Thursday, September 27, 2012

Black Walnuts: Dangerous for Your Dog


I yell at the top of my lungs.  Yanking the leash hard, I attempt to pull my 90 pound dog away, then stumble in the process.  I lose my footing when I step on a black walnut.  My foot rolls, and I start spiralling toward the ground...

On the path leading up the hill and into the fenced-in area of the yard.  

I throw my arms out and catch myself on some rocks off to the side, but the pain that shoots through my ring and pinky fingers causes me to jerk back, and I continue my downward descent to the ground.

I know that if I continue in this manner, I'm going to end up rolling down the path, which would probably be fine (I fall enough that I'm great at rolling), except that the path is narrow, and somewhat walled on either side at this point.

treacherous path on the hill

I do some not-so-graceful feats of gymnastics, swing my head to the right just in time to avoid the retaining wall, and land on my feet.

Well, ok... I land on one foot.  I land on the  instep of my other foot, however, and the front of my calf gets close and personal with the edge of the wall.  In a word...


My loyal dog, of course, is right there beside me, nudging my face with his nose within moments.  Satisfied that I'm reasonably ok, he goes back to

chewing on the black walnut.

I groan in defeat.

You're probably wondering why I was so panicked about his decision to chomp on a walnut.  I mean, while deathly poisonous to horses, this nut is perfectly fine for a dog.


You've seen what the black walnut shells look like.  As you break them apart, the extraordinarily hard shells become jagged, and very sharp.  If you walk across a broken shell with your bare feet, you can easily pierce the skin.

And my dog doesn't just chew on these things... he eats them - shell and all.  Think about what that can do to a dog's stomach and intestines...

On second thought, don't.  That's just not a pretty picture.  

Ok, but that's not everything.  According to

Black Walnuts

Black walnuts contains a toxin called juglone which can cause a vascular disease in horses known as laminitis, but doesn't appear to cause problems in dogs. Eating black walnuts can cause gastric intestinal upset or an obstruction.
In addition, moldy black walnuts can contain tremorgenic mycotoxins which can cause seizures or neurological symptoms.

Yeah, this is some ugly business.  Walnuts that fall to the ground and aren't picked up reasonably quickly can grow mold.  I've seen this in my yard quite a bit. 

On one hand, I have a dog with ripped up insides, and on the other, I have tremorgenic mycotoxins that can make him appear seriously drunk, or even cause seizures. 

Oh, the joy of black walnuts!  Right? 

I didn't even know what these toxins were.  To break it down, tremorgenic means 'pertaining to fungal toxins', while mycotoxin means, quite simply, 'a toxin produced by a fungus.'  Pretty redundant, right?  

Regardless, it's bad.

Every day, I pick up all the black walnuts that I find, yet there always seem to be a few that I miss.  Maybe the squirrels are dropping them, or maybe they're falling naturally.  I never worried about the black walnuts in this manner, since my dog had never shown any interest in them...

That is, until this week.

Now I need to find ways to keep him from eating them.  Raking the walnuts, then picking up any spares isn't a very viable option, as we can see from my lovely gymnastics display.  So far, the only option I have appears to be keeping him on a short leash.  Something I hate to do.  He loves the fenced in area of the hill, after all.

Any alternate ideas?  I'll take all the help I can get!

And just when I thought I could finally get over my dislike of black walnuts...

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