By Elizabeth Xu
Food and dogs can be a tricky combination, as dog owners love sharing everything with their pets, including food. Sure, they have their own, but who can resist those pleading eyes? It can be hard to know what’s okay for dogs to eat and what should be avoided. For example, can your dog eat a few sunflower seeds while you hang out at the park? What about some watermelon seeds as they scarf down a slice on a hot summer day? This guide will tell you everything you need to know when it comes to feeding your dog nuts and seeds.
Can Dogs Have Nuts?
Dogs can have some nuts, preferably unsalted, while others should be avoided. Nuts that are okay for dogs to eat include peanuts, almonds and cashews. As with any new foods, caution should be exercised: according to the ASPCA, the high fat content in nuts can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
Dog owners should not feed their pups macadamia nuts or black walnuts, as both can cause problems. Peanut butters with the artificial sweetener xylitol should also be avoided due to the chance of liver failure and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), said Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM at the Clinical Nutrition Department at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. And of course, any kind of chocolate-covered nuts are a no-go, since chocolate can be toxic to dogs.
Overall, sticking to those nuts that dogs can have and not giving your dog too many is key. “Feeding your dog a few nuts here and there is generally not a cause for concern, especially if the nuts are fresh,” said Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM and integrative veterinarian at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic.
Can Dogs Eat Seeds?
As with nuts, dogs can have many seeds, but not all. Pet owners who enjoy sunflower seeds can feel free to give some to their canine friend after the shell is removed. Osborne said that fruit seeds are also harmless for dogs, including watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe seeds. Fruit pits, however, are different than fruit seeds, and The Humane Society says to avoid giving dogs cherry, peach, nectarine, plum and apricot pits.
Are Nuts or Seeds Dangerous for Dogs?
Some specific nuts and seeds are dangerous for dogs, but keep in mind that even nuts or seeds deemed okay for dogs can still be a health risk depending on the individual dog. Dogs with sensitive stomachs or a condition like pancreatitis shouldn’t have nuts because the dog would likely experience vomiting or diarrhea afterwards, Osborne said.
“Note that large nuts, like whole pecans and walnuts, by virtue of their size alone can cause stomach and/or intestinal upset or even an obstruction in a very small dog,” Osborne said. She also cautions that dog owners should avoid giving moldy nuts to dogs and should be especially wary of walnuts that have been lying outside too long, as mold could cause neurological problems like epileptic seizures.
As with anything in a dog’s diet, moderation is important. Cline said that although many pet owners like to give dogs peanut butter to help with medicine, peanut butter is calorie-dense and shouldn’t be overused. Dogs should receive the majority of their daily calories from food, not treats.
Can Dogs Benefit From Nuts or Seeds?
Opinions on whether dogs can benefit from nuts or seeds are varied. Cline said she doesn’t generally recommend nuts in her nutritional plans, though some owners do give them as treats. They can, however, be good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which many dog treats lack, Osborne said. Remember that your pup depends on you for safety and to keep her healthy, so talk to your veterinarian about any specific concerns you have regarding your dog’s diet, specifically as you start a new food regimen.