If your dog ate acorns and is throwing up, you are rightfully concerned. Ingestion of acorns can be quite problematic especially for smaller sized dogs. While acorns don't rank at the top of this list of plants that are potentially deadly to dogs, they can pose life threatening risks to some dogs. While it's not abnormal for dogs to vomit when they eat something that is not a regular part of their diets, repeated vomiting and the inability to hold any food down is a red flag that can mean your dog needs veterinary attention.
Are Acorns Toxic to Dogs?
Squirrels love to eat acorns as we can attest from watching them store them for the winter, it's therefore quite clear that they're not harmful to them, but what about dogs? Are acorns toxic to dogs? Acorns are simply the nuts of oak trees and their close relatives. They are commonly seen in the fall when the nuts drop from the tree and fall to the ground.
While acorns do contain a toxin that is known as gallotannin, this toxin is more concerning for owners of cows and horses than owners of dogs. Why? Turns out, it's a matter of the quantity being ingested. Cows and horses are more likely to ingest significant amounts and ingestion of large amounts of acorns can potentially cause digestive upset, lethargy and even damage to the animal's kidneys, especially with prolonged, chronic ingestion.
Dogs, on the other hand, even though attracted to acorns, are unlikely to forage on them as cows and horses do, and even if they happen to eat a few, they mostly develop mild toxicity under the form of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
A Matter of Size
On top of being mildly toxic especially when eaten in large amounts, acorns can pose a risk for an intestinal obstruction to puppies and small dogs. Acorns are just the right size for lodging in the small intestine of a small dogs, potentially creating a blockage, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin.
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If you own a small dog or puppy and he has eaten an acorn or several acorns, and is vomiting persistently, you may want to see your vet as this could be indicative of an intestinal obstruction. Dogs with an obstruction typically vomit, cannot keep food down, show signs of abdominal pain (guard their abdomen, shake, don't like to be picked up, spend a lot of time stretching and assume the praying position), strain to produce a bowel movement and can have diarrhea.
According to the ASPCA, on top of causing an obstruction, the sharp, chewed-up fragmented pieces of the acorn's shell, can cause mechanical irritation to the dog's digestive tract. In other words, the fragments can potentially cause scrapes to the inside of the dog's digestive tract. Ouch, not something to take lightly!
Course of Action
It may be difficult at times determining whether your dog is vomiting because of mild digestive upset or because of a potential obstruction. It's always best to err on the side of caution and see the vet. Your vet will likely do a physical examination followed by an x-ray so to get an insider view of what may be going on. If there is truly an obstruction, depending on several factors, your vet may want to keep an eye the situation and see if it passes, or may suggest immediate surgery.
If your dog appears to have only mild digestive upset, there are some home treatments that can be tried. You can fast your dog for at least 8 hours so to give the digestive tract some rest, followed by a bland diet made of boiled ground beef and rice, or boiled chicken and rice, with two parts rice to one part meat, suggests veterinarian Dr. Matt. Offer this diet in small amounts 3-4 times a day and if your dog keeps it down, give it for a couple of days, and then gradually mix in your dog's regular diet.
Providing access to water or giving Pedialyte can be helpful to keep the vomiting dog hydrated. Also, Dr. Matt suggests giving dogs Pepcid AC for stomach discomfort at a dose of 10 mg for every 50 pounds of weight.
As always, it's best to err on the side of caution and have a sick dog see the vet. If your dog ate acorns and is vomiting non-stop or acting lethargic, please so your vet for safety. Also, consider that small dogs and puppies get dehydrated really quickly when vomiting, so don't take any chances and see your vet.
- ASPCA: Animal Poison Control, Oak