Are Crab Apples Poisonous To Dogs

The tiny, tart apples can – like their larger cousins – can be a healthy treat for dogs, if served properly. Though the flesh of the apple is safe, the leaves, stems and pips are all toxic to mammals – even humans, if they consume a large quantity. The chemicals in these parts of the crab apple tree are converted to cyanide when ingested; and these chemicals are especially concentrated in the autumn, making the fallen fruit and leaves even more dangerous. For more information about crab apples, read my article Can you eat crabapples?


Our four-legged friends aren’t always the daintiest eaters; dogs are happy to gorge on leftovers, clean up our table scraps, and gobble any tidbits of food they can locate on the ground. And while that may seem rather convenient, we mustn’t forget that some of the foods we enjoy are toxic to our loyal companions – even seemingly healthy treats – and so are many of the plants we may have in our homes and gardens.

Many plants can be dangerous for dogs, with effects ranging from skin irritations, to digestive problems, to serious – and even potentially fatal – reactions. While plants such as holly or juniper, pansies or wisteria could cause digestive problems, others like azalea, nightshade, foxglove, morning glory and several varieties of lily can be quite deadly to small mammals.

So while crab apple trees can be a lovely ornament to any yard, they could also pose a very real threat to your dog’s health; the trees create a toxin that could cause serious illness or even death to your four-legged freeloader.

What are the benefits of crab apples for dogs?

Apples contain vitamins A and C, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorous. They are also a good source of dietary fibre, which is beneficial when dealing with a constipated pup. Apples can also help remove any food residue from your pet’s teeth and keep their breath smelling fresh.

At only about 5 cm in diameter, crab apples are an excellent puppy-sized treat. But if you happen to have crab apple trees in your yard, it’s best to monitor your dog and keep him away from any fallen fruit or leaves. You may even need to fence off the area to keep your pup away.

Why are crab apples toxic?

Apple trees produce a toxin called amygdalin; it’s a cyanogenic glycoside, which means that it creates cyanide as it is metabolized. It’s also found in the seeds of other plants such as apricots, bitter almonds, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums. Eating amygdalin will cause it to release cyanide into the body, and may lead to cyanide poisoning.

Are crab apples poisonous to dogs?

Once the amygdalin has been ingested, it will be metabolized into cyanide, a dangerous poison that can cause digestive distress, vomiting, and diarrhea, or cardiovascular issues such as low blood oxygen levels, respiratory congestion, respiratory failure, coma and even death for your dog.

What are the signs and symptoms of poisoning?

Some signs that your pet may have consumed a toxin or poison are:

  • Brick red mucous membranes (especially the eyes, nose and mouth)
  • Difficulty breathing or excessive panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Other signs or shock

As mentioned above, some of the earliest symptoms of cyanide poisonings are diarrhea and/or vomiting, as well as a decreased heart rate, or possibly even seizures.

What should you do if your dog may have ingested a cyanogenic glycoside?

If you suspect your dog has eaten apple seeds, leaves or twigs, you should observe them carefully for a short time, keeping a sharp eye out for any of the signs and symptoms of poisoning.

You should also contact your veterinarian right away, or an emergency animal hospital.  According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, small animals who consume only a minute amount of tree material will usually only have minor gastrointestinal upset; however, the ASPCA still recommends contacting your veterinarian.

You should always seek veterinary advice – even if you only think your dog has ingested the toxic portions of crab apples or other dangerous plants. It doesn’t take very much poison to make a dog seriously ill, and every minute counts when dealing with toxins.

If your pet has only ingested a small amount of crab apple leaves, seeds, or stems, and is experiencing some vomiting, diarrhea or other fairly mild symptoms, you may be inclined to think that everything is okay, but you should still contact your vet or get in touch with your local poison control center, because the real damage may not show up right away.

In some cases symptoms gradually worsen over a period of hours, or even days, and if you choose to wait it out and see what happens, it could be too late for your precious puppy by the time you do seek help.

What steps can you take to help your pet?

Obviously, prevention is the best cure, and keeping pets away from any sources of toxins or other potentially dangerous substances like fungi, medications or even mold, is best.

In fact, the ASPCA website has an extremely comprehensive list of plants which are toxic to cats, dogs, or other pets – even larger ones like horses. The ASPCA even has a mobile app which can help you to keep your pet safe no matter where you are.

Being prepared can make all the difference in the world in an emergency situation. When it’s too difficult to puppy-proof your homes and gardens, knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for can mean getting medical help for your pet before it’s too late.

Remember that it’s best to consult your vet or canine nutritionist before adding any new foods to your pet’s diet. Any treat foods – even healthy ones like fruit and vegetables – should be given only in moderation. And while the crab apple flesh is quite safe for your pup, too much could still give him a rather upset stomach and perhaps diarrhea.

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