While pecans are the basis for the most comforting of comfort foods, there are a number of issues with the tasty legumes that make them a problematic option for your pet.

By Chad Taylor
December 03, 2020
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Raw pecans, roasted pecans, lightly salted pecans, pecan pie! Pecans are a delicious nut option for all kinds of people. But when it comes to the family dog, it’s best to look in a different direction.

Can Dogs Eat Pecans Safely?

As anyone who has given their pooch a taste of peanut butter can attest, there are some nuts that are not only safe for dogs to eat, but that can quickly become Fido-favorites. Unfortunately, pecans don’t make that list for a couple of different reasons. 

First off, there’s the matter of natural toxins. Much like walnuts, pecans can be prone to molding, which can create both juglone and aflatoxin. The former is highly toxic to horses and in dogs can cause seizures and nerve damage. Meanwhile, aflatoxin can cause liver disease in high enough doses.

Spotted pup sits in front of illustrated pecans background
Credit: Lew Robertson / Life On White / Getty / Yeji Kim

“It’s also good to be wary of most nuts because they contain a large amount of oil and fat,” added Kaci Angelone, DVM, MS based in Denver, Colo. “When you give dogs foods that contain even small amounts, that can lead to pancreatitis, which can be painful and expensive to treat.”

The good news is that a single pecan or walnut that falls on the floor isn’t likely to cause your dog any kind of distress. If, however, they manage to consume more than a small handful at a time, you’ll want to keep an eye on them for any signs of intestinal distress. Vomiting, or an increase in trips outside to potty are signs to give your vet a call.

Are There Any Safe Alternatives to Pecans?

The most well-known example of nuts that are non-toxic for dogs is peanuts. However, while there are nutty options that are technically safe for Fido to eat, Angelone cautions against more than the smallest amounts of any of them.

“The risk of pancreatitis from the oils is just too great,” she said. “There are better, healthier options out there for snacks and pancreatitis is a very painful condition.”

“But from a toxin standpoint, definitely avoid pecans, walnuts, almonds,” she continued. “Macadamia nuts are even more toxic than pecans and the like. They can cause vomiting, hypothermia, diarrhea.”

So, in a (ahem) nutshell: while things like peanuts and chestnuts won’t be toxic for your dog, the fat and oil content in most nuts is high enough to make most of them poor options for dog treats. Xylitol-free peanut butter can be used as a tasty incentive in small quantities, but make sure that you’re checking your labels and getting the least-processed version you can find.