You should not let your dog chew on pine cones. Although the pine cone is not poisonous to dogs, the small needles can break off and cause minor cuts and irritation. If the dog swallows any of the small pieces, it could lead to an upset stomach or a bowel obstruction.
On every walk you take, your pooch is a wide-eyed, adventurous soul looking for a chance to play with anything they can get their paws on. For many, this means your dog will try to pick up items they find along the way to play with–including pine cones.
If your dog just bats the pine cone around, there is nothing to be concerned about; however, if they bite the pine cone or gnaw on it, issues could arise. Despite the shape of a pine cone, it is not a natural chew toy for dogs.
The Risks Associated with Pine Cones
Pine cones present several risks for dogs. From poisoning to an intestinal blockage, there are many reasons to keep your pup away from these conifer seeds (the fancy name for pine cones).
While the ASPCA has listed pine cones as toxic to cats and dogs, the pine cone itself is not poisonous. It’s the sap and needles that we need to watch out for.
Some pine cones have been exposed to man-made fertilizers and pesticides, which can be toxic to dogs. Although this probably won’t cause any long-term issues, it can cause severe digestive issues (which isn’t fun for anyone involved).
The pine cone’s distinct shape, while similar to a Kong toy, is dangerous because of the smaller pieces that can be pried off by your dog’s teeth. These pieces can scratch your dog’s eyes or face, which, of course, leads to pain and discomfort.
To make matters worse, if the small pieces are swallowed, it can lead to an intestinal blockage. Dogs have difficulty digesting pine cones, so they will often vomit if they swallow too many pieces.
Symptoms From Chewing on Pine Cones
All dogs react individually to pine cone ingestion and may present some or all of the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Red or itchy skin
- Mild gastrointestinal distress
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty walking
- Swelling of the throat
- Trouble breathing
Most dogs will display these warnings within a few hours later. If you notice your dog acting strange and suspect it may have swallowed or chewed on a pine cone earlier, get it to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
What Should I Do If My Dog Chewed on a Pine Cone?
As always, the first step is to remain calm. Many dog owners will try to induce vomiting in their dog, but this can be very dangerous—especially if any of the small pieces of the pine cone were swallowed. Regurgitating that irritating material can cause cuts as it exits the body.
Make sure that your dog has plenty of fresh water available, and contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet has been trained in all aspects of dog care, including this one.
The vet will likely give your dog fluids to wash out any toxic chemicals. They will then observe the dog for any allergic reactions. If the dog is having an allergic reaction, it will receive medication to ease the symptoms. At this point, the vet may induce vomiting in a controlled manner, but they may also decide to wait and see if the pine cone will naturally pass.
Ways to Keep Your Dog Away from Pine Cones
The easiest way to prevent a pine cone incident is to keep your dog away from pine cones in the first place.
Here’s a list of the best ways to prevent your dog from picking up pine cones:
Just like many homeowners will scour their lawns for twigs, branches, and other obstructions before mowing, consider removing all the pine cones from your yard so your dog cannot chew on them.
Keep Your Dog Entertained
Dogs will chew on non-play items if they are physically and mentally bored. Keep your dog engaged by regularly exercising them and keeping them mentally stimulated.
Use a Leash
Keeping your dog on a leash when walking has many benefits. You can keep them safe from threats in the environment, including pine cones. If you see your pup strolling over to one, simply call them back and tighten the leash–but not to the point where they are choking.
This is the best option if you cannot realistically clean up every pine cone on your path around the neighborhood.
Train with Treats
Just like when you were training your dog when they were a puppy, you can positively reinforce good behaviors with treats. When you call your dog away from a pine cone, or they do not pick up the pine cone, give them a treat and plenty of praise. They will eventually learn that they get a reward if they leave the pine cones alone.
Redirect With a Toy
Tying back to keeping your dog engaged, if it seems like they need more entertainment on their walk, consider redirecting their attention with their favorite toy.
Could Your Dog Have Pica?
If you have tried all the above methods and your dog is still insistent on gnawing on pine cones, it might be time to visit the vet.
Pica is a condition that affects humans and dogs; it involves the compulsion to eat non-edible items like paint, dirt, rocks, and pine cones. Pica is a dangerous medical condition that typically presents itself in adolescence to adult dogs and can be because of behavioral or medical issues. The best way to determine the next course of action is to consult with your veterinarian.
To Chew or Not to Chew on Pine Cones
Pine cones are not safe for dogs of any age to chew on. While the sap and needles are not poisonous enough to kill the dog, they can cause irritation and digestive issues.
The small pieces of the pine cone can also lead to an obstruction if ingested. If your dog manages to somehow pass the pine cone material, there is still the risk that the object damaged its intestines while it was passing through.
The potential negatives of letting your dog chew on a pine cone far outweigh the temporary satisfaction they may receive.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.