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Can Dogs Eat Macadamia Nuts? Are They Toxic?

Holly Anne Hills

Last Updated: June 21, 2023 | 6 min read | Leave a Comment

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This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate any type of nuts and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian.

As humans, we love to snack on nuts as a source of protein and fiber and as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Macadamia nuts are a commonly used ingredient in baked goods but taste just as good on their own too. But what about our four-legged friends? Can they share these tasty snacks with us? And are they safe?

Macadamia is a tree native to Australia, specifically to Queensland and New South Wales. However, today the majority of Macadamias are grown in Hawaii. The nuts have lots of great health benefits for humans. They are high in fiber and protein but low in carbohydrates and fat.

So, can you share this tasty nutty treat with your pooch? The short answer is no. Macadamia nuts are not safe for our pets to eat.

Are Macadamia Nuts A Concern For Dogs?

Macadamia nuts are a commonly used ingredient in all sorts of tasty treats such as trail mix, cakes, cookies, and muffins. And while these might be delicious for humans, they pose a danger to our four-legged friends and can make them very sick.

The actual cause of macadamia nut toxicity is still unknown, and veterinarians and scientists are not sure why they make our dogs so unwell. But we do know that even a small amount of macadamias can cause symptoms of poisoning to appear – dogs only need to eat 0.05 ounces of nuts per pound of body weight to become unwell.

What Will Happen If My Dog Eats Macadamia Nuts?

Different Nuts Mixed Together
Certain dog-safe nuts can have nutritional benefits. But not macadamias.

If your pooch manages to get his paws on some macadamias, he will likely start to feel sick quite fast. It can take anywhere between three and 12 hours for symptoms to appear, but this often depends on how many nuts he eats. If you think your pet might have eaten any macadamias, the first thing you should do is contact your veterinarian for advice or take your pet straight to the vet to be checked.

Because macadamia nuts are more commonly found as an ingredient in other foods rather than by themselves, you should also check the ingredients to ensure no other toxic ingredients – baked goods and trail mixes often contain chocolate, raisins, and xylitol, which are also poisonous to dogs.

Symptoms Of Poisoning From Macadamia Nuts

The symptoms of toxicity can start to show within a few hours after eating the nuts and can last for two to three days. As soon as you realize your pet may have eaten this type of nut, contact your veterinarian. They’ll examine your dog and give them the best treatment given the circumstance.

Signs to look out for if you think your pet has eaten them include:

  • Weakness, especially in the back legs
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain

Nuts contain a lot of fat. So, if your pet eats a lot of them, it could also trigger an episode of pancreatitis. This is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed and painful and is usually caused by excessive consumption of fatty foods. It can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy, depression, and a reduced appetite.

The good news is that most symptoms tend to last only for a few days and, in some mild cases, can resolve without treatment. Still, you should always speak to your veterinarian to decide the best course of action for your pet. It’s also important to remember that if the food your pet has eaten contains other toxins, you might see other signs, or your pet might need to be treated differently if they have eaten any nuts alone.

Diagnosis Of Poisoning From Macadamias

Cracked open macadamia nut in a dark green background of roasted ones rolling out of the bag
What are signs to watch for when it comes to toxic food items?

The symptoms are also a common giveaway. You might not have seen your pet eat the nuts, but sometimes pet parents spot missing food or chewed-up packaging that might suggest your pooch has got his paws on some nuts. It is important that you give all of this information to your veterinarian, as well as take any packaging to show them, as this can help the vet to know how much your dog might have eaten. 

Your veterinarian might want to do a blood test to look for high lipase – an enzyme that the body uses to break down fats. Nuts contain a lot of fat, so if your dog has eaten some, his body works hard to break it down. Your dog might also have a fever and show other signs such as weakness on a physical exam.

Treatment For Macadamia Nut Poisoning

In a lot of cases, particularly if your pooch has eaten a very small amount of nuts, the symptoms can go away by themselves with no need for any specific treatment. However, you should always speak to your veterinarian, as they can decide the most suitable treatment for your pet depending on how much he ate, when, and the severity of the symptoms.

It’s important to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you realize he has eaten macadamias. If it has been less than two hours since ingestion, the vet can force your dog to vomit. This reduces the risk of the toxic nuts being absorbed from the stomach. The vet might also give your dog some charcoal to eat – this protects the lining of the stomach and stops any further absorption of the toxin. Most of the time, your pet is then free to come home with you and is unlikely to have any further problems.

If your pet is already showing signs of poisoning, the veterinarian might want to keep them in at the clinic for monitoring and treatment. This might involve anti-sickness medication, fluid therapy, and pain relief to keep him comfortable and bring down his fever. If the food your dog ate contains other toxins, then further suitable treatments might be necessary.

Will My Dog Recover From Macadamia Nut Toxicity?

The good news is that most cases of macadamia nut poisoning in dogs are mild and require very little treatment. It is very rarely serious or fatal. Most dogs tend to get better within a day or two if they have symptoms. And if there are no symptoms and your pet has been made sick at the vet, he is likely to feel a little sorry for himself but shouldn’t need any further treatment. In severe cases, or if your dog has eaten food containing other poisons, he could be more poorly, and the severity depends on what has been eaten and how much.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Macadamia Nuts?

Dog Laying on a Couch
If you suspect your furry friend has consumed macadamias, the first thing to do is contact your veterinarian.

They will ask you some questions about how many nuts he has eaten and when, as well as asking about any symptoms your pet might be starting to show. The vet will probably want you to bring your pet to their office for a check-up before deciding if and what treatment is needed.

Can I Prevent Macadamia Nut Poisoning?

As pet parents, we always want to keep our pets safe and any potentially dangerous items out of their reach. This can be tricky sometimes as our dogs always want to get their paws on our human food, and some are particularly skilled thieves. You should always keep any foods containing macadamias well out of your dog’s reach – either on a higher shelf in the cupboard or in a secure container and make sure you dispose of any trash in a secure trash can.

Don’t leave potentially dangerous foods unsupervised in your kitchen (or anywhere else in your home), as you can be amazed how high your pooch can jump when he really wants something. It can be really tempting to treat your pet to a snack from your plate, but you should always avoid giving even a small amount of any foods containing toxic ingredients.

Are Other Nuts Poisonous To Dogs? Are Any Safe?

English Setter eating out of person's hand
Not all nuts are dangerous for pets, but they do carry a risk of choking.

Nuts are also high in fat, so they can be unhealthy for this reason as well. Too much fatty food can contribute to weight gain and obesity and can even trigger episodes of pancreatitis. If your dog is eating a balanced and complete commercial dog food, he should not need any additional nutrition from other food sources. We all love to treat our pets occasionally, and a small number of nuts from time to time can be ok as long as you choose from the list of dog-safe nuts.

Nuts that are safe for your four-legged friend include peanuts and cashew nuts. Pistachios and almonds are not poisonous but do present a choking hazard, so they are best avoided. Macadamias are toxic to dogs, and black walnuts and pecans should also be avoided.

Final Thoughts

Macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs, and even eating a small amount can cause them to become very sick. The toxicity symptoms tend to start between three to 12 hours of eating but usually resolve without much treatment. The best way to prevent your pet from becoming unwell from unsafe foods is to keep any potentially dangerous foods out of your pet’s reach and in safely sealed containers. Macadamia nut toxicity is rarely fatal, but it’s important to get your pet checked at the veterinary clinic if you think he has eaten any.

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