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Conkers and Dogs

A question we regularly get at this time of year, are Conkers dangerous to dogs? Well, dog owners have been warned that this autumn’s crop of smaller conkers poses a higher risk to their pets than in previous years.

Conkers are hazardous for dogs because they can block airways, leading to asphyxiation and they also contain a chemical called Aesculin, which is toxic to dogs and can cause internal damage if ingested.

With conkers much smaller in size this year due to the summer heatwave leaving the chestnuts shrivelled, the risk to canines is greater and vets have warned dog owners to be particularly alert.

Conker poisoning in dogs

Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree, also known as the Aesculus Hippocastanum, which is widely found in the UK.

They appear in late summer and autumn when they ripen and fall to the ground. In some areas, they’re popular with school children who put them on strings to enjoy playground conker fights.

Conkers and dogs don’t mix as they contain a poison called aesculin, which is found in all parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the leaves. Dogs normally need to ingest several to suffer severe poisoning. In autumn, our emergency vets regularly see cases of conker poisoning in dogs. While serious cases are rare, they do occur.

If you are you worried your dog has eaten conkers contact your vet now


Signs and symptoms of conker poisoning in dogs

Clinical signs are usually seen between one and six hours after ingestion, although they can be delayed for up to two days.

Symptoms of conker poisoning include vomiting, which may contain blood, diarrhoea, drooling, abdominal pain, increased thirst and reduced appetite. Signs of restlessness, wobbliness and muscle tremors may also be seen.

Conker cases can also cause intestinal blockages in dogs


Treatment for horse chestnut poisoning in dogs

Dog owners are advised to contact their vet, or out of hours their nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or hospital, if they suspect conker poisoning. It’s likely the vet will give the dog medication to make them vomit and they may also perform gastric lavage (wash out the stomach).  This is designed to ensure as much of the poison is removed from the dog’s system as possible. They may also use intravenous fluids (a drip).

No known antidote exists for conker poisoning in dogs. As a result, treatment is supportive and symptomatic, in other words it eases the symptoms without addressing the cause of the disease. Beware that conkers and their cases can also cause intestinal blockages, particularly in smaller dogs, which may require surgical removal.


How to stop dogs eating conkers

It’s worth keeping a close eye on your dog when you’re out and about in the autumn. There are an estimated 470,000 horse chestnut trees in the UK and the vast majority of those are found in parks, gardens, streets and village greens.

Try to encourage your dog to play with toys rather than conkers and never throw them for your dog to fetch.


Visit Millie’s Paws today in-store or online and discover our vast array of toys to keep your furbabies entertained for hours.


We would like to thank Vetsnow for an informative and important article.