Be aware of the poison risk to dogs from Acorns and Conkers

  • Conkers and Acorns are poisonous to dogs if they chew and swallow them
  • Both Acorns and Conkers can cause a blockage in your dog’s stomach
  • Critical illness cases are rare but as owners we need to be aware of the danger
  • Contact your Vet immediately, if you think your dog has eaten Conkers or Acorns

Now that the nights are getting shorter, we know that autumn is just around the corner. With the mild weather, we’re able to take our dogs out walking in the countryside and in the woods in particular, there are several toxic risks that we need to be aware of. Both acorns and conkers can prove deadly for dogs, especially if eaten, causing them to be seriously ill, and in some severe cases, fatal.

In every case, if you think your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t, gather together as much evidence and information as you can for the Vet to help with the diagnosis. Treatment varies, but a canine that has been poisoned needs to be medicated and rehydrated as soon as possible. There may be a need for surgery to remove any blockage from their stomach.

Acorns (from the Oak)

During the autumn and winter months, exposure to acorns is quite common, as dogs will go sniffing through the undergrowth on their daily walks. If they do manage to eat acorns or the young oak leaves, damage to their kidneys and liver may be caused by tannic acid (gallotanin), the toxic ingredient in acorns. In reality, the chances of your large breed of dog munching acorns and becoming ill is probably unlikely, but if your pooch does consume them, it shouldn’t have any major, toxic effect. However, a smaller type of dog can suffer from a blockage in their intestine, especially if several acorns are consumed.

Symptoms to look out for include being lethargic, increased thirst, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea which may be accompanied with or without blood and having no appetite. It is also possible that an intestinal blockage may be caused by ingesting acorns.

You also need be alert if any oak leaves or acorns have fallen into your dog’s water dish, as the poison can transfer to the water. It’s thought that the green acorns are more toxic than the brown variety and the larger the acorn “cap” the higher the amount of toxic acid it contains.

Conkers (from the Horse Chestnut)

It’s quite rare to see a severe case of poisoning in dogs, caused by eating conkers. They contain a poison named aesculin, found in all parts of the tree, including the leaves. Dogs would normally need to swallow a number of conkers for toxicity to occur.

Symptoms after ingestion may be abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, retching and drooling. The prickly outer case, and the conkers themselves pose a risk if eaten, resulting in an intestinal blockage. A dog who has eaten conkers will usually vomit them up quickly and it may be necessary to prescribe a treatment to control this severe vomiting.

Prevention is best

Although we know its nigh on impossible to watch your dog every minute of the day, it’s very important to try and make sure they are not allowed to either play with acorns or conkers, or in fact, eat them. Dogs are natural scavengers, and will often dig around in the undergrowth, and will have eaten these tree fruits before you get to them. Never throw the Conkers into the air for them to play catch, it’s just asking for trouble. Be very conscious of the symptoms of toxicity when walking your dog, and if you are in any way concerned about your dog, contact the Vet’s surgery immediately.

If you live in an area where there are oak trees, it may help to train your dog to the commands of “drop it” and “leave it”.  It’s also a good idea to take along a favourite toy or some doggy treats to take the dog’s focus away from the acorns or conkers, especially when you’re going into areas where they have fallen on the ground.