It’s that time of year when pet owners are questioning whether acorns are bad for dogs. You go out to enjoy a walk with your pooch and the next thing you know he/she has swallowed an acorn.
The quick answer is that acorns are toxins to dogs. However, dogs eating acorns isn’t necessarily a black and white situation.
Whether your dog becomes critically ill depends a lot on the amount of acorns eaten, the size of your dog, and the general health of your dog.
A small dog could easily develop an intestinal obstruction after eating acorns, whereas a very large dog may be able to pass them through the bowels. That said, size and amount are relative.
For example, a small dog doesn’t have to eat a lot of acorns for it to be considered a lot. If you’re worried, you’ll want to read the whole post. There’s an offer at the end that you may want to try out.
Acorns come from oak trees and tend to litter the ground during the fall and winter months. It’s important to know that both the oak leaves and the acorns are poisonous for dogs.
Acorns and oak leaves contain tannic and gallic acid which can cause a range of problems from stomach upset to kidney failure.
The Reality of Acorn-Eating Dogs
While it’s extremely important to be aware of what goes into your dog’s mouth, it’s unlikely your dog is going to make a meal out of them. He/she will likely experience some stomach upset including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Vomiting and diarrhea should not be left to continue more than 24 hours because of the risk of dehydration.
Nature has a way of making toxins taste bad. Unfortunately, some dogs will gulp down just about anything before tasting. Other dogs, however, will realize they don’t taste anything like the treats at home and will walk away.
When to Worry About Swallowed Acorns
The effects of acorn toxicity can occur within hours or may take up to a week to become apparent.
That doesn’t mean nothing is happening to the organs, however. A dog might initially experience stomach upset that progresses to more concerning symptoms.
The biggest concern for dog owners should be intestinal blockage or obstruction. When a dog swallows a whole acorn, there’s a risk that it can plug the intestines. When that happens, food cannot travel through the digestive system and waste cannot come out.
5 Potential Signs of a Medical Emergency – Obstruction
In addition to an acorn’s toxicity, the other worry is the chance of intestinal blockage. The only way to remove an intestinal blockage is through surgery. Never attempt to induce vomiting if your dog has swallowed acorns.
Keep an eye on your dog and watch for the following signs of a blockage.
#1. Pain and Bloating
Symptoms of acorn toxicity can occur within a few hours of ingestion. Signs of a small bowel obstruction include abdominal cramps and pain. You may notice your dog’s stomach is swollen and hard to the touch.
#2. Straining to Poop
A dog’s ability to have a regular bowel movement will depend on the location of the blockage and whether it is partial or full.
#3. Frequent Vomiting
Dogs with an obstruction will tend to vomit frequently because their bodies are trying to expel the offending object.
#4. Painful Stomach
If your dog has an obstruction, he/she may be crying and pawing at the area. The stomach might look swollen and if you touch it, the dog will withdraw from the pain.
Your dog may not even be able to keep water down. It might appear that he/she is drinking a lot throughout the day, but it may all be coming up in vomit. Dehydration can quickly lead to death and is a medical emergency.
Signs of Acorn Toxicity in Dogs
According to Blue Cross , dogs who have eaten acorns may experience the following symptoms:
- abdominal pain
- toxic shock
- in rare cases, death
It’s the tannins in acorns that make dogs sick. They may cause anything from mild stomach upset to (although rare) kidney failure.
A licensed Veterinarian is Your Best Bet
If you suspect your dog is experiencing the toxic effects of tannic acid from acorns, make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Explain the signs and symptoms your dog is exhibiting and be prepared to bring your dog in immediately.
Do not panic. Remember, even if your dog is showing signs of sickness, there’s an excellent chance the veterinarian will be able to take care of it. Do not attempt to induce vomiting.
If your dog has swallowed a few acorns, he/she is most likely to experience stomach upset including vomiting and diarrhea. If this continues and you notice blood in the stool, your dog is obviously in distress, is unusually tired, or in pain, it’s a good idea to contact the veterinarian.
A Note About Dog’s Teeth and Eating Acorns
Most dogs just pop things in their mouths and swallow. However, biting into something hard like an acorn could cause damage to the teeth and gums. Unfortunately, you may not realize there’s a problem until your dog begins to show signs of a tooth abscess.
Intestinal Obstructions in Dogs
Intestinal obstructions can occur in any dog, but are especially prevalent in dogs prone to eating non-food items. These items can be anything from coins, to face cloths, to acorns.
It can be tricky to know if your dog has an obstruction in the beginning. Watch for signs of weight loss, refusal to eat, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness.
The best way to prevent intestinal obstruction is to get rid of toys that are showing signs of wear and tear. Cracks in balls, toys with loose pieces, etc., should all be discarded.
If you suspect your dog has an obstruction, be sure to get him/her to the veterinarian for assessment as soon as possible.
Obstruction Location & Treatment
The type of treatment required for an intestinal obstruction will largely depend on where the obstruction is. Radiographs/ultrasounds are ways a veterinarian can determine that there is a blockage and where it is.
If the blockage is in the stomach, the veterinarian may feel comfortable inducing vomiting. This will depend on a number of things including the size of the object.
Never attempt to induce vomiting in your dog without medical supervision. Inducing vomiting can make the condition much worse than it already is.
If the obstruction is in the colon, the veterinarian may feel comfortable that the dog will pass the object naturally.
If the obstruction is stuck in the intestines, surgery will be required to remove it.
Intestinal Obstruction Surgery Cost
If your dog has an obstruction, the cost of surgery can range from $2000 or more. Costs will vary depending on geographical location and the severity of the blockage.
In some cases, your dog may be required to spend a few nights in hospital for observation and follow-up care. Generally speaking, the cost of surgery takes into account a number of things include:
- clinic cost
- cost of additional staff
- supplies used
- time spent in hospital
- post-surgical antibiotics
It’s a good idea to get an itemized list of expenses if you can. If you have pet insurance, the provider may need to see that before they will offer any coverage.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if my dog eats acorns?
In rare cases, and usually in larger amounts, the tannins in acorns can lead to kidney failure. Sometimes acorns can cause intestinal blockages. This risk is higher in smaller dogs.
Is it okay if my dog just ate one acorn?
The biggest risk (especially in small dogs) is the risk of a blockage. This is especially true if they swallow an acorn whole. Most dogs, however, will be able to process the acorn through the digestive track.
Be sure to watch for signs of intestinal blockage as indicated earlier in this post.
How can I stop my puppy from swallowing acorns?
It’s difficult to stop putting anything in their mouths. Like babies, they explore the world through taste, touch, sight, and smell. Avoid treed parks, rake your backyard, allow your dog to walk with a favorite chew-toy, and watch him/her closely.
Is the shell of an acorn poisonous for dogs?
The shells of acorns are very hard and pointy. This can cause scratches to a dog’s throat. If they get lodged somewhere in the stomach or digestive tract, an intestinal blockage can occur.
What do I do if my dog’s stomach is making noises?
Dogs can have any number of intestinal upsets that might or might not have anything to do with swallowing an acorn. That said, if your dog seems uncomfortable and his/her tummy is making weird sounds, call the vet.
In the meantime, you might also want to read this: Why is My Dog’s Stomach Making Noises?
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Things to Keep in Mind
Prevention is always the best measure when it comes to dogs and poisonous plants. However, even the most diligent dog owner can’t be constantly on surveillance.
If your dog is prone to nibble on things he’s not supposed to, keeping him away from parks this time of year might be the best solution.
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