Conkers and dogs

A scruffy crossbreed dog surrounded by yellow and red autumnal leaves looks at the camera
  • Conkers are highly poisonous to dogs if chewed and eaten
  • They can also cause blockages in your pet’s stomach
  • Serious cases of illness are rare
  • But if you think your pet has eaten a conker, contact your vet immediately

Conkers may be synonymous with autumn, but few people realise that these nuts can pose a serious health risk to your pet if ingested. Although cases are rare, Blue Cross has treated dogs who have fallen very ill after eating conkers. In one recent case, children had been innocently throwing conkers for a dog to catch, unaware of the dangers.

Why are conkers dangerous to dogs?

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the large nuts could cause a blockage in your pet’s stomach. Secondly, they contain a chemical called aesculin – found in all parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the leaves – which is toxic to dogs.

What are the symptoms of dog conker poisoning?

Although fatalities in cases where dogs have consumed conkers are thankfully rare it is still very serious. Dogs who have eaten or swallowed conkers, allowing the toxins to enter their body,  can be very sick. They can vomit, collapse, have diarrhoea, get very restless with the discomfort and pain, become severely dehydrated and go into toxic shock. It has also been reported that dogs can experience respiratory paralysis and can die. Signs of illness usually arise after a couple of days but dogs can show signs of being poisoned within one to six hours of consuming the conkers.

What should I do if I think my dog has eaten a conker?

Contact your vet straight away for advice.

What treatment is my dog likely to receive if he or she has eaten a conker?

Poisoned dogs need to be rehydrated and medicated, and any chewed up conkers still in their tummy need to be removed. In rare cases, surgery may be required to remove blockages.

How do I stop my dog from eating a conker?

Although dogs love to forage when they’re out exploring, do keep a watchful eye on them when they’re around conkers. Don’t encourage them to catch or play with them and if they show signs of becoming unwell after you have been out and about then contact your vet as soon as possible. Always take a suitable dog toy out with you to distract them if they are interested in playing a game. 

— Page last updated 6/10/2016