Can Dogs Eat Macadamia Nuts?

Some nuts are safe for dogs to eat, while others can be toxic, and even deadly.
By: Katherine Tolford

While that box of macadamia nuts you brought home from your Hawaiian vacation may be a fond reminder of good times, it’s likely to have just the opposite effect on your dog.  The round, richly flavored nuts may seem like the ideal dog treat, but they can actually cause intestinal and neurological issues.

Dr. Martha Cline, a clinical veterinary nutritionist, cautions owners that they shouldn’t share macadamia nuts with their dog. “Macadamia nuts can have a toxic effect on dogs. As little as half a nut per pound per dog is toxic,” says Cline, who currently works as at New Jersey’s Red Bank Veterinary Hospital.

“Macadamia nuts can have a toxic effect on dogs. As little as half a nut per pound per dog is toxic.”

Aside from getting them as treats, dogs may ingest them as an added ingredient in baked goods. Before they became known as Hawaiian souvenirs, macadamia nuts were indigenous to Australia. They grew on Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla trees, which were imported and commercially planted in Hawaii in the 1920s. Over time they’ve become a popular ingredient in cookies and candy. Their high fat content gives them a creamy texture, which makes them irresistible to both humans and dogs. But they can ultimately give your dog a major upset stomach.

“The most common clinical signs are weakness and depression. The neurologic signs are probably the most significant,” Cline says. Other symptoms to watch for include vomiting, hyperthermia, tremors, joint pain or ataxia, a loss of control over their bodily movements. Some dogs may experience weakness in their rear legs. They may have difficulty standing or walking without support.

So what should you do if you happen to notice your pooch has eaten his way through a box of macadamia nuts?  Cline recommends contacting your veterinarian or the 24-hour ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Symptoms can occur within 24 hours of ingestion.

Cline says if your dog ingested nuts but is not yet clinical in his symptoms there’s a window of opportunity to induce vomiting. “But once they’re clinical they need supportive care; some dogs may need to be hospitalized, others may be managed as an outpatient. The most important thing is that you contact your veterinarian.”

Although some of these symptoms may look serious Cline says they aren’t fatal. “The good news is there’s a good prognosis. They’re usually better in a couple of days. Clinical signs usually resolve by 48 hours.”