Bella’s day at the vet

Bella who is a very happy and hungry Weimaraner helped herself to a treat of macadamia nuts one evening! The next morning she had become wobbly on her back legs and had very trembling muscles. Her mum gave us a call and then brought Bella down for a visit. Lucky that she did as macadamia nuts are actually toxic to dogs.

Dr Alex assessed Bella who was very wobbly in her hind legs and had an elevated temperature. Bella was admitted into hospital for intravenous fluid therapy which would help flush the toxins and decrease her temperature. Bella was also given charcoal (yuck!) to help absorb any of the toxins. Bella improved throughout the day and was allowed to go home that evening.

Although macadamia nuts are present year round, they are much more prevalent in the household environment during the holiday seasons, so keep these tasty little nuts out of your dog's reach!!! 

Clinical Signs Seen with Ingestion 

Clinical signs are usually seen within 12 hours of ingestion. The following signs have been seen in dogs: ataxia (walking wobbly), depression, vomiting, muscle tremors, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), weakness and an elevated heart rate. Dogs can show one or more of these clinical signs. The toxic dose to dogs ranges from 2.4-62.4 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is a very large range and can mean that some dogs will get ill with just a small amount of nuts ingested, while other dogs need to eat a lot of nuts to show signs. Many times it is hard to know how much your dog ate, but if you do know that information is very helpful to your veterinarian.

The clinical signs can be markedly increased if chocolate is ingested along with the nuts, as seen in cases where the dog ate the box of chocolate covered with macadamia nuts. Chocolate will also cause similar signs, thus the combination of the two ingredients can cause exacerbated clinical signs, along with possible kidney failure. 

Treatment for Ingestion

If your dog has ingested macadamia nuts, call your veterinarian immediately. For dogs that have eaten the nuts recently, your veterinarian may have you bring in your dog so that he/she can induce vomiting in your dog. By having your dog vomit, the amount of nuts digested by the body can be reduced. Your veterinarian may also give your dog activated charcoal, which coats the lining of the digestive system so that absorption of the digested nuts is reduced.

Hyperthermia is treated with intravenous fluids and cooling the body's core temperature. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as placing cool, wet towels over the dog and using cool intravenous fluids. Dogs should never be placed in ice baths as this will cause worsening of problems. If the dog's body temperature has been significantly elevated for a long period of time, the dog's clotting mechanisms can be severely compromised. In this case, the dog would need possible plasma transfusions and heparin therapy.

Muscle tremors, if severe, can be treated with medications to help stop the trembling. Elevated heart rates can also be treated using medication to help lower the heart rate to a more normal state. These medications are discontinued once the clinical signs have lessened.

In the majority of cases, clinical signs are less or gone within 48 hours and the dog can return home.