Dogs are clever, and sometimes they use their intelligence to either manipulate us into giving them of our food, or they somehow manage to get a hold of something we had been saving as a snack for ourselves when we are not looking.
This is why it is important to know what dogs can eat and what might be dangerous for them, and in this article, we will have a look at one of the most delicious- and most loved nuts on the planet – the pistachio.
Is it okay to let your fur friend have one when they look up at you with those big puppy eyes? If yes, how many are okay, and what would be too many? The pistachio is a healthy snack for us humans, but the question is – are they as healthy for our canine friends?
All About Pistachios
You have probably tried pistachios at some point in your life, and if you are unsure of what they are – you would likely recognize them upon sight. It is a small nut – a fruit – that is dry and unevenly shaped, and that you find inside a thin but very hard light brown shell. The nut itself is usually either yellow or green in color, and it is surprisingly bland and easy to chew.
The Pistachio is also known by its scientific name Pistacia vera, and it is a member of the Anacardiaceae family (also known as the Cashew family). The nut is consumed as a snack in many parts of the world, and they tend to be somewhat expensive compared to some other nuts.
When you purchase pistachios in a store they are often roasted in oil and salted, as this helps bring out the natural flavor, but they may also be sold unprocessed and in their natural state.
In the United States, these nuts first appeared on the market somewhere during the 1850s, and what many are unaware of is that they were once dyed red, as this was believed to make them more appealing to those interested in purchasing them.
The practice of dying pistachios red has since almost disappeared entirely, and this is likely due to many people being sensitive to the red food dye used to dye food products. Dying pistachios red might still be in practice in some countries, but it is almost completely gone in the United States.
Can Dogs Eat Pistachios?
There is something about pistachios that seems to draw other dogs to it, and it is very likely that your four-legged friend will decide to devour any nuts left out. This is probably why you are asking yourself if pistachios are okay for dogs to eat, and the answer is yes, but with a few restrictions.
Pistachios are packed with protein and fiber – both of which dogs need in their diet – but this is something dogs should be getting enough of from their regular dog food.
The issue with pistachios is the high content of fat, which could easily cause some quite explosive diarrhea and stomach upset if eaten in excess. Healthy fatty acids (like Omega-3, something also found in pistachios) are highly beneficial for dogs, but too much fat can lead to the dog packing on weight, and everyone knows an overweight dog runs a much bigger risk of falling ill or getting hurt.
When feeding pistachios to a dog, there is also the risk of the nuts having been treated with oils or salt to enhance the flavor, and these could cause even more trouble for a dog’s metabolism and digestion. Taking all this into consideration, pistachios might be relatively safe for a dog to eat, but is it worth the small yet possibly serious risks that come with them?
The pistachio itself is not dangerous for dogs, but – surprisingly – there is something known as pistachio poisoning, that could occur if a dog eats a very large amount of pistachios. This is due to the possible presence of Aspergillus mold; the mold produces aflatoxin that could be extremely dangerous for dogs.
It increases the risk of vomiting, loss of appetite, pancreatitis, liver failure and jaundice, and while it is not common for dogs to eat enough pistachios for this to present a risk (as not all nuts contain the mold) – it could happen, so keep your pistachio stash somewhere where your dog can’t get to it.
If your dog has gotten a hold of a bigger stash of pistachios, you will want to keep an eye on him or her and look for the mentioned symptoms of Pistachio poisoning, or possibly contact a veterinarian right away for a consultation.
Your vet can tell you if it is better to come in right away or if it is safe to wait for symptoms because remember that even if your dog does not get pistachio poisoning – they will still most likely suffer some unpleasant gastrointestinal distress.
The Pistachio Shell
You should never let your dog eat the pistachio shell (named ‘Pericarp’), as these are hard enough to damage their teeth if chewed and impossible for their bodies to process, which could possibly cause a blockage.
It is unlikely, due to their very small size (they will most likely just pass right through), but if the dog would be to eat a large quantity – obstruction remains a risk. If the pistachios have been roasted and salted, it would also be the shell that contains the most of this, which could be harmful to your dog.
If you feel the need to give your dog a pistachio, make sure you remove it from the shell and throw the shell away in a safe place where your curious pup can’t get to it, because if they like the taste and the smell of this nut – it is not impossible that they will try to get into the trash to look for whatever you have thrown in there. Shells are a no-no, so be wary of where you throw them.
While the risks are not too big when it comes to feeding pistachios to your dog, the nutritional benefits aren’t really big enough to justify it either. Nothing will happen to your fur friend if you slip them a Pistachio, but there are so many better snack options available for you to choose instead!
Carrot sticks are delicious, nutritious, cheap and safe for your dog, and they make a great treat between meals. Celery is another option with plenty of health benefits and without the small but significant risks associated with pistachios and many other nuts.
It is understandable that you would want to share your natural snacks with your dog, but pistachios simply aren’t the best option you have in your fridge (pistachios do not necessarily need to be refrigerated, but it is a good idea) for your canine buddy to snack on. Try to stick to fruit and vegetables, but just make sure you double-check that these are dog-friendly, as the road of what dogs can- and cannot eat can be a bit of a minefield.
Alternative: Peanut Butter for Dogs.
Unless you feel it is necessary to let your little fur buddy try pistachios, there is no good reason for why you should. Nothing happens if they do try a couple or if they would snatch up those pistachios that happened to fall on the floor, but there are some problematic aspects of dogs eating too many of these nuts.
Due to these risks (despite them being small), it would probably be better to avoid Pistachios and to choose other treats that are both healthier, safer and more fun for dogs to eat (munching on a carrot can occupy a small dog for hours), but this will be up to you to decide.
You know your dog, and with knowledge regarding different human foods, you will be able to make better and safer decisions for your furry bestie.