Pistachios are one of life’s little treats. Their shells are as fun to crack open as the meat inside is tasty. But imagine one afternoon, after you finish cracking the shells of a whole mound of pistachios, you accidentally spill the whole pile onto the floor.
Your four-legged friend, familiar with the sound of goodies falling on the floor, begins bounding over to scoop some of those “treats” off the floor. What should you do? Let him lap them up and gulp them down? Or quickly replace the fallen pile with a milk bone?
Should You Feed Pistachios to Dogs?
Maybe, but maybe not.
Pistachios are not the best treat to give to dogs and should only be fed to them in moderation. While not inherently harmful, feeding pistachios to your dog can carry a number of risks.
Are Pistachios Dangerous for Dogs?
Pistachios can be a risky food to give to your dog.
One risk is the increase in fat that pistachios contain a high fat content – 205.6 grams per cup. That’s sixteen times the recommended daily amount for a 33-pound dog! This increase in fat can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs while putting them at higher risk for chronic diseases later in life.
Additionally, most store-bought pistachios are processed with large quantities of salt which may lead to dehydration. Excessive salt intake can also negatively affect your dog’s ability to retain water which increases the likelihood of developing kidney complications.
Most commercially available pistachios are also sold with their shells on. After getting chewed up, pieces of these shells can act like little shards and cut the inside of your dog’s throat or digestive tract. Which is obviously a concern for people searching online for “dog ate pistachio shells” and “my dog ate a pistachio shell”.
Pistachios also contain a pair of potentially damaging natural chemicals called phosphorus and urushiol. Phosphorus is thought to be a cause of bladder stones in dogs when ingested in large quantities. Urushiol is the same chemical that causes allergic reactions to poison ivy, and can cause the same reaction on dogs’ faces and around their mouths when ingested.
Perhaps the biggest risk of feeding your dog pistachios is that some pistachios can cause pistachio poisoning.
What is Pistachio Poisoning?
Like cashews, pistachios can suffer from an outbreak of Aspergillus mold if they are grown in hot, arid conditions. This mold produces a toxic compound (mycotoxin) known as aflatoxin. Aflatoxins are among the most poisonous forms of mycotoxins.
If enough pistachios are eaten that are infected with Aspergillus mold, the aflatoxins present can cause acute poisoning (aflatoxicosis). Pistachio poisoning can cause a litany of miserable and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including:
- Loss of Appetite
- Orange-colored urine
- Liver failure
How to Treat Pistachio Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from pistachio poisoning, take them to the vet right away. Once there, your vet will likely perform a physical examination, chemical profile, and a complete blood count to check for underlying diseases or toxins such as aflatoxin.
Additionally, x-ray or ultrasound imaging may be taken of your dog’s abdomen to determine whether or not there has been an enlargement of the pancreas or heart.
Once a diagnosis of pistachio poisoning has been made, your vet may focus on providing immediate relief from symptoms first. This can include providing IV fluids for dehydration, prescribing medications for pain and nausea, and Vitamin K supplementation for potential liver damage.
If your dog was presenting with intense vomiting before diagnosis, your vet may recommend you withhold feeding by mouth in order to aid in the healing of the pancreas. Supplementation of pancreatic enzymes may also be prescribed to relieve abdominal pain.
Dogs who develop pancreatitis from pistachio poisoning will likely be recommended to follow a low-fat, high-fiber diet for the rest of their lives.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Pistachios
First thing’s first: you need to assess the amount of pistachios your dog ate relative to their size. If your pup is of toy size and just ate an entire bowl of pistachios, you should probably get them to a vet. But if your dog is a full-grown Rottweiler and ate two of the nuts, you should just wait and see how they feel over the day.
Regardless of their size, if your dog has eaten a pistachio that still had its shell on, you’ll want to closely monitor them. You want to make sure they don’t present signs of a throat or bowel obstruction.
If your dog develops complications associated with gastrointestinal distress caused by eating pistachios, be sure to visit our dog page to learn more about our non-toxic, no-odor, fast-acting treatment options!