Blackened walnuts can be deadly to dogs

Pete Keesling

Q: I caught the neighbor’s dog eating some walnuts that had fallen from our tree. Some of these are black and moldy. Can a dog get sick from eating “bad” walnuts?

A:

Absolutely, and there’s more to this story than just an upset tummy. Those black-colored walnuts can be very dangerous. Rotting walnut husks sometimes contain an aflatoxin that can kill dogs that chew on them. Aflatoxins are poisons produced by mold, fungus and mildew. These toxins cause central nervous system problems, including twitching, jittery behavior and even hyperthermia and seizures. Left untreated, a dog with these symptoms can easily die. The problem is, lots of dogs like the bitter taste of old walnuts and husks and often chew on them. And if the poisonous toxin is present, symptoms can start quickly. So your neighbor needs to keep his dog in his own yard. And you need to keep your own dog from eating any of these blackened nuts. If your pooch ever shows any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian and get him in for treatment immediately.

Q:

Our chihuahua, Tex, ran into the sliding glass door. He’s acting normal, but has a big bump on his head. My mother says his skull bone is swollen from hitting it so hard. Does bone actually swell? I don’t understand how it can. 

A:

Actually, it can’t. The minerals in bone make it very hard and rigid. But bone is covered by a thin membrane tissue called the periosteum. The periosteum carries blood vessels to the bone. This tissue also has nerves that give sensation to the boney surface. When there is a bump from the outside, the periosteum swells and becomes sensitive or painful to touch (this is called a periosteal reaction). That bump on Tex’s head is just a sign that he took a good hit when he ran into that glass door. Keep an eye on him for a few days to make sure he doesn’t develop any strange behavior that might mean he has a concussion. And let’s hope he’s a little more careful next time he’s running around the house.

Q:

Ben, an older Labrador, had a hematoma blood blister in his earflap. The vet surgically treated it and everything went well. His stitches were removed about two weeks ago. Today, there is a new swelling in the same area where the original hematoma started. It’s a lot smaller, but I’m afraid it will grow all over again and he’ll need surgery a second time. Why does this happen? Is there anything we can do to treat this without going to the vet? 

A:

Ear hematomas usually occur after some kind of trauma to the earflap. If Ben has an ear infection and is scratching constantly at his ear, he could easily start another blood blister. Furthermore, if he’s eaten any mouse or rat bait, he could easily start to bleed under the skin again. Be sure to check that he cannot get into any of this poison.

One other possible cause could be related to the timing of his suture removal. Surgical sutures are usually removed 10 to 14 days post-op. But the sutures used to repair an ear hematoma need to stay in place for a longer time. Most vets recommend suture removal after at least two to three weeks have passed. That’s the time necessary for scar tissue to set in and heal completely in the earflap. If sutures are removed too early, the hematoma can sometimes reoccur.

Your vet should reexamine Ben’s ear to see whether or not any further surgical correction is needed. Have him looked at right away.

Q:

Who’s smarter, dogs or cats? My wife says it’s the dog, because he can learn tricks. I’m not so sure. You’ve seen a lot of cats and dogs in your life. Any ideas?

A:

Hmmm, tough question. Dogs outsmart people all the time; there are thousands of stories to prove it. But cats? I think they have humans completely baffled. Heck, we can’t even explain how or why they purr. Does that make them smarter than us? They think so!

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