We've all seen it. Our dogs like getting into lots of things they shouldn't. While they can tolerate many "human" foods, others wreck havoc on their sensitive digestive tracts. Macadamia nuts fall into this category and produce a frightening series of symptoms including weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and fever. Although the toxin isn't fully understood, being aware of the symptoms and necessary treatment is critical to easing distress among both pet and owner.
Although the actual toxin in macadamia nuts is not fully understood, veterinarians with the ASPCA report the toxic dosage has a wide range. Small dogs (10 pounds or less) are susceptible to even two or three nuts. Remember that in addition to being available raw, macadamia nuts often are chocolate covered or found in baked goods. Chocolate can be deadly to dogs because of the toxin methylxanthine theobromine and requires veterinary intervention.
Macadamia nut poisoning presents with several possible symptoms, generally within the first 12 hours. Symptoms include hind end weakness, vomiting, depression, trembling, fever and lack of coordination. Although blood tests can be conducted, often times only slight increases in triglycerides, lipases and alkaline phosphatase are found. A more definitive diagnosis comes from simply being aware of household items -- could your dog have eaten any nuts? -- and monitoring vomit or feces for macadamia nut particles. A veterinarian can conduct differential tests to rule out other possible toxins.
As soon as you suspect ingestion, contact your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic. If caught within the first few hours, your vet might suggest some at-home treatments to induce vomiting. With a large ingestion of nuts, a veterinarian might give activated charcoal to help absorb the toxin and reduce possible symptoms. Supportive care also might be recommended. Always contact your veterinarian before any at-home treatment.
Symptoms of macadamia nut toxicity generally subside within 48 hours with no long-term effects. However, dogs with existing medical conditions or those displaying severe symptoms might require supportive care including intravenous fluids, pain management, or fever-reducing medications. Contact your veterinarian for a specific treatment plan for your dog.
Working with both small animals and exotics, Pamela Meadors has devoted more than 15 years to the veterinary field. She possesses a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and is the proud mom of a blind hedgehog.