An apple a day keeps the doctor away, says the old saw. But can apples keep Buddy from ever seeing the vet, or you, again? It’s a question that’s all across the Internet, and a five-minute browse is likely to turn up conflicting answers.
The center of the debate is amygdalin, a compound found in apple seeds and the pits of related fruits such as apples, cherries, and plums.
When digested, amygdalin produces hydrogen cyanide (HCN), which as you’d know from the James Bond movies is not good news.
Both human and dog digestion can free hydrogen cyanide from the amygdalin in apple seeds. But how much amygdalin does it take to kill a dog, and how many apples does that take?
In general, dogs can eat apple seeds in small quantities. Apple seeds contain a small amount of amygdalin, but the dangerous quantity of apples for dogs depends on how much the animal weighs: from 12 apples for Chihuahua to 326 for Rottweiler.
Signs of Apple Seed Poisoning in Dogs
Cyanide interferes with the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to organs and muscles.
Death occurs when the brain and heart have been deprived of oxygen for too long, which depending on the dose can take mere minutes.
Dogs that have consumed a harmful amount of apple seeds may show the following conditions:
- Brick-red mucus membranes
- Dilated pupils
- Labored breathing
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Excessive panting
Death can result from ingesting a sufficient amount of apple seeds. Just how much this is however depends on the dog’s size and how well the dog chewed the seeds.
Note that a sublethal dose can still make your dog sick, and seeds can cause intestinal blockages and other digestive problems for dogs especially the smaller breeds.
How Many Apple Seeds is Lethal for Dogs?
The lethal dose of cyanide for most animals is 2 mg/kg of body weight.
An average apple seed contains enough amygdalin to release about 0.6 mg cyanide per gram of seed. A typical apple contains about 0.4 to 0.5 grams of seeds. Assuming complete digestion, it will take the seeds of at least 200 apples to kill an average Labrador Retriever.
However, this assumes your pet extracts all the amygdalin from the seeds.
Dog teeth and jaws are good at tearing stuff into bits small enough to swallow, but their molar teeth aren’t as good at grinding things fine.
Your dog will only be able to extract a fraction of the amygdalin from the apple seeds, so the actual lethal dose of apples is higher.
In short, your dog can’t eat that many apples even if it wants to!
It’s just like caffeine for us. Caffeine in large enough quantities can kill you – but that would take at least 30 of the most concentrated energy drinks, or double that number of cups of coffee, way more than your body would let you drink.
A dog’s liver can metabolize low amounts of amygdalin and neutralize its toxins, so cyanide will not build up in your dog’s system from repeatedly consuming small quantities of apple seeds over time.
So yes, you can give Buddy a bite of apple. Dogs can enjoy apple pie and apple sauce just fine, too. Just watch their sugar. However, do be careful with apple cores. Because dog molars can’t chew as fine as ours can, the tougher tissue of apple cores can present a choking hazard for dogs, especially the smaller breeds.
Keeping apple cores from your dog also keeps it from accidentally ingesting the seeds, and even if the dose is below the lethal level it’s still good to keep anything poisonous away from your beloved pet.
Apple cider and overripe, rotting apples are also bad for dogs because they contain ethanol. Ethanol messes up your dog’s central nervous system, makes breathing difficult, and can cause lethargy, ataxia, gastrointestinal problems, coma, and seizures.
Don’t share your mug of cider with your dog, and if you have an apple tree in your yard, make sure to remove all fallen fruit regularly so Buddy can’t find any rotting apples.
How Many Apples is Harmful to My Dog?
Here’s a table comparing the number of apples a dog would have to eat to get a toxic dose of amygdalin, based on the average weights of the most popular breeds in the USA:
|Breed||Average Weight||Lethal Number of Apples|
|Labrador Retriever||67.5 lb||205|
|German Shepherd Dog||70 lb||212|
|Golden Retriever||60 lb||182|
|French Bulldog||28 lb||85|
|Yorkshire Terrier||7 lb||21|
|Poodle, Standard||55 lb||167|
|Poodle, Miniature||13 lb||39|
|Poodle, Toy||5 lb||15|
|Labrador Retriever, 8-week puppy||16 lb||Less than 24*|
Health Benefits of Apples for Dogs
Apples are healthy for your dog. Apples are a good source of Vitamin C, which the immune system needs to work properly, essential minerals, carbohydrates, and fiber, which aids in digestion and helps control weight. As a nice side effect, apple freshens the dog’s breath, and apple skins help clean their teeth.
The best way to give your dog apples is in slices with the skin on and the cores removed.
Yes, the amount of seed in a few apples is too low to be toxic, but we might as well avoid giving them to Buddy.
A sublethal amount can still give your dog a bad time, with breathing difficulty, lethargy, and dizziness among other symptoms.
Also remember that apple cores can be a choking hazard, especially if Buddy happens to be a little Maltese or a Yorkie, as smaller dogs can choke more easily.
Preserved apple products like apple chips, commercial apple sauce, and baked goods with apples are likely to contain more sugar than is good for your dog.
Rich pastries with lots of butter will also contain unhealthy amounts of fat. Go easy on sharing these with Rover. Fresh is still the best!
What Other Fruits Contain Cyanide?
The stones of fruits in the Prunus family all contain some amount of amygdalin.
This includes cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and almonds. These plants all use cyanide in amygdalin to discourage insect pests, and the toxin is concentrated in the seeds, leaves, and bark.
The leaves, in particular, can be more dangerous to dogs than the seeds, so teach your dog not to chew on fallen leaves from trees of any sort.
Cherries have a greater concentration of amygdalin than apples, with as much as 3.9 mg of amygdalin per gram of seed in red cherries compared to .6 mg/g of apple seeds.
And with less flesh per piece than an apple, a dog could ingest a much greater amount of cherry seeds in one go. A cherry or two is not enough to harm most dogs, but if Buddy eats a whole handful of unpitted cherries he could be in serious trouble.
The symptoms of cherry pit poisoning are similar to apple seed poisoning. Also, cherry pits are a serious choking hazard and can cause blockage of the digestive tract, especially for smaller breeds.
The same goes for plum and apricot pits. If your dog gets bloated, constipated, or shows signs of a painful tummy after swallowing a cherry pip or two, call your veterinarian.
Ornamental varieties of cherries and related trees can contain even greater toxin concentrations.
To protect your dog from ingesting their fallen fruit and leaves while out on a walk, make sure you teach the “Leave It” command.
If you want to share your cherries with Rover, make sure you remove the pits first. Preserved cherries such as Maraschino cherries contain more sugar than is good for a dog, so give those only as occasional treats and tightly controlled quantities.
To compare the amounts of stonefruit pits it would take to kill a typical Lab (30 kg), here’s a table:
|Fruit||Amygdalin Content||Lethal Dose|
|Apples||0.6 mg/g of seed||100 g seeds|
|Apricots||14.4 mg/g of seed||4.16 g seeds|
|Cherries, Black||2.7 mg/g of seed||22.22 g seeds|
|Cherries, Red||3.9 mg/g of seed||15.38 g seeds|
|Peaches||2.2 mg/g of seed||27.27 g seeds|
|Plums||2.2 mg/g of seed||27.27 g seeds|
|Nectarines||0.1 mg/g of seed||600 g seeds|
|Pears||3 mg/g of seed||20.45 g seeds|
Cyanide contents sourced from https://pickyourown.org/apple-seeds-cyanide-arsenic.php.
Other Fruits Harmful to Dogs
There are other fruits and vegetables we commonly eat or grow as ornamentals, that can harm dogs. Below is a partial list of common plant threats.
Grapes and Currants
Grapes, raisins, and currants give dogs severe kidney problems. Just five raisins are enough to make a dog sick, and a 50-pound dog can die from just 2 to 3 ounces of raisins.
Tomatoes, Eggplants, and Potatoes
Unripe tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes contain the poison solanine, which causes symptoms similar to food poisoning in dogs and also affects the heart, brain, lungs, and kidneys.
The toxin is found in all green parts of the plant – unripe fruits and tubers, especially the skins, stems, and leaves.
Never let your dog eat unripe tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants, and if you grow these in your garden make sure Buddy can’t chew them.
Avocados contain persin, which gives dogs vomiting and diarrhea. Persin is concentrated in the skin and pit, but even the flesh has enough to make some dogs especially smaller breeds sick, and avocado flesh contains enough fats to give a dog pancreatitis.
Like plums and peaches, mango seeds contain some cyanogenic substances. The seeds are also large and hard, and can give a dog intestinal blockage if swallowed.
Persimmon flesh and skin are safe for dogs to eat, but the seeds can cause painful intestinal blockages.
Prunes, dried dates, dried mangoes, and other dehydrated fruit products contain much greater concentrations of sugar than their fresh versions. Too much sugar is just as bad for dogs as it is for us, and being smaller, it takes less sugar to give them problems.
Any Moldy or Rotting Fruit
Any fruit that has molds on it, or is overripe and rotting, can harm a dog.
Some molds contain harmful mycotoxins that can cause vomiting, tremors, fever, and death in high doses. The molds that grow on decomposing black walnuts are particularly dangerous for dogs.
Rotting fruit contains ethanol, which plays merry hell with dogs’ nervous systems leading to ataxia, coma, and seizures.
Tropical and Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
Many ornamental garden plants have toxins in their fruits, seeds, or leaves and stems that can harm a dog, and because these are unfamiliar you may not be able to identify them all easily. Be especially careful if you take your pup traveling, especially in the tropics.
For example, a single seed of the sago palm, which is grown as an ornamental in southern states, can kill a dog.
A friend who spends part of her time living in the Philippines almost lost her puppy to the ingestion of areca palm nuts, also known as betel nuts. Even though ASPCA considers this a low-toxicity plant, puppies are so sensitive it’s still dangerous.
Lilies are especially dangerous to cats, and somewhat less so but still a concern for dogs.
The peace lily, calla lily, amaryllis, lily of the valley, autumn crocus, and palm lily are considered especially dangerous to dogs. If you grow lilies, keep them in elevated planters or fenced off so your dog can’t chew on them.
For a complete list of plants considered harmful to dogs, you can consult the ASPCA’s poisonous plants list.
Read Also: Can Dogs Eat Chocolate Ice Cream Or Not?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.