Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, July 31

Here’s a slightly different format for Toxicology Tuesday – a multiple choice question. Which, if any, of these nuts are toxic in dogs?

  1. Macadamia nuts
  2. Almonds
  3. Cashews
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Answer A. Too much of any kind of salted nuts can be a problem. The high fat content in nuts can cause mild vomiting and diarrhea, or possibly pancreatitis. Too much salt may lead to excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion toxicosis (salt poisoning.) However, only the macadamia nuts are truly toxic.

We don’t know the toxic principal in macadamia nuts, but we do know the signs: vomiting, weakness, ataxia (= incoordination), tremors, and hyperthermia (body temperatures reaching 105 or more.) Blood tests show increased triglycerides, lipase (fat-digesting enzyme), and white blood cell counts.

Dogs are the only species to date shown to exhibit macadamia nut toxicosis, and luckily, most cases resolve with supportive therapy only. Withholding food and water till the vomiting stops, maybe fluid therapy and/or anti-emetics in some cases, and close monitoring is usually all that is required.

If those macadamia nuts were chocolate-coated, then your little friend has gotten a double-whammy, and may need to be treated for chocolate toxicity, too.

As an aside, cashew nuts are quite interesting. They are related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Their outer fruiting structure contains urushiol, a potent skin toxin, which is why you never see cashews sold “in the shell.” Harvesting cashews is a hazardous process, posing the risk of severe skin rashes among the workers.


KGMom said...

Oh good--nuts! We have nuts around the house (to snack on! not family visiting!!) and I have been wondering about them.
Our dog loves to beg for nuts--so she gets an occasional almond from me.
I have read that macadamia nuts are NO NO for dogs. So, that combined with the experience of feeding her almonds, I am going to have to pick A.
Final answer.

KGMom said...

By the way--I meant to add that your blog is the FIRST one I check on Tuesdays--I love this Toxic Tuesday feature.
And I love my dog and cats--so I want to know what is good or bad for them.

Mary said...

Before reading Donna's comment I guessed macadamia nuts but I don't know why :o)

I have regular peanauts and cashews at home and both of my dogs turn their noses away from them. But they both dislike pretzels, too :o/

I guess A.

nina said...

I vote "A", too. And, fortunately for me--I don't particularly like them either, so they're not around as a snack for any of us.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with everyone else, A. macadamia nuts, which are a bad no no for dogs. Kathy

Lisa said...

Just to be different (difficult?) I'll say E.

KatDoc said...

Well, shoot, I thought I might catch one or two with this one. (We will ignore Lisa the Contrarian, who picked E just to be different.)

I thought maybe somebody would know that almonds (and other fruits with a pit, like apples and cherries) contain trace amounts of cyanide and pick B. Remember the 1976 movie "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane," where Jodie Foster murders (who?) with cyanide. ("The tea tastes of almonds." "It's the almond flavored cookies, I said.")

I thought maybe somebody would know about urushiol in cashew shells being a topical toxin and choose answer C. By the way, traditional mahouts (elephant keepers) in India use urushiol to control tamed elephants. (Don’t ask me how; I just read it in Wikipedia.)

I even thought someone would fall for the classic blunder "D., All of the above," which always tripped me up on multiple guess questions.

But, once again, my talented toxicologists got the right answer. Thanks for playing this week, and thanks to KGMom, who reads me first on Tuesdays!


nina said...

You know, the almond/apricot/cyanide connection went right by me. I know to watch out for wilted cherry leaves for our goats when we feed branch trimmings--that's cyanide, too--I think?

Julie Zickefoose said...

Thank you thank you for Toxicology Tuesdays. If you save even one dog or cat from suffering or death, all that download time will be worth it. (Easy for me to say, right? We're broadening our band as I speak). Ch-ching.
When I lived in Brazil, I learned that cashews must by law be blanched before leaving the country, because they are so deadly poisonous. I heard of a gringo who died eating unblanched cashews while I was there. I ate the fruit, which looks like a red bell pepper and tastes like sweet heaven, many times, but knew not to touch the green-husked "nut" that hangs beneath it. So I was guessing that cashews would be the bad actor.
Baker loves unsalted almonds, but he never gets more than one or two at once. He does not like salted nuts.I'm so thankful for the macadamia warning. I used to eat a lot of those, but have switched to almonds.

KGMom said...

Well, Katdoc--I think you could easily expand your Toxic Tuesdays to include human toxicity.
I eat loads (and I mean loads) of almonds. In my effort to stay pre-diabetic & not become diabetic, I have switched to almonds as my snack of choice. Unsalted, of course--and my dog Tipper does get 1 or 2 as I snack away. BUT--I didn't know of the cyanide connection. So now I am wondering--how many is too much for a human?

My son is allergic to nuts--true nuts, not peanuts--and as a little kid would always say (when he was about to throw up--his allergic reaction)--"I have a nut taste in my mouth."

KatDoc said...

More on the almonds-cyanide thing:

The pits of peaches, plums, and apricots, the seeds of apples and cherries (also cherry leaves) - plants in the genus Prunus, family Rosaceae - all contain small amounts of amygdalin, a precursor to Hydrogen Cyanide. Eating the pits of peaches, etc., could cause cyanide poisoning, but why would you? As for apple seeds, you'd have to swallow a million to get enough toxin, so I think you are safe there.

Wilted cherry leaves are bad for livestock - I freaked out when a wild cherry tree came down in my horse pasture a number of years ago - but dogs, cats, and people are unlikely to be exposed this way.

From my research, there are two kinds of almonds, sweet almonds and bitter almonds, the difference being the presence or absence of amygdalin. Sweet almonds, the edible kind, don't have it, bitter almonds, which are toxic, do. Bitter almond oil is sometimes used in massage or aroma therapy, as well as theraputically in alternative medicine. If it is to be used as food or flavoring agent, the cyanide must be removed from bitter almond oil. (It is then called "volatile almond oil" and can still be toxic in large amounts.)

Amygdalin is nearly synonymous with Laetrile, the one-time experimental cancer therapy. (People were flocking to Mexico for this so-called cancer cure in the 70's and 80's.) Laetrile not only didn't cure cancer, it also caused death from cyanide toxicosis.

Sweet (common, edible) almonds are considered healthy - they are a source of proteins, unsaturated fats, Vitamin E and dietary fiber. They have favorable lipid-altering effects and improve the ratio of HDL to LDL, thus reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.

Thanks for the kind words, Julie, but there isn't too much uploading for Tox. Tues., since I use very few photos. I appreciate the thought, Donna, but it says "cat and dog doc" on my degree, not "people doc." The only animal on the planet I am legally not allowed to treat is the human animal, so none of what I write should be used to answer human health questions. (Legal disclaimer to avoid being sued!)

Glad this topic sparked so many comments!


KGMom said...

Your disclaimer gave me a chuckle.
I grew up on the mission field, among strong women. One I admired most was a nurse who treated all animals--naked (human) and furred (animals). She once stitched up a dog that had gotten in a nasty fight. I adored her--the nurse, that is, not the dog.