Conkers and Dogs

Conkers may be fun to play with for children and adults and are associated with the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn, but conkers are highly poisonous to dogs if they are chewed or ingested.  Although poisoning is thankfully fairly uncommon it is important to be aware of the dangers – Holidays4Dogs finds out why.

Conkers contain a chemical called Aesculin, which is found in all parts of the horse chesnut tree and which is toxic to dogs.  Dogs would normally need to ingest several conkers to suffer serious damage, but nevertheless, vets across the UK do see quite a few cases during late summer and autumn.

Dogs love foraging in autumn leaves where often conkers may be lurking.  Some breeds, such as Labradors and other hunting dogs, may be more inclined to pick up items from the ground and if you weren’t aware that conkers can be toxic to dogs, you may even throw them for your dog to retrieve.  This happened recently in a case where children were innocently throwing conkers for the family dog to play with.

Signs and symptoms of conker poisoning.

Signs of conker poisoning can occur between one and six hours after the dog has ingested them; however, this can be delayed for up to two days, so if you suspect your dog has chewed or eaten anything from a horse chestnut tree, it is important to seek veterinary advice.

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea which may contain blood

  • Drooling

  • Excessive thirst

  • Reluctance to eat

  • Restlessness and muscle tremors

Treatment is one of supporting the dog, along with medication to induce vomiting and possibly gastric lavage (rinsing of the stomach). The dog may also be put on a drip to replenish fluids lost from this process.

Conkers can also cause intestinal blockages, so while autumn is a fun time for dogs; it can also pose problems for inquisitive and playful ones, so take care with your pooch if you are planning a family conker hunt.