Walnuts for dogs? Who’d have thought it. But it’s true. Forget what you may have heard. Dogs can have walnuts. They can eat them, they can enjoy them and they can benefit from them. That’s the holy trinity as far as this particular dog nutritionist is concerned. Anything my dogs can eat, enjoy and benefit from is alright with me. In fact walnuts are just as healthy for man’s best friend as they are for you and I.
So if you’re going to be treating yourself to walnuts this Christmas, spare a thought for your dog. Better still, spare a few walnuts for your dog. Just make sure they’re fresh and raw, unsalted and shelled though.
The walnut is the edible seed of the English walnut, a tree in the plant genus Juglans. It’s a tree that has its origins in the Middle East which helps explains its alternative name, the Persian Walnut.
Here at CN headquarters, we and our dogs are fortunate to have a huge, several-year-old English walnut tree in our garden. It’s a magnificent specimen taller than the house. Unfortunate for us though, we have competition for its nutritious fruits. We have to share them with raiding parties of grey squirrels who regularly invade our garden this time of year looking to fill their larders for the winter ahead.
Nutrients in walnuts
Shelled walnuts are a real powerhouse of nutrients. They contain 15% protein, 65% fat and 14% carbohydrates, including 7% dietary fibre.
In human terms, they provide 20% (or more) of the Daily Value (DV) of several dietary minerals. Particularly manganese (163% of DV), together with significant amounts of B vitamins. Those same dietary minerals are no less valuable to man’s best friend!
According to Wikipedia, “unlike most nuts, which are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, walnut oil is composed largely of polyunsaturated fatty acids (72% of total fats), particularly alpha-linolenic acid (14%) and linoleic acid (58%), although it does contain oleic acid as 13% of total fats.”
Walnuts contain diverse phytochemicals, such as polyphenols. They also contain 7 phenolic compounds, further phytochemicals found in most plant tissue. A study of 10 different types of nuts by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Vienna concluded that walnuts contained more tocopherols and phenolics than any of them. The other nuts in the study included almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pines and pistachios. They also included macadamia nuts which, of all of those, are most definitely not suitable for dogs!
Benefits of walnuts for dogs
Aside from their impressive nutrient profile, walnuts have a great deal to offer both you and your constant canine companion.
- They’re good for gut health
- Beneficial for heart health
- They’re rich in healthy fats
- Can help reduce blood pressure
- Are beneficial for good cognitive function
- Offer cancer protection
- Can help with weight management
Of course all the usual naysayers will tell you dogs shouldn’t eat walnuts. That they contain toxins, that they are a choking hazard, that they can create intestinal blockages. And yes, walnuts can do all these things. So common sense has to prevail when feeding your dog walnuts.
- Only give your dog fresh walnuts
- Make sure your dog’s walnuts are of human-grade
- Ensure you always remove and discard the shell from your dog’s walnuts
- Always chop your dog’s walnuts into small pieces so they don’t present a choking hazard
- Never give your dog salted walnuts
- Make sure they are mould free
Once opened, keep your dog’s walnuts in the fridge.
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How to feed your dog walnuts
There are a number of ways of feeding your best friend walnuts for dogs. I have tried them all.
You can chop them into small pieces and use them as training treats. One walnut should be enough to provide a 22kg dog with four training treats. Obviously you need to chop the walnut into appropriate sized pieces for your individual dog.
You can also crush them and add the crushed walnuts to your dog’s food. I also crush them and add them to a seed mix I make for my dogs which also includes chia seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
So rich in omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids, phytochemicals, phenolics, tocopherols and phytosterols, walnuts pack an awful lot of goodness into a small space.
Just bear in mind that walnuts contain anywhere between 40% and 70% oil. that makes them liable to rancidity if they are exposed to heat and light. For those reasons, walnuts for dogs should be kept in the fridge once opened in order to keep them fresher.