My Dog Ate A Pistachio Shell – Should I be Worried?

If your dog ate a pistachio shell, you may need to call your vet right away. It depends on your dog’s symptoms and how many pistachio shells they’ve ingested.

Sharp pieces of a cracked pistachio shell can cut your dog’s GI tract, poses a choking hazard, and could be poisonous. On the other hand, Pistachios are a great source of protein and healthy fats for us humans, but for dogs, too much of this same fat could spell big trouble.

Here, we will discuss when you should be worried and when you simply need to wait for the digested pistachio shells to pass.

Can Dogs Eat Pistachio Shell?

Dogs love to eat anything they can find that is edible. It is one of your dog’s most basic instincts – to sniff everything for the purpose of determining if it is food, another animal, or danger. But, when it comes to pistachio nuts and shells, what smells like a tasty snack could lead to a terrible injury. Both the pistachio nut and the pistachio shell can be unhealthy or dangerous for dogs. So, what about a bowl of pistachios without the shell? Will this hurt your dog if he eats it?

The answer is possibly yes. While the shell may not be present as a choking or cutting accident, pistachios have a very high fat content. According to the ASPCA, the high fat content that is found in not only nuts like pistachios, but also nuts like pecans and macadamia can cause diarrhea and/or vomiting in dogs. When a dog eats a large amount of pistachios, it can be toxic (more about pistachio poisoning later). But, even in smaller quantities, the extreme levels of fat in pistachios can make a dog sick.

For this reason, no nuts – and especially pistachio nuts should be given to dogs in large quantities. If you’re looking for a healthy dog treat, apples, carrots, bananas, and watermelon without the seeds are better choices.

Another reason to not feed your dog packaged and salted pistachios are the salt content can be excessive. The large quantities of fat and salt found in pistachios may result in extreme thirst, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, tremors, and diarrhea. If your dog does eat large portions of pistachios with salt, it can result in water retention and can lead to serious kidney issues.

Pistachio shells are a choking hazard for dogs

What if your dog is eating pistachio nuts that are in the shell? This would pose a whole other set of problems. If your dog swallows one or two pistachio nuts whole, there will likely be no problem. Similar to humans, the nuts will not be digested. The whole nut will simply pass through the GI tract and be eliminated. But, if your dog is chowing down on a bowl of pistachio nuts in the shell or is snatching the leftover shells from your pistachio snack, that could be a serious problem.

All nuts pose a choking hazard to dogs, and the small size and the extremely hard pistachio shell makes these nuts similar to a small marble. And consider, if your dog eats a large quantity of in-the-shell pistachio nuts, they can certainly get stuck in the airways and cause your dog to have difficulty breathing. If you notice your dog with a panicked look, chest heaving, making retching motions, or pawing at her mouth, she may be choking.

If your dog is choking on a pistachio shell, examine her mouth and pull her tongue forward to see if you can remove the foreign object. Also, you can attempt the canine Heimlich maneuver on your dog to dislodge the pistachio shell or nut from their throat.

Pistachio shells are too hard and too sharp

If the thought of your precious pooch choking on a pistachio shell is frightening, then you should also consider just how sharp and hard a pistachio shell can be. Some nut shells will crumble when broken. But, pistachio shells break into shards and slivers that when swallowed can cut or otherwise injury your pet’s internal tissue. When dogs eat, they can be voracious. That is, they do more swallowing than chewing. So, don’t expect your dog to completely chew pistachio shells. It is more likely they will enter the dog’s stomach as small slivers that are big enough to cut.

Internal bleeding in a dog is often missed until symptoms get very bad. If your dog is bleeding in the abdomen or other part of the GI tract for a long period of time, she may develop trouble breathing, become weak, and their gums will turn pale. Another sign of internal bleeding in a dog is a distended abdomen. The more pistachio shells your dog ingests, the greater chance that these hard slivers of nut casing will cut into the tender tissue.

Pistachio shells can injure gums and teeth

Another danger with pets who eat pistachio shells is the damage it can do to teeth and gums. Similar to how shards of pistachio shells can injure soft internal tissue, they can also slice through or puncture gums. Most pet owners already know that dogs shouldn’t eat chicken or fish bones. Just like pistachio shells, these things when eaten by dogs can splinter and injure a dog’s throat, stomach, or intestines.

Another possibility is that a piece of pistachio shell can become lodged between the dog’s teeth. This can be uncomfortable for your dog and if conditions are right, it can be the beginning of an infection. Even if the pistachio shell is not causing your dog immediate discomfort, over time the impacted shell can be the cause of tooth loss or expensive dental procedures.

The result of a punctured stomach or an internal cut in the GI tract can be very painful for a dog. If your dog appears to be in distress because they have eaten something sharp like a pistachio shell, stay calm. Your vet may suggest that you give the dog some white bread to eat which may force the pistachio to dislodge and pass safely through the GI tract. But, every situation is different. So, it is important to contact an emergency veterinarian if your dog is experiencing signs that pistachio shells have done damage.

Pistachio poisoning is a real possibility

And finally, the greatest danger of a dog consuming a large amount of pistachio shells is the possibility of poisoning. Pistachios are often grown or stored in hot and humid conditions. This makes these nuts more prone to mold growth. Actually, there is a specific type of mold called Aspergillus mold that pistachios can be prone to. When a batch of pistachios has an outbreak of this Aspergillus mold, a toxic compound known as aflatoxin is produced. This is one of the most poisonous forms of naturally occurring mycotoxins that is also found in moldy coffee beans, dried fruit, and spices.

The symptoms of this acute poisoning or canine aflatoxicosis in dogs include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice, and even liver failure. Your dog must be taken to a vet for treatment that starts with an x-ray or ultrasound of the dog’s mid-section to look for enlargement of the stomach, heart, or pancreas. They will also do a chemical profile and complete blood work to determine if it is an underlying disease or a toxin like aflatoxin.

If your dog is diagnosed with aflatoxin due to eating pistachio nuts or pistachio shells, the treatment may include specific medications for nausea and pain, and IV fluids to combat dehydration. Your dog may also be prescribed pharmaceutical grade Vitamin K supplements to reverse any early liver damage.

Pistachio shells should really be kept away from dogs and all pets. If you suspect your dog has eaten pistachio shells, stay on the lookout for any symptoms that will show the dog is in distress or needs medical attention. One or two pistachio shells are not likely to be a problem if the dog swallowed them successfully. The greater worry is when a dog consumes a large amount that can cause internal damage or poisoning.

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