Backyard Poison: Is Your Favorite Tree Capable Of Killing Your Dog?

One of the features many dog owners seek to find when searching for a home to buy or rent is a large, shaded backyard where their canine friends can play and exercise. Even though this is done with the best intentions, choosing a home that contains one or more varieties of apple trees could prove to be lethal to your dog.

Apple and Crabapple Trees

One of the most common fruit trees growing in backyards across America today, apple trees are known as an easy to grow a tree that produces fragrant blooms in the spring and delicious, sweet fruit in summer. Sprawling, easy to climb branches draw children to climb them and even the wood of the apple tree is considered desirable for the flavor it can add to barbecued and smoked meats. For your dog, however, apple trees have a much darker side.

Wilted Leaves and Seeds Carry Toxins

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A toxin known as cyanogenic glycoside is found in the seeds and stems of apples, as well as in the leaves when they become wilted. Some dogs, especially those that have chewing tendencies, are often attracted to and will consume fallen apples or chew on the downed limbs after a storm. In addition, dogs who spend long periods of time in the backyard and become bored may be at risk for consuming the wilted leaves and fallen fruit.

After a dog consumes the seeds or wilted leaves of the apple tree, digestive enzymes present in their mouths and digestive tracts cause the cyanogenic glycoside to transform into dangerous cyanide.

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Symptoms of Cyanide Poisoning

The size and overall health of your dog, as well as the amount of apple seeds, stems or wilted leaves ingested are important factors to consider when dog owners suspect cyanide poisoning. Smaller dogs or those that are very young, very old or suffer from weakened immune systems may fall prey to cyanide in much smaller amounts than larger, healthier dogs.

Cyanide poisoning symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties, including wheezing and panting
  • Pupil dilation
  • Drooling
  • Discoloration of mucous membranes, most usually becoming dark red
  • Lethargy
  • Shock

Dog owners who note these symptoms and believe their dog may have ingested apple stems, seeds or wilted leaves should immediately take their dog to the nearest vet clinic for help. Postponing treatment can greatly increase the risk that cyanide poisoning will lead to death.

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What Dog Owners Can Do to Help Prevent Poisoning

Dog owners who rent homes with apple trees and homeowners who prefer not to have their apple trees removed can take the following steps to help protect their dog from cyanide poisoning.

  • Never use apples as toys when playing with the dog
  • Never leave the dog unattended in the presence of apple trees during spring, summer and fall when the trees are leafed out or in fruit
  • Discourage chewing on sticks or branches
  • Check trees daily and promptly remove any fallen branches and apples.

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