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Are Acorns Dangerous to Dogs: (Important Safety Advice)

While acorns look seemingly harmless, there’s a few things dog owners should know before their next walk in the park or forest!

Can Dogs Eat Acorns?

Simply put, no, dogs shouldn’t eat acorns. While they may seem harmless, acorns contain a substance called tannin that can be toxic to dogs when ingested in large quantities. Let’s quickly move on to why acorns are dangerous, and what to do if your dog eats one (or many!).

Why Are Acorns Dangerous?

Absolutely! When it comes to dogs and acorns, there are a couple of potential risks. Here’s a breakdown of how a dog could get poisoned by an acorn:

1. Tannin Poisoning

Acorns, particularly those from oak trees, contain a natural chemical called tannin. While tannins are present in various everyday foods and are not inherently harmful in small amounts to humans, they can be toxic to dogs.

When a dog ingests acorns in significant amounts, they can suffer from tannin poisoning, also known as oak poisoning.

The symptoms of this might include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Quivering

In severe cases, prolonged exposure or ingestion can lead to kidney damage and liver failure.

2. Physical Obstruction

Besides the toxic effects of tannins, acorns can also pose a physical threat. If a dog swallows an acorn whole, especially smaller breeds, it can lead to an obstruction in the intestines.

This blockage can be painful and might require surgical intervention to resolve.

Symptoms of an obstruction might include:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal bloating

The size and shape of acorns make them potential choking hazards, especially for smaller dogs. If an acorn gets lodged in a dog’s throat, it could block the airway and cause significant distress.

Similar: Are Cob Nuts Dangerous to Dogs?

What If My Dog Eats an Acorn?

Sometimes we’re just too late! I know the feeling. If you’ve arrived to the scene too late and you think your dog has gobbled down some acorns, this is what you should next:

1. Remain Calm

First and foremost, it’s essential to stay calm. Panicking won’t help the situation, and a clear head will allow you to better assess the situation and take appropriate action.

2. Monitor for Symptoms

The onset of symptoms after a dog eats an acorn can vary based on several factors, including the dog’s size, overall health, and the amount of acorns consumed. Here’s a general timeline:

Immediate to a Few Hours After Ingestion:

  1. Choking or Breathing Difficulties: If the acorn becomes lodged in the throat, symptoms would be immediate.
  2. Gastrointestinal Upset: Symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea might manifest within a couple of hours as the dog’s body reacts to the tannins and other compounds in the acorn.

Several Hours to 24 Hours:

  1. Continued Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Persistent vomiting or diarrhea might occur.
  2. Abdominal Pain: The dog might start displaying signs of discomfort or pain, such as whining, pacing, or sensitivity when their belly is touched.
  3. Lethargy: As the body responds to the toxins, a general sense of tiredness or lack of energy might be observed.

24 Hours to Several Days Later:

  1. Obstruction Symptoms: If the acorn (or acorns) has caused an intestinal blockage, symptoms might become more pronounced after a day or so, especially if the dog hasn’t passed the obstruction naturally. These can include persistent vomiting, bloating, constipation, and significant distress.
  2. Signs of Serious Poisoning: If a large number of acorns were ingested, or if the dog is particularly sensitive, you might observe more severe symptoms such as tremors, jaundice, or dark-colored urine after the first 24 hours.

It’s important to note that while these timelines give a general idea, every dog is unique. Some might show symptoms almost immediately, while others might take a bit longer. If you know or suspect that your dog has ingested acorns, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian promptly, even if symptoms haven’t manifested yet.

3. Do Not Induce Vomiting (Unless Instructed)

It’s essential not to induce vomiting unless directed by a veterinarian. Inducing vomiting without proper guidance can cause more harm than good, especially if there’s a risk of choking or aspiration.

4. Call the Vet

If you’ve witnessed your dog consuming multiple acorns or if your dog is showing any concerning symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. They can provide guidance tailored to your dog’s specific situation.

5. Be Prepared to Provide Details

When talking to your vet, be prepared to provide as much information as possible:

  • Approximate amount of acorns ingested
  • Any observed symptoms
  • The time since ingestion
  • Your dog’s weight, age, and any pre-existing health conditions

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Prevention is Key

One thing I remind all owners whenever possible, is to double-down on the “leave it” or “drop it” command.

Not only does this make a game a fetch easier, but it can potentially avoid a disaster if your dog has something toxic in their mouth (like an acorn!)

Some basics on teaching these commands.

“Leave It” Command:

  • Anticipation & Prevention: The “leave it” command is all about anticipation. When you see your dog approaching something potentially harmful, like an acorn, you can use this command to stop them before they even pick it up. It’s like a preemptive strike against potential dangers.
  • Distraction from Temptation: Dogs are curious creatures. Whether it’s a new scent, an interesting-looking object, or something they deem edible, their first instinct might be to explore. By training them with the “leave it” command, you’re essentially teaching them to snap out of their curiosity-driven trance and to focus back on you.

“Drop It” Command:

  • Immediate Response: If your dog has already grabbed something harmful, the “drop it” command ensures they release it immediately. This is particularly crucial in cases where seconds matter, like if they’ve picked up something toxic or a potential choking hazard.
  • Safety First: The “drop it” command can be a literal lifesaver. In situations where your dog has something dangerous in their mouth, being able to command them to let go without chasing or prying their mouth open reduces the risk and ensures both your and your dog’s safety.

Overall Benefits:

  • Building Trust: Consistent training and positive reinforcement when your dog obeys these commands can build trust. Your dog learns to trust that when you ask them to leave something or drop it, it’s for a good reason.
  • Versatility: While our focus here is on acorns, these commands are versatile and apply to numerous scenarios—whether it’s avoiding food scraps on a walk, dangerous household items, or even deterring them from chasing after other animals.

In conclusion, while it takes time, patience, and consistency to train these commands effectively, the payoff in terms of safety and peace of mind is invaluable

Alternatives to Acorns for Play

If your dog is attracted to the shape or texture of acorns, there are plenty of safe toys that mimic these characteristics. Invest in some safe and dog-friendly toys to divert their attention.

So, now you know, it’s probably best to avoid using acorns for fetch!

Dangerous to Dogs:

The Bottom Line

If you suspect your dog has ingested a large number of acorns or is showing any of the above symptoms, it’s essential to seek veterinary care immediately.

As always, prevention is the best strategy: keep an eye on your dog during walks in areas with oak trees and consider training commands like “leave it” to prevent unwanted ingestion.

Always prioritize their safety and health. And when in doubt, always consult with your vet or trusted pet health sources like the AVMA.

Stay safe and enjoy those walks with your furry friend!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.