While there is plenty of information about the dietary needs of our four legged friends and what we should and shouldn’t be feeding them, it’s a little harder to figure out what is dangerous when it comes to non-food items. Dogs may pick up scraps of leftovers on their walks or eat some of the greenery around them which is normal behaviour. Understanding what you need to prevent your dog from eating and what is simply a nuisance is the key.
Some pups might develop the habit of eating other animal’s faeces. They have substantially more tastebuds than we do and can pick up on subtle flavours left over from the food they’ve eaten. Whilst it’s not a nice habit to watch and not ideal, it’s not likely to be fatal.
Non-food items like conkers are a little different and many pet parents know their pups shouldn’t eat them but aren’t sure why. We’ve done all the research to answer the burning question, are conkers poisonous to dogs?
Can Dogs Eat Conkers?
Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree. They’re very large, round, fun seeds that might seem like a great deal of fun for pups who love to play and chase balls or toys. They tend to appear around Autumn which also makes them novel items, so they’re even more interesting to dogs. However, your canine companion should not be allowed to eat conkers.
Conkers are highly toxic to dogs but it isn’t limited to just the conker itself! All parts of the horse chestnut tree are toxic to our beloved pets. They contain aesculin which is a neurotoxin that damages tissues. A large enough quantity can even cause red blood cells to be destroyed which causes significant issues if they are being destroyed faster than they’re being made. It will usually take more than just one conker to cause such a life threatening issue. However, depending on the body weight of your dog, they might need as little as just a few conkers ingested to cause a real medical emergency.
What Happens if Your Dog Eats a Conker?
Symptoms of a dog suffering after eating conkers will usually occur between one and six hours after they’ve ingested them but it can be delayed for a few days depending on how quickly their body tries to digest it. Symptoms of poisoning tends to be on par with signs of digesting most toxins as the earliest thing you might pick up on is the general tummy upset it causes. Symptoms of poisoning from conkers include:
Struggling to get up from lying down
Appearing wobbly or disoriented
There may be blood present in their vomit or their loose stools. When a dog is suffering from any kind of poisoning, the way they move tends to change a little bit. The discomfort in their abdomen will make all of their muscles very tense so they tend to look hunched almost. Getting up from bed will be a much harder task when they’re in pain so they’ll either not want to get up or it will take them longer and look very uncomfortable.
When they’re feeling so tender around their abdomen, many dogs will not like being poked or probed so it’s not uncommon to see quite stark behavioural changes in dogs suffering from a poisoning. They might snap at you and protect their space a lot more to avoid any kind of close handling if they aren’t feeling very well. If there are any major behavioural changes in how your pup responds to you approaching or if they show any of the symptoms, they should be taken to the vet immediately for treatment.
What You Should You Do if Your Dog Eats a Conker?
If you catch your pooch playing with conkers, you should try and call them away as quickly as possible. If you’re not sure whether they’ve eaten any then you can monitor their behaviour for the next few hours to watch for any signs of digestive upset that they would cause. If you see your pup eat a conker, even if it’s just a single conker that isn’t likely to be fatal, you should take them to their vet.
You may witness them eating just one conker but there’s no saying how many they might have eaten prior to you catching them. A single conker can still cause a poisoning or a blockage but a vet will be able to treat them to avoid any major issues.
What is the Treatment For Eating Conkers?
One of the first things vets will do when they suspect a dog has ingested something that is harmful to their health is give them medication, usually charcoal to induce vomiting. If a vet is able to make your pooch vomit before their body starts to digest the conker then you may avoid any of the ailments associated with poisoning or it can prevent them from getting worse if they have started to digest them.
Some dogs may need some support in the form of intravenous fluids to keep their strength up while their body tries to recover from the toxin. Due to conkers being round and often smooth in shape when they fall out of their protective shells, it’s not hard for dogs to swallow them whole. If a dog swallows even just one conker whole, it can cause a blockage. They can get stuck in their intestines or even wedged in the roof of their mouth. If your vet suspects a blockage then they will usually perform an x-ray and then possible surgery to remove the issue.
How to Prevent Dogs Eating Conkers
Preventing your dog from eating conkers out and about on walks is a mixture of management and training. If you know an area has a lot of horse chestnut trees, it’s sometimes best to just avoid those walks during the autumn. If your four-legged friend loves to chase and might mistake a conker for a ball then allowing them to carry a toy like the Happy Pet Galactic Rope Ball can distract them from hunting for things to put in their mouth.
As far as training goes, teaching a “leave it” cue and a drop that you can eventually use out and about means you would be able to maintain control when they’re off the lead. As long as you have a pocket full of treats to reward them for coming away, they’ll always be reinforced for making the right choice.
Many pet parents still see it as a scary option, but muzzle-training your dog for walks if they aren’t able to control their impulses around conkers means they can still run off lead but not be in danger of eating anything they shouldn’t. When picking a muzzle for a dog to wear out and about, it should be introduced slowly and have plenty of room for panting, drinking and taking treats whilst prevent eating things they shouldn’t. A Rosewood muzzle is a great option for dogs who need a muzzle on walks.
For everything you need to keep your pooch safe on walks and all of your other puppy and dog essentials, take a look in store and online.