If your dog is roaming the yard and your favorite tree is dropping acorns, do you need to worry? We talked to a veterinary toxicologist to find out.

By Brendan Howard
November 10, 2020
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Credit: David Arky / mlorenzphotography / Getty / Yeji Kim

Oak trees make lovely additions to your home's front yard or backyard, but their seasonal dump of hard acorns can be a hassle. They're lumpy if your kids are running around on the grass or you're stretching out a blanket out on the lawn. They can bean you on the head as they fall off a tree. And a lawnmower can kick one up into the blades during a summer or autumn grass cutting.

But if you've got a canine companion wandering the yard, the biggest worry is whether or not eating acorns can make dogs sick.

Can Dogs Eat Acorns Safely?

Squirrels are famous for gathering and eating acorns (find out if that's a good thing for the trees). People have sometimes cooked and eaten them, especially ground up and used as flour.

So, what about dogs? Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT who is the Director of Veterinary Services and Senior Veterinary Toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline says that while all oak (Quercus species) is considered toxic, poisoning really depends on volume.

"When dogs eat acorns, the number one concern is that the nut or its cap can get lodged in the stomach or intestinal tract and result in a bowel obstruction," says Brutlag.

Signs Your Dog Has Eaten Acorns

If your dog did somehow eat enough acorns to cause oak poisoning, signs could include vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, says Brutlag.

"Signs of oak poisoning are mainly limited to the gastrointestinal tract and kidney," she says. "However, in order to get kidney damage, a lot of oak needs to be consumed."

Oak poisoning is usually only an issue with large animals, like cows or horses, who are forced to eat large amounts of acorns or oak forage because they have nothing else to eat. Goats have it easy, she says: "They appear rather resistant to oak poisoning and are sometimes used to eat up brushy overgrowth in oak forests."

Preventing an Acorn Incident With Your Dog

Most dogs won't eat acorns. If your dog is prone to eating weird stuff (heard of pica?) or just about anything off the ground, keep your yard clear of acorns and find an acorn-free path to take him for walks in the fall. When you plant, consider flower, tree, and shrub varieties that are safer for dogs.

Don't panic, however, if you catch your dog eating an acorn. Just keep an eye out for choking, abdominal pain, or trouble defecating. Reach out to your veterinarian if you see signs of poisoning or bowel obstruction.

Dogs are curious creatures, and that means they may occasionally eat dropped human foods off the floor of your kitchen or from your backyard trees and garden. Find out what foods dogs can eat safely and which foods are toxic, including apples, avocados, grapes, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, and more so you can take action with a quick trip to the vet if necessary.