Conkers are the seed of the horse chestnut nut tree, a very common species in the UK, which are found lying on the ground in the autumn time. Similar to acorns, curious dogs may pick up conkers to play with. Read what our vet advises about conkers in our article.
Clinical signs of conker poisoning
The first signs of the toxicity are seen between 1 and 6 hours after ingestion, although signs can be delayed for 48 hours.
Signs of toxicity include:
- Muscle tremors
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting +/- blood
- Increased thirst
- Reduced appetite
Cause of conker poisoning
Although conker toxicity is rare, accidental ingestion can lead to problems. The major toxic component of conkers is aesculin, which is found in all parts of the tree, including the leaves. The mechanism of toxicity remains unclear.
What can you do to help your pet?
Preventing your dog from eating conkers, whether you are outside or on a walk, is the best way to avoid conker poisoning. If you notice that your dog picks up, chews or swallows conkers, it is important to seek prompt veterinary advice.
Treatment of conker poisoning
The first thing that your vet will do is give your dog medication to induce vomiting to remove the stomach contents. They may also perform gastric lavage to wash out the stomach. In this way, as much of the potentially toxic material is removed from your pet’s digestive system.
The main treatment for conker poisoning is supportive treatment to manage the clinical signs, including fluid therapy and correction of electrolyte imbalances. In cases where conkers cause intestinal obstruction, surgery might be necessary.