My neighbor recently asked me, “Can dogs eat pine cones” and he’s not alone. If your dog walks in a neighborhood with trees, near a park, or on trails, he can come across pine cones.
Pine cones are bad for dogs and should not be allowed to chew on or swallow them. Fortunately, pine cones are not toxic, but they can cause major problems in dogs.
I am a member of a veterinary-focused Facebook group, and dozens of pet parents are asking for help because their dog ate a pine cone. It happens more often than not, and foreign object ingestion is one of the top reasons dogs visit an emergency veterinarian.
Here’s everything you need to know about pine cones, if pine cones are bad for dogs, and what to do if you suspect your dog ate one or more pinecones.
Can Dogs Eat Pine Cones?
The bottom line is no, dogs should never eat pine cones. As you might suspect, pine cones come from pine trees. Technically speaking, pine cones are the reproductive organs of pine trees. They tend to fall from the trees to the ground from September through December.
Pine cones look and smell awfully tempting to dogs, whose sense of smell is at least 40 times greater than that of a human. We have six million olfactory receptors in our noses that help us to smell things. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, so they smell pine cones long before they see them.
Where Are Pine Cones Found?
Not only are pine cones found in nature and scattered beneath pine trees, but there are many other places dogs may encounter them.
People often use pine cones to decorate their homes for fall, winter, and Christmas. If your dog visits family and friends during the holidays, make sure he knows the leave-it command. If he is deaf, be sure you keep a close eye on him.
Pine cones are also used in broken pieces of organic mulch used to line trees and flowerbeds. They help the soil retain moisture, but your dog may be attracted to the mulch.
Small children often do crafts with pine cones in school, from fall scenes to Halloween decorations. If your kids bring home pine cone projects, keep your dog away from them.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats A Pine Cone?
Dogs love to eat things they shouldn’t. Many times, they will vomit the offending contents up or pass it in their feces. However, this doesn’t always happen, and that’s when things can become dangerous.
The foreign object, such as a pine cone or pieces of it, can get lodged in a dog’s stomach or intestines and not move. Swallowing a pine cone can become deadly. Never induce vomiting without your veterinarian’s guidance and recommendation. Things can get lodged in the esophagus or throat coming up.
Depending on the pine cone size or pieces, your dog may undergo procedures such as an endoscopy (a long camera with a device to remove the pine cone) or surgery if endoscopy is not possible.
During any procedure, the veterinarian may try to move the pine cone back to the stomach and remove it without cutting into the stomach itself. If the pine cone is stuck in the intestines, your vet may choose to perform an enterotomy to access it.
However, if the pine cone causes severe damage to the intestines, a more advanced resection, and anastomosis may be required. If your dog has intestinal surgery, there are anesthetic risks and the risk of the surgical site leaking.
Keeping your dog away from pine cones and not allowing him to chew or swallow them is the best course of action. No one wants to put their dog through any of these procedures, which are often necessary to save their life.
Consequences of Dogs Who Ate Pine Cones
Dog mom Sue Greenberg knows all about the anxiety of having a dog eat a pine cone. Her Cocker Spaniel, Bailey, helped himself to branches that fell from her lilac tree along with pine cones. She rushed her pup to the veterinarian’s office.
She tried to get the items out of Bailey’s mouth, but it was too late. Many of us can attest that dogs can be very fast and swallow quickly when they think we will take it from them.
“Bailey irritated his intestines. He was given an anti-nausea med and was given some food after being rushed to the vet’s office,” Greenberg said.
“If he vomits he will be booked for an ultrasound tomorrow,” she shared at the time, with the fabulous internal medicine specialist. “ Pine cones don’t show up on xray and he enjoyed those too – ones we couldn’t get out of his mouth quick enough. Will we want an ultrasound on him anyway.”
He’s not alone. Bailey and thousands of dogs chew, eat, or swallow pine cones every day. You never want to mess around when it comes to an intestinal blockage. Here’s a post from a dog mom in a vet-focused Facebook group to which I belong:
My dog ate a small piece of a pine cone in a dog park. I couldn’t get it out of his mouth. He chewed on it while running from me…
His stool was normal the next day. However, on Saturday morning, he puked this piece of pine cone out. The wasn’t anything else expect of bile.
Yesterday night, on Sunday, he started to have a soft stool, which became quite frequent diarrhea (every 3-4 hours). This morning it had some mucus on it. He’s still having diarrhea.
He eats, drinks water, and sleeps normally. He’s quite active during the walk as he usually is. But he does stretch his belly sometimes. So there’s definitely something that bothers him.
Other Side Effects of Dogs Eating Pine Cones
In addition to gastrointestinal blockage risk, dogs who eat pine cones or pieces of them may experience:
- Splintering of the tongue, lips, or throat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Choking and difficulty breathing
- Stomach issues from pine oil or sap ingestion
- Nervous system depression
- Abdominal pain
- Allergic reaction if your dog has severe allergies
- Reaction to pesticides on the pine cone
Even though pine cones are not toxic to dogs, they should never eat, chew, or swallow them. Also, your dog should not eat, chew, or swallow pine needles from nature or on a Christmas tree, as the same problems noted above can occur.
How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Pine Cones
Train your dog using positive reinforcement to understand commands such as “leave it” or “drop it.” Once your dog knows this command, you can use it during critical times. You don’t want your puppy or dog walking around eating everything off the ground.
Never spank or hit your dog for eating or chewing something they shouldn’t. You want to have a positive, safe, trusting relationship with your dog.
If your dog tends to eat things on walks while working on “leave it,” try bringing his favorite treats or a toy to entice him to drop it.
Don’t text or talk on your phone during dog walks. If you are distracted, there’s no way you can see what your dog is doing.
Carry a flashlight, leash light, or cap light during nighttime walks to keep an eye on your pooch.
Keep your veterinarian’s number on hand along with any emergency vets. I also recommend you keep a pet poison control number handy, even if you have to pay for the call.