Fruit Pit Concerns: Toxicity, Obstruction and Other Tummy Troubles
Fruit pits, including cherry, apricot, and peaches are toxic to pets and can cause problems if swallowed whole. This article discusses the common causes and symptoms of fruit pit toxicity in dogs, so you’ll know what to look out for!
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Why are fruit pits toxic to dogs?
Fruit pits from the Prunus species, including cherry, apricot, plum, and peach are all toxic. Mango pits are also toxic. The toxic component is cyanide or a precursor to cyanide. The inner kernel of the pit is the toxic component, so the pits need to be broken open to expose the poison.
Since most dogs and cats don’t chew hard enough on the pits or ingest enough seeds, they aren’t commonly at high risk for toxicity. Horses, cattle, and other farm animals are at much higher risk for toxicity since they grind their food more before swallowing and ingest larger amounts of the exposed kernels.
Clinical Symptoms of Cyanide Toxicity in Dogs
- Acute death within minutes to hours of ingestion (in large quantities)
- Drooling (also called hypersalivation)
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Bright red gums
- Dilated pupils
What causes cyanide in fruit pits to be toxic?
Cyanide affects the body’s iron supply. This affects the red blood cells’ ability to move oxygen around (red blood cells are basically an iron core with oxygen attached). With cyanide toxicity, the oxygen can still attach to the red blood cells, but it can’t be used. The body thinks there isn’t enough oxygen, so it tries to correct this by breathing harder and bringing in more oxygen. This leads to too much oxygen in the blood that can’t be used. The gum tissue turns bright red as a result. It’s this inability to use the oxygen that is present in the bloodstream that creates all the clinical symptoms and potential death.
Obstruction of the Stomach or Intestinal Tract
Since dogs rarely ingest or break open large enough quantities of the pits, they are at higher risk for the pits to block part of their GI tract. The exit from the stomach and junction of the small and large intestines tend to be smaller than the rest of the GI system. This means the pits can move partway through the GI tract and then get stuck. Some pits are too large or there are too many to exit the stomach and cause a blockage.
Symptoms of Stomach or Intestinal Obstruction Cause by Fruit Pits:
- Retching/dry heaving
- Reduced appetite to anorexia
- Abdominal pain
What should I do if my dog ate a cherry, peach, plum, or nectarine pit?
It can take 12 hours to many days for a pit to pass through the GI tract entirely. During this time, the rough edges of the pit can cause pain as it moves through. If your dog develops 2 or more of the above symptoms, you should take them into the vet right away for a thorough physical exam and likely radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen to look for signs of obstruction.
Your pet may need emergency surgery to remove the obstruction. If a blockage is present and not removed, it can lead to severe complications such as death to part of the GI tract, rupture of the GI tract leading to septic infections, and death to the pet.
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