12 May 2014

How many Macadamia Nuts Will Cause A Problem To Dogs?

My dog has just eaten macadamia nuts, how serious or dangerous is this? What are the expected symptoms with this toxin? I know they are poisonous to dogs, but how serious is this toxicity? What is the best treatment? Should I take my dog to the vet or are there home remedies?

macadamia nut dog
The Macadamia nut can be toxic to dogs
It is well documented that ingestion of these nuts can be toxic to dogs. Macadamia nuts are becoming more popular and they are much more prevalent in the average household than they were in days gone by, especially during holiday seasons, so be sure to keep them well away from your dogs. Thankfully deaths are very rare though.

But let's talk things over in more depth.

1. What symptoms would you be likely to see? :  Clinical signs are usually seen within 12 hours of ingestion, often much sooner. They could include ataxia ( walking in a wobbly fashion ), lethargy, vomiting, muscle tremors, a raised body temperature, weakness, and an elevated heart rate among other symptoms.

Symptoms can be markedly worse if chocolate is ingested along with the nuts, as seen in cases where the dogs ate the whole box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Chocolate is also a toxin for dogs, 
for more information check out our articles on chocolate toxicity on this site: LINK

2. How many nuts are a toxic dose? : Actually, this seems to be quite a variable and little-understood toxin and the level of the problem seems to vary between individual dogs. The reported toxic dose ranges from between 2.4 to 62.4 grams of nut per kilogram of the dog's body weight. This is a very large range and can mean that some dogs will get ill with just a small amount of nuts ingested, while other dogs need to eat a lot of nuts to show signs of toxicity.

3. What is the usual treatment of macadamia nut poisoning? : If your dog has ingested macadamia nuts within the last hour you should make your dog vomit at once to recover them, if you can quickly do this then everything should be fine. 

A commonly used way to induce vomiting in the dog is with 3% hydrogen peroxide { Not hair colouring peroxide } A usual oral dose is one teaspoon { 5 ml } per 10 pounds of the dog's body weight, this can be very effective where a dog has swallowed most sorts of drugs or toxins it should not have provided this is carried out within the first hour after ingestion.

Vomiting will normally occur within 15 to 20 minutes but if no vomiting occurs, you can safely repeat the process a second time.

Bear in mind your local vet will be able to quickly induce vomiting with prescription drugs so this is another option.

Once you or your vet has induced vomiting you or could also give your dog activated charcoal which coats the lining of the digestive system so that absorption of the digested nuts is reduced.

There is no antidote to macadamia nut poisoning so dogs that are affected are treated symptomatically and supported until the toxin drains its way out of the dog's system. You may be able to handle a very mild case at home but beyond that, you should get your local vet involved. Where more severe symptoms are seen measures such as intravenous fluids will be used, where severe muscle tremors are present drugs can be given to control this and elevated heart rates should also be controlled with drugs. Where the dog has an elevated body temperature this can be handled with cold towels and in very severe cases the dog's blood clotting mechanisms can be severely compromised. In this case, the dog may need plasma transfusions and heparin therapy.

4. The bottom line? : I have dealt with quite a few cases of Macadamia nut poisoning in the dog and my experience is that most dogs will make a recovery within 48 hours with just simple support and care. But do not take chances ...

I hope this article has been of use to you,

Dr Scott