If you’re enjoying a handful of pecans and your dog is begging for a bite, you might be wondering, “Can dogs eat pecans?” While there are many foods that both people and dogs can eat, some human foods should only be given to dogs in moderation or in strictly limited amounts. So, even if it’s difficult to resist your dog’s pleading eyes, you should always be sure that any foods you’re giving your dog are safe for them to eat.
In other situations, your dog might help himself to a bite (or a few!) of a food that was left in an accessible location. If your dog got into some pecans and ate a few or many, you need to know if dogs can eat pecans or if you should be concerned. Read on to learn whether dogs can eat pecans.
For more information on foods that are safe and foods that can be toxic to dogs, check out our Vet’s List of Human Foods Dogs Can and Cannot Eat.
Can My Dog Eat Pecans?
Yes (but only in limited amounts)
While technically pecans are not toxic and considered generally safe, I don’t recommend routinely giving them as treats to your dog.
There are a few health benefits to pecans. Pecans have higher fiber content, high copper content, and they have unsaturated fat making them heart-healthy. The nutrients in pecans have been shown to be beneficial to heart and brain function.1 Pecans have also been shown to help control blood sugar levels in people.2
While there are benefits to pecans, there are a few risks I will discuss below. These risks make me suggest that we can find other “people food” treats that are better choices for our pups.
All this said, if you elect to give pecans to your dog, then the best option is to offer only a few, plain, unseasoned pecans. Be sure to avoid pies, seasoned or salted nuts, or other sugary desserts made from pecans.
Safety Concerns and Risks Associated with Feeding Pecans to Your Dog
There are several health considerations to think about with pecans for dogs. First, avoid allowing your dog to eat whole pecans, especially whole pecans still in a shell. Depending upon the size of your dog, ingesting a whole pecan in a shell has a high risk of causing an intestinal blockage. Intestinal blockage (also known as an intestinal foreign body) can be life-threatening and require emergency surgery for removal.3 And even if your pet can pass the pecan without surgery, it will likely cause intestinal upset leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
Moldy pecans are quite dangerous. The fungus on the pecan produces a neurotoxin called Penitrem A. Penitrem A can be found in other moldy nuts, moldy bread, and moldy cheese. If your dog ingests this toxin, you would expect neurologic signs including drooling, tremoring, and possible seizures.4 If you know your dog ate mold or if you see these symptoms take her to the ER veterinarian immediately. There they can start supportive therapy including pumping the stomach, giving fluids, and giving medications to stop the tremors. In these cases, dogs may need to be in the hospital for several days or more.
Pecans have a high fat and calorie content, which can be dangerous for dogs that have a history of pancreatitis. The high fat content could also induce a new case of pancreatitis in any dog. Pancreatitis causes a lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and belly pain. Many cases of pancreatitis require hospitalization in the veterinary clinic.5 The high fat content can also induce gastroenteritis, which is less severe than pancreatitis, but it still causes intestinal signs and discomfort.6
Finally, the high fat content is not a healthy choice for dogs that are overweight or have obesity. One ounce of pecans contains approximately 200 calories!7 A 22-pound dog only needs approximately 600 calories per day, therefore an ounce of pecans would be one-third of his daily calories. And, keep in mind that veterinary nutritionists recommend keeping any and all treat calories at 10% or less of the days’ total calories. So, pecans are not great for dogs on a diet.
How Many Pecans are Considered Safe for Dogs?
While there is not technically a toxic dose or volume of pecans for dogs, a large bowl of pecans, moldy pecans, and whole pecan ingestion are all of concern. And, given all the information above it is generally best to avoid planning to give pecans to your dog.
However, if some of your pecans fall on the floor and your healthy dog swoops in at the opportunity to eat them, you likely don’t need to worry. Ingestion of a few pecans here and there is unlikely to cause any harm or toxicity to your dog.
While dogs can eat pecans safely in limited amounts, it’s best to avoid or severely limit feeding pecans to your dog. If your dog does eat some pecans, be sure to monitor your dog closely. If you notice any decrease in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or tremoring, check in with your veterinarian. Just like people, some foods may be technically safe but still not agree with your dog’s tummy. In the case of pecans, there can be some dangerous side effects to watch for as well.
Find out more about which foods are safe for dogs:
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- Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Monounsaturated fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease: synopsis of the evidence available from systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Nutrients. 2012;4(12):1989-2007. Published 2012 Dec 11. doi:10.3390/nu4121989
- McKay DL, Eliasziw M, Chen CYO, Blumberg JB. A Pecan-Rich Diet Improves Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):339. Published 2018 Mar 11. doi:10.3390/nu10030339
- Gibson TWG. Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Small Animals. Merckvetmanual.com. Updated June 2020. Accessed September 22, 2021.
- Bough M. Toxicology Brief: “Tremorgenic Mycotoxicosis in Dogs.” Vetfolio.com. Accessed September 22, 2021.
- American Kennel Club. Pancreatitis in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment. Akc.org. Published February 22, 2021.
- Hunter T, Ward E. Gastroenteritis in Dogs. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed September 22, 2021.
- Nutritionix. Nuts, pecans – 1 oz (19 halves). Nutritionix.com. Accessed September 22, 2021.