around the house
- Dogs that like to eat nuts
- Children feeding beechnuts to a dog
Diagnosis of Beech Trees Poisoning in Dogs
Diagnosis of beechnut poisoning will be symptomatic and based on the likelihood of risk. Green beechnuts are the most toxic, but beechnuts are most readily available to dogs when they ripen and fall to the ground, so autumn is the time when beechnut poisoning is most likely. If you’re not sure what is causing your dog’s symptoms, the veterinarian may analyze a sample of your dog’s stomach contents or vomit. Blood and urine tests will help to eliminate the possibility of an infection or another more severe toxicity. For frequent chronic vomiting, the veterinarian may order an x-ray to check for foreign bodies, undigested food, or even cancer. If you are aware that your dog has a habit of ingesting beechnuts, this can help the veterinarian find the source of the problem and eliminate the need for expensive or invasive tests.
Treatment of Beech Trees Poisoning in Dogs
Beechnut ingestion followed by an isolated incident of vomiting or gastrointestinal upset won’t require any further treatment. However if symptoms are very severe, or if a large amount was ingested, the veterinarian may try to induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage to reduce further absorption of the toxins. Cathartic medication can also help to facilitate bowel movements and move the nuts through your dog’s system faster. Dehydration caused by repeated vomiting and diarrhea may need to be treated with intravenous fluids or electrolytes to stabilize your dog’s metabolism.
Recovery of Beech Trees Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs will recover from beech tree poisoning, however, recurrence is a problem especially if there are beech trees close to your house. Training your dog not to eat beechnuts can help eliminate a yearly problem. If this is unsuccessful, another helpful, although time consuming option is to try raking up the beechnuts that fall around your house. Make sure neighborhood children aren’t contributing to the issue by feeding your dog beechnuts and ask the veterinarian for a medication that could help reduce stomach pain after ingestion.
Beech Trees Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a copper beech tree my junior pug keeps eating the leaves on the ground from them can this be dangerous to his health because he's been vomiting alot?
Whilst the unripe nuts are the most toxic part of the tree in dogs, the whole tree contains compounds which are dangerous to a dog’s health; some dogs are affected more than others, but limiting Marley’s access to the fallen leaves (whilst difficult) should hopefully stop the vomiting. The best step to take would be not to allow Marley around the copper beech tree and see if the vomiting stops, if it does then the leaves are at fault. More serious symptoms to look out for would be dilated pupils, abdominal pain, lethargy, staggering, paralysis and coma; obviously if your notice any of these symptoms visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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