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Are Acorns Dangerous to Dogs?

As a dog owner, you’re aware of the typical canine hazards in your home. What your dog has access to in your home and garage is easily controlled, but when it comes to hazards in your yard, at parks, and on hikes isn’t as consistent. Trees, plants, mushrooms–they’re all items that present a potential risk to canines. Do you know what hazards lurk in your yard?

Are Acorns Toxic to Dogs?

Yes, acorns are a danger to dogs. These cute little nuts seem harmless enough, but they contain something called Gallotannin. It’s a form of tannin, an acid found in many common foods like coffee and tea. When dogs eat acorns in the spring or fall, they often get sick from the tannin found in the acorn’s shell. The Gallotannin has a number of effects on the body, and it can kill dogs if they eat a copious amount of acorns because the acid targets the kidneys.

What Can Happen If Your Dog Eats Acorns

Dogs like to roam their yards and eat anything that looks tasty. Some dogs enjoy the taste of acorns, and others simply like to eat anything they can swallow. These are also the dogs who like to eat things like rocks.

Gastritis From Acorns

Vets agree acorn ingestion usually results in an inflammation of the stomach and not much more. Smaller dogs who have eaten a fair amount sometimes end up with explosive, very frequent bloody diarrhea known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE). Dogs diagnosed with HGE need to be hospitalized and put on IV fluids and antibiotics to keep them hydrated and free of secondary infections. HGE isn’t fatal if it’s treated quickly, but it is a scary thing to see your dog go through. Anybody whose dog has had HGE can tell you it’s one of the worst smells you’ll ever experience. Small dogs, puppies, and seniors take longer to recover and are at a higher risk of complications, meaning you should get them into the vet at the first sign of bloody diarrhea or vomiting.

Intestinal Obstruction from Acorns

Intestinal obstructions are very serious, regardless of the age or size of your dog or what the obstruction is. Signs of an intestinal obstruction include vomiting immediately after eating or drinking, diarrhea or very little to no bowel movements, abdominal pain, lethargy, and pale gums. Obstructions are 100 percent fatal if they aren’t properly addressed by the vet, and most require surgery to remove them. Minor obstructions can sometimes be shaken loose with continuous, heavy IV fluids, but this isn’t the typical outcome. Surgery is invasive and requires a significant recovery time, and the risk for secondary infections is significant.

If your dog is small and you catch them munching on acorns, call your vet immediately. Don’t induce vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide. Just because they were able to swallow it doesn’t mean it’s small enough to come back up safely, and you risk the acorn lodging in the throat. Your vet will want you to monitor for signs of an obstruction and possibly have you come in for x-rays to evaluate the size of the intestines versus the acorn(s).

Kidney Damage/Failure in Dogs

In cases where the kidneys are affected, dogs have increased thirst, more frequent urination that decreases in volume, dark yellow/pungent urine, and lethargy. Blood work will present elevated kidney values, showing the kidneys have been affected by the acorn’s tannins. Kidney failure occurs if the dog ate a copious amount of acorns and received treatment.

Preventing Your Dog From Acorn Ingestion

If you have oak trees in your yard or nearby, you should keep your yard well maintained if your dog is a snacker. It can be hard to keep your yard completely free of acorns in the spring and fall, so monitor your dog’s outdoor time closely and try to keep the acorns picked up as much as possible. You could also cordon off an area of your yard that acorns won’t drop into to keep your pup out of them.

A couple of acorns won’t typically make your dog very sick or even kill them. The biggest risk is an intestinal obstruction in smaller dogs. Take the necessary precautions to keep acorns out of your dog’s system and save yourself a significant amount of money at the vet.

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