This morning I couldn’t help noticing that were lots and lots of conkers everywhere! Many dogs may be tempted to play with or eat them and conkers can often cause problems for dogs so I thought this piece would be helpful.
Conkers are the seeds of the Horse Chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum). Conkers ripen and are seen in the late summer and autumn so this is when we will occasionally see cases of poisoning.
Serious cases of poisoning of dogs are rare but do occur. Conkers contain a poison called aesculin, which is found in all parts of the tree including the leaves. For toxicity to occur dogs normally need to ingest a number of conkers.
Clinical signs may be seen 1-6 hours after ingestion but can be seen for up to 2 days afterwards.
Signs of poisoning include vomiting (which may contain blood), diarrhoea, salivation, abdominal pain, increased thirst and a reduced appetite. Signs of restlessness, ataxia (wobbliness) and muscle tremors may also be seen.
If you are able to get your dog to a vet within 2 hours of ingestion of conkers they will be able to give them medication to make them vomit and they may perform gastric lavage (wash out the stomach). This will ensure as much of the poison is removed from your dog’s system as possible. This is the best method of treating poisoning with conkers, as no known antidote exists. Treatment is otherwise symptomatic and supportive and may include intravenous fluids (a drip) and anti-vomiting medication.
As well as poisoning, the conker’s case and conkers themselves present a risk by causing an intestinal blockage which can require surgical removal.