Can Dogs Eat Walnuts Safely Or Are They Best Avoided?
The question whether can dogs eat walnuts safely or are they best avoided is one of the most common questions asked on pet food forums. There are many opinions out there, but I believe it’s time to put all these opinions into perspective.
I’m not going to get into the debate on whether walnut seeds are safe for dogs. That’s a different topic altogether. Instead, I want to focus on the issue of how much protein your dog needs from their diet and whether they’re likely to develop allergies or other health problems from eating too much walnuts.
Walnuts contain high amounts of protein and fat (20% and 20%, respectively).
So does that mean your dog will have trouble digesting them?
If you look at the nutrition facts label on a typical Wal-Mart brand canned dog food, you’ll see that they list the amount of protein per serving as 18%. If you add up all the ingredients listed on the nutritional panel, including water, it comes out to just over 1 gram of protein per teaspoonful. A tablespoonful would be about 2 ounces. This means that there are just under 3 teaspoons of protein in a can of dog food.
Now think about that for a minute.
What do you think dogs are made of?
If you said “protein”, you’re right! One of the main purposes of dog food is to supply your dog with the nutrients it needs to survive and grow.
So how much protein does your dog need each day?
The short answer is that it depends on your dog’s size, age, and activity level. But for a medium-sized adult dog, about 40 – 60% of its calories should come from protein. If we take the lower figure for your dog, that means it needs about 230 calories worth of protein each day.
How many walnuts would that be?
There are about 14 walnuts in a tablespoon. If you take out the shell and the skin, that’s about 7 walnuts per tablespoon (let’s call it 8 for convenience). There are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon. So that means there are about 5 tablespoons of walnuts in a cup. If you fill a measuring cup with walnuts until it measures 8 cups of walnuts, you’ll have enough to supply your dog’s daily protein needs.
Will your dog eat all of those walnuts?
Although dogs don’t tend to be fussy (especially when they’re really hungry), some dogs just don’t like the taste of walnuts. Some dogs will eat them without complaint, but others will pick and choose and leave most of them behind.
What about the fat content in walnuts?
Fat is essential to a dog’s diet, just as it is to yours. Without enough fat, a dog’s skin and coat will become dry and dull. If there isn’t enough fat in a dog’s diet, it will cease to produce essential hormones, which can lead to a variety of health problems.
Fat is also responsible for conditioning your dog’s muscles and aiding in the absorption of some nutrients. In short, not enough fat and your dog just doesn’t feel or look right. Too much fat, however, can lead to a host of other problems.
So are all fats created equal?
Not at all. Some fats are easier for dogs to digest than others. In fact, some types of fat can actually be harmful if consumed in large quantities.
Unlike most vegetables, which are about 75% water, walnuts are about 56% fat. That means that 42% of a walnut is something other than fat. That “something” is a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
In the case of walnuts, about half of that non-fat portion (that’s 21% of a walnut) is protein. So if your dog eats just the fat portion of a single walnut, it’s getting almost 1% of its protein for the day.
What about digestibility?
It’s true that not all proteins are created equal, and some are easier to digest than others. For humans, eggs and cheese are fairly easy to digest. Beef and pork, not so much. That’s why eggs and cheese are staples for many athletes – their bodies can put to good use the protein they provide. But dogs aren’t humans, so while some proteins are easier to digest than others, it really depends on the individual dog.
For instance, some dogs digest beef just fine, while others can’t handle it at all. Some do perfectly well with vegetables, while some get sick from them. And still others have no problem with either.
So what about walnuts?
There aren’t a lot of studies on the particular properties of walnuts, but various sources seem to indicate that dogs can digest them just fine. So if your dog has an upset stomach after eating a few too many walnuts, don’t be surprised.
What about the carbs and the fat in walnuts?
Aren’t they the bad types?
Sources & references used in this article:
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The book of edible nuts by F Rosengarten Jr – 2004 – books.google.com
Daily coping strategies for patients and their families by A Muñoz-Furlong – Pediatrics, 2003 – Am Acad Pediatrics
ACVIM small animal consensus recommendations on the treatment and prevention of uroliths in dogs and cats by JP Lulich, AC Berent, LG Adams… – Journal of veterinary …, 2016 – Wiley Online Library
The encyclopedia of healing foods by MT Murray, J Pizzorno – 2010 – books.google.com
The evolution of food caching by birds and mammals by CC Smith, OJ Reichman – Annual Review of Ecology and …, 1984 – annualreviews.org
Some food toxic for pets by N Kovalkovičová, I Šutiaková, J Pistl… – Interdisciplinary …, 2009 – content.sciendo.com
Office of technology assessment by US Congress – Adolescent health, 1995 – aerotoxicsyndrombook.com
Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows: An introduction to carnism by M Joy – 2020 – books.google.com