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My Dog Ate A Pistachio Shell: What Should I Do Now?

The popularity of pistachios is undeniable and it’s due to their unique flavor and their large availability. Although pistachios are quite a healthy snack for humans, they are absolutely not recommended for dogs, especially their shells.

If your dog ate a pistachio shell, it would be better to call your veterinarian and let them know the details of the accident, so they can give you personalized advice. In some cases, pistachio shells ingestion can be very harmful to your pet.

What should you do if your dog ate pistachio shells?

In the case your dog just ate a pistachio shell, you might be tempted to induce vomiting, which is a common procedure for non-edible ingestions and is used in animal clinics every day.

However, pistachio shells have sharp edges that might hurt or open wounds into your dog’s esophagus while coming back up with the vomit, so refrain from inducing vomiting in your dog.

You should call your veterinarian immediately if:

  • Your dog ate a big quantity of pistachios or pistachio shells;
  • Your dog ate pistachio shell and vomited;
  • Your dog is showing any signs of discomfort or unusual symptoms.

If your dog ate one pistachio shell, they might turn out fine, especially if they’re on the big side. If they don’t show discomfort and are behaving normally, you can keep an eye on them and wait to see if they pass stools and eat like always.

Are pistachios shells safe for dogs?

pistachio shellThe short answer is: no, pistachio shells are not safe for dogs.

When your dog eats a couple of pistachios with no shell, there shouldn’t be much to worry about as long as it’s a one-time event and not a recurring snack. Shells, however, are a different matter.

Pistachio shells are particularly hard, so much that people sometimes use them for handicrafts and DIY items like bowls and vases. It’s easy to understand that your dog won’t be able to digest them and once in their organism, the shells can cause all kinds of issues.

If your dog snatches leftovers shells from your snack, they might come across broken shells, which are even more dangerous because of their sharp edges.

These pieces are small enough to get stuck anywhere, starting from your dog’s mouth, and are dangerous enough to cause quite a bit of damage.

Dogs are voracious when they eat, so if they sink their muzzle into a bowl of pistachio shells it’s unlikely they will only eat a single one. The bigger the quantity they ingest, the greater the harm.

Choking hazard

The first thing you want to check is whether your dog is having trouble breathing or behaving out of the ordinary upon the ingestion of pistachio shells. A large quantity of shells is more likely to cause an obstruction in the airways, but small dogs may suffer for way less.

A dog that is suffocating will be gasping for air, obsessively touching or hitting their muzzle with their paw and their gums will turn pale or blue.

In case of suffocation, you should, first of all, remove any collar or restraint from around their neck, but make sure your dog can’t attack you because they can get aggressive when they’re panicked.

Afterward, you can try to remove the object with your hand or attempt a Heimlich maneuver to clear the airways. If your pet keeps having trouble breathing after removing the object, make sure to extend their neck and pull their tongue forward so it doesn’t get in the back of the throat.

Even if your pet is fine after this, you should bring them to the veterinarian for a check-up.

Dental issues 

Pistachio shells, especially broken ones, become dangerous hazards for your dog’s mouth.

Fragments of the shells can easily get stuck between the teeth or under the gum line. This will not only be uncomfortable for your dog but could turn very painful. It could even prevent them from eating.

If your dog doesn’t have proper oral care, these shards will slowly and steadily ruin the tooth and provoke dental issues that will be very expensive and painful to fix.

If your dog has pistachio shells stuck in their teeth and you can’t remove them manually, you can use dog chew toys specifically designed for oral health.

Is pistachio toxic to dogs?

Although pistachios aren’t strictly toxic to dogs, they’re far from being healthy snacks. There is no reason to feed pistachios to your dog as there’s no scientific proof that dogs benefit from pistachios the same way humans do.

Also, pistachios are designed to be consumed by humans, and as such, they can contain additives or components that are not good for your dog’s health.

For example, most pistachios are full of salt and oil, which are known to be harmful and fat even for humans, let alone for dogs! Pistachios also contain high quantities of phosphorus, which is one of the main culprits behind the dog’s bladder stones.

Secondary risks of eating pistachios in dogs go well beyond what we can imagine at a first look. Some of the nastier consequences of pistachio ingestion can go as far as considerably shortening your pup’s lifespan.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a subtle and sometimes confusing disease that can nonetheless cause a great deal of harm to your dog.

The inflammation of the pancreas is usually due to dietary choices, for example when your dog eats something out of the ordinary. Other causes may include infections, obesity, and metabolic disorders, among the most common.

Foods that contain high quantities of fats can easily provoke pancreatitis, and nuts like pistachios are among these types of food. Large or regular consumption of pistachios could easily lead your dog to develop pancreatitis.

When your dog’s pancreas gets inflamed, it will start leaking digestive enzymes, which in turn will irritate everything they will touch, turning the situation into a never-ending cycle of inflammation.

Most dogs only experience a single episode of pancreatitis. However, if the disease becomes chronic and leads to the destruction of enough pancreatic tissue, insulin production may become insufficient and provoke diabetes mellitus in your dog.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain

As you can see, the symptoms can sometimes be misunderstandable or very vague, and some dogs don’t show any symptoms until the disease is widely spread.

If you notice a combination of two or more of these symptoms in your dog, get in contact with your veterinarian.

Urushiol 

The urushiol oil contained in the pistachio nuts is known to be harmful to both humans and dogs.

In humans, consumption of this oil usually causes respiratory problems and nasty skin rashes called contact dermatitis. Unfortunately, it has similar effects on our pooch as well.

Urushiol is mainly known in relation to Poison Ivy reactions, which affect humans way more than dogs. However, even if a dog rarely experiences skin reactions from touching the plant, ingesting the urushiol oil is a different matter.

A dog that is experiencing a skin rash from urushiol oil will probably show signs mainly around their mouth and on their face. This skin rash is very painful and given that dogs have little to no self-control, if they start scratching themselves it can get even worse.

If your dog develops rashes from eating pistachios, make sure to wash them properly to remove traces of pistachio from their fur and call your veterinarian to see what can be done about the oil they ingested.

Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a cancerogenic chemical produced by the Aspergillus mold. It’s usually present on nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios that have not been stored properly or have been left in a too damp environment for too long.

The shell usually protects the nuts from this toxin, however sometimes the shell cracks too soon and the nuts become contaminated.

It takes a big quantity of aflatoxin to be harmful to humans, but unfortunately, dogs are particularly sensitive to it, which is why plant-based food ingredients are not recommended for animals.

Aflatoxin can cause diseases of the liver, gastrointestinal symptoms, anemia, and other issues. Some types of this toxin are closely linked to animal cancer.

Symptoms of intoxication by aflatoxin include:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Blood in the stools or vomit
  • Fever
  • Discolored urine
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice (the whites of the eyes become yellow)

If you know your dog has eaten risky food or is showing any of the symptoms above, they will require immediate medical attention. Remember to bring a sample of the food with you.

Can dogs eat pistachio shells?

Pistachios and pistachio shells should be absolutely kept away from your dog. In the list of healthy dog snacks, they don’t even make it last place and with so many options available on the market there’s really no reason to feed your dog pistachios.

If your dog happened to eat pistachio shells once, watch out for any symptom but in most cases, they should be fine. However, don’t let it happen again.

Dogs aren’t aware of the danger, so it’s your responsibility as a pet parent to make sure they don’t get in contact with pistachio shells.

Whenever you’re eating pistachios, keep your dog away or store the shells somewhere they can’t reach and then throw them immediately away when you’re done eating.