Macadamia Nuts
NOT for Dogs!

by Teri Saya


Live and learn; This is an account of the terrible reactions our little Jack Russell Terrier went through in 2006 when we ignorantly gave her Macadamia Nuts….

A friend of ours had recently gone on a vacation to Hawaii. He had returned with a large can of delicious macadamia nuts. We were sitting around the table, discussing his trip and munching on the nuts. TidBit was very happy to see our friend. She had missed him and was sitting on his lap. While we talked, our friend was absentmindedly petting her and giving her little bits of macadamia nuts. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, we were all used to giving her table scraps whenever we ate. We had a list posted on the refrigerator of the foods that were bad for her so that everyone knew what NOT to feed her. Macadamia nuts were not on that list.

The next morning I knew something was wrong when TidBit did not wake up in her normal way. She was usually the first one up poking her nose in our eyes until we got up to feed her. She just lay in her little bed and no amount of coaxing would get her up. Finally, I picked her up and set her on her feet. Her back end fell and her nose planted to the floor, her front legs held but were very shaky. We immediately wrapped her up and took her to the vet.

The veterinarian asked what she had eaten recently, and we went through the usual stuff, dog food, carrots, hot dog, a little bit of cheese, some peanut butter. He asked again, “Are you sure there was nothing out of the ordinary?” I thought about it and then mentioned the macadamia nuts. He told us that these nuts had recently been added to the toxic list. She had inadvertently been poisoned.

The doctor explained that even though she was fine eating peanut butter, macadamia nuts had an unknown toxicity, especially to dogs. Studies were still being made to clarify.

TidBit was given a belly load of water with electrolytes, and we were told to take her home and wait it out. If we kept her hydrated, she should be feeling better within the next two days.

Just as the doctor had said, she recovered and we were very relieved. However, this was not the end of the story……

Three months later, TidBit started acting as if her joints hurt. She would tremble and walk very slowly as would an elderly dog, except she was only two years old! As the week wore on, these weird symptoms continued and seemed to be getting worse. We finally took her back to the veterinarian.

He checked her out, but couldn’t figure out what was making her joints ache. He gave us some pain medication for her (Deramax) and told us to keep an eye on her and to check the yard for possible toxins. We brought her home and watched her carefully. Her eating habits and her stool were both normal. We scoured the yard for anything that could be toxic, but nothing was found.

Two days later, she had a very strange episode and seemed to be hallucinating. That evening she would not stay on her bed where she normally slept, she seemed to be afraid of everything. Trembling and moving very slowly, she would go to the corner and just cower there. We did not give her the pain medication thinking maybe that was the cause, but she continued to act this way the next day as well. She would stand trembling with her nose planted on the floor as if she didn't have the strength to lift her head. She would hide in the corners and under furniture, would startle at sudden movements, and seemed to be seeing things that weren't there. She was very fearful and confused looking. These episodes lasted about thirty to forty minutes and were intermittent throughout the day. Her appetite did not fail though and her potty routine was fine.

We took her to the Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa where they did another general checkup and blood draw. The results were negative. There was nothing in her blood that would make her react the ways she was. We were told to take her home and keep giving her the pain meds.

Three days later, we took TidBit back to the hospital. She was not getting any better and she could barely make it up or down the stairs. We requested x-rays be taken. We thought maybe it was a bone issue, maybe she had been injured while playing with the Labradors that come and go in our household. The vet examined her by hand (no x-rays), and said it wasn’t a bone issue, but her joints were swollen and recommended a neurologist.

The next day we took TidBit to the Animal Care Center in Rohnert Park to see the neurologist. He was extremely gentle with her and very meticulous with his diagnosis.

We were very grateful that he took the time to explain in detail what her symptoms could mean. He suggested taking some fluid from her joints to determine if she had a high level of white blood cells, which would confirm his suspicions.

They gave TidBit a local anesthetic, shaved her knees, and took the samples. Within an hour the doctor had results.....She had a very high white blood cell count in her joint fluid.

She had developed Type I immune-mediated polyarthritis  because of the macadamia poisoning episode three months earlier. The doctor prescribed Prednisone, which is a strong steroid. We took her home and gave her the doses. Within two days, she was back to her normal, happy self. She would be on prednisone and or azathioprine for the rest of her life to keep her blood cell count at normal levels.

After this horrendous and expensive venture, we decided to give TidBit only the best dog food we could find, minus corn and wheat. She was never again allowed to eat people food and she didn’t seem to miss it after a while.

Below is information on Macadamia nuts and a list of toxic foods dogs should avoid as of
 January 2014.

Additional Common Names for Macadamia Nuts: Australia Nut, Queensland Nut

Scientific Name: Macadamia integrifolia    Family: Proteaceae

Toxicity: Toxic to Dogs    Toxic Principles: Unknown

Clinical Signs: Dogs: depression, weakness (especially of rear limbs), vomiting, and tremors.


Dangerous People Foods

(a list of foods poisonous to pets. Taken from the ASPCA website)

Chocolate, Macadamia nuts, avocados…these foods may sound delicious to you, but they are actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. Our nutrition experts have put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet.

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.


Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.


The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic. 

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. 


Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.


Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.


Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!



American College of Veterinary Medicine, Immune Mediated Polyarthritis in Dogs, by Richard E. Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM

PetCare Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa, California

VCA Animal Care Center of Sonoma County in Rohnert Park, California

 ASPCA – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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