Dogs love to put all sorts of things in their mouths. Balls. Toys. Sticks.
And yes, sometimes even pinecones!
Our furry friends mouth and chew natural objects found outdoors because that is how they learn about the world. Unlike us humans, they don’t have hands. Instead, they use their sense of smell and taste to gather information. As a result, sometimes dogs pick up things they shouldn’t…such as acorns, nuts, and pinecones.
This leads many pet owners to wonder, “Can dogs eat pine cones?”
Today on Doggie HQ, our canine experts explain why pinecones are bad for dogs to eat and could be dangerous if ingested.
Is It Ok For Dogs To Chew Pine Cones?
Let’s begin with the most obvious question: Is it okay for my dog to chew on pinecones that have fallen down from a tree in the backyard?
Puppies and dogs should not be allowed to munch away on pinecones. There are several reasons for this. Before jumping into why, it’s helpful to understand exactly what a pinecone is (since this has everything to do with the reasoning behind why dogs should avoid them).
Firstly, pinecones come from pine trees – which you likely already knew! These tough little woody fruits are essentially the reproductive organs of the pine tree itself (aka the pine tree’s seeds). They typically fall off the branches in autumn. The brittle scales either break down into compost, are buried for the spring, or get eaten by squirrels, deer, birds, rabbits, etc.
However, pinecones should never be eaten by dogs. Not to mention they could cause damage to your dog’s paws!
Why Does My Dog Love Pine Cones?
Now, just because some animals can digest pinecones doesn’t mean all creatures can. Yet ironically, your dog seems to love chewing on pinecones.
Why? There are a variety of reasons, but here are the few most popular.
Reason 1: Scent of the pine sap
It mostly has to do with smell. Pinecone sap has a scent that dogs find interesting. This comes from the oil in the tree. Your dog might lick a pinecone as they investigate what this strange new object is the very first time they encounter it.
Reason 2: Texture
Secondly, dogs are attracted to pinecones because of the texture. Imagine being a little puppy between the ages of 12 – 20 weeks old going through an uncomfortable teething period. Those sore gums will appreciate the bumpy, scratchy texture of the hard pinecone spikes and the relief the shape of the pinecone provides.
Reason 3: They are Everywhere!
Pinecones are also plentiful. To a dog, they make easy to find toys. Going on a walk, pinecones litter the roads and are often scattered all over the park, woods, and trails. This makes them the perfect play toy for pooches looking for mental stimulation and an object they can toss, crunch, and play with.
Are Pine Cones Poisonous To Dogs?
Now, before reaching for the chainsaw and chopping down all the pine trees on your property, let’s find out if pinecones are poisonous to dogs.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), most species of conifer trees – such as pine trees – are typically considered unfit for dogs to chew and eat. This includes the needles, seeds, sap, and pine oil. The pinecone itself isn’t toxic…but any residue could trigger an allergic reaction.
Dogs who eat and react negatively to pinecones can experience the following symptoms and digestive issues:
Similarly, pinecones in residential neighborhoods may have been sprayed by fertilizers and pesticides.
So, the answer is “no.” A pinecone by itself is not poisonous.
However, it could transfer mildly to extremely dangerous toxic substances to your pet. Or, becoming a choking hazard…yikes!
What Do I Do If My Dog Ate a Pine Cone?
Despite your watchful eye, your four-legged friends picked up a pinecone and ran away before you could yell, “Drop it.” If the pinecone pieces haven’t been swallowed yet, remove them from your dog’s mouth. A few small pieces of pinecone chips are unlikely to harm your pup. On the other hand, if it’s too late and the pinecone is 100% gone “down the hatch,” pet owners should take immediate action.
As with all dog health issues, better safe than sorry.
Observe your dog. Is he behaving normally? How is his breathing? Are there any signs that the pinecone is lodged in his throat?
Knowing the Heimlich maneuver is a lifesaving skill. To learn how to help a choking dog, we recommend studying canine first-aid.
However, if the pinecone is simply gone, the best thing to do is call your veterinarian for advice. They will be able to assess the severity of your dog’s symptoms. Additionally, most cities have a 24/7 Pet Poison Control emergency phone number.
What Can Happen if a Dog Swallows a Pine Cone?
As we mentioned, if they eat smaller pieces it’s probably not going to affect them much. But it’s still a good idea to keep a watch on them.
If they eat an entire pine cone, the sharp edges could scrape your dog’s throat. Any time a foreign object is ingested, there is a possibility that it could get stuck in the dog’s intestines causing an intestinal blockage or other gastrointestinal issues that could require immediate medical attention. You may also notice they have an upset stomach, whether it be vomiting or diarrhea. This may lead to loss of appetite as well. The important thing is to keep them hydrated.
If you notice any other severe problems such as trouble walking, excessive thirst, or lethargy, the best course of action is to reach out to your vet for medical help. They will know the proper treatment and the quicker they can respond the less strain there will be be on your dog’s digestive system.
Pine needles also pose a risk because of their sharp points, but there’s a good chance that they are not consuming these in large amounts because pine cones are much more fun!
The serious health problems mentioned above is only likely to happen if they have eaten a lot of pine cones or if they are allergic.
Are Cinnamon Scented Pine Cones Toxic To Dogs?
Nothing says the holidays are upon us like the smell of cinnamon!
Unfortunately, many potpourri type scents contain a mixture of essential oils and cationic detergents. As Vet Street points out, these can cause “severe chemical burns to the mouth and stomach” depending which additives and ingredients are used in the cinnamon scented pinecone.
Pet Poison Hotline agrees. Even a small amount of ingested cinnamon essential oil can upset a dog’s stomach and mucous membranes.
Adore the smell of cinnamon scented pinecones? Keep them up high out of reach.
How To Stop Dogs From Eating Pine Cones?
Prevention truly is the best medicine. Luckily, there are easy steps everybody can take to minimize the chances of your curious puppy eating pinecones. For example:
1. Walk Your Dog on a Leash
To start, keep your dog on a leash during walks. By limiting their movement and keeping them close by your side, those pinecones in the bushes, woods, and on the trail will be left exactly where they belong – NOT in your dog’s mouth!
2. Rake Up Leaves and Pinecones
Another tip? Clean up the yard. In autumn when the leaves start to change color, bag up all leaves, pinecones, and debris. Depending on the species of pine trees, you probably won’t have to worry about this too much during warmer weather.
3. Barricade Off Trees
Next, this might sound obvious (but it’s surprisingly effective). Simply fence off access to any pine trees.
4. Offer Toys Instead
Fourth, pinecones might seem exciting and delicious to your dog…unless there is something even more fun to play with, like a rubber tennis ball, chew toys, frisbee, tug rope, etc. By giving your pooch safer alternatives to interact with, they will lose interest in boring old pinecones (hopefully). Fun toys isn’t the only way to keep them occupied! Try teaching them some new tricks and using treats for rewards.
5. Teach Basic Obedience
Lastly, protect your puppy from pinecones by teaching basic obedience skills. This includes commands like “come,” “leave it,” and “drop it.” It’s important for all dogs to learn these skills to keep them safe. While training can seem daunting, positive reinforcement goes a long ways!
In summary, while chewing on a single pinecone is unlikely to seriously injure your dog, it’s best practice to discourage dogs from eating whole pinecones. At worst, pinecones can cause health issues that require veterinarian intervention and can be a major choking hazard. There are a variety of different reasons that your pup has found a particular fondness when it comes to pine cones. However, dog owners can encourage their pooch to stay away by increasing play time with dog chew toys and getting rid of the cones in the yard.
Leave the pinecones to the squirrels…not your pup!