Poisonous pips and pits: Dangerous for dogs or urban legend?


In an earlier post I mentioned that our dog, Dane, loves apple cores more than life itself and in the following comments womencyclists mentioned that apple seeds are considered toxic and potentially harmful for dogs.  Feeling a strong mixture of alarm (OMG! Have I been poisoning my dog?!!) and luck (thank God he hasn’t died yet!!!) I dove into the world wide web to see what I could find on the subject.

Research is a little like a tic for me.

An initial Google search of apple seeds poisonous for dogs provided around 700,000 hits from blogs, media outlets, pet websites and forums, Yahoo answers, veterinary websites, etc.  And each one that I read confirmed that apple seeds contain a compound called amygdalin, a cyanide and sugar compound which…under the right conditions…can degrade into hydrogen cyanide.  Hydrogen cyanide is the bad thing.

A wave of realization and horror washed over me, followed by a wave of relief, followed by another question.

(Always a niggling question.)

“Does a real dog eating a real apple core provide the right conditions to convert amygdalin to hydrogen cyanide?”

I wanted to see the studies, read the case histories of all the actual dogs poisoned by actual apple seeds.  Or people for that matter…poisoned people would do.  Or poisoned rodents or monkeys or song birds or cats or other mammals who would joyfully ingest apple seeds given half a chance only to vomit a few times, fall into seizures, or even roll over and die.

Frankly, this information proved harder to come by…even on the Internet where you can find just about anything.  In fact, after about an hour and a half of searching all I came up with was a woman blogging about backyard chickens who said that she fed her girls some apple seeds and a few hours later discovered one dead.

Not the most definitive case of cause and effect but still, it made me nervous until I read through the following comments where a number of other chicken-holders mentioned that they fed their birds apple cores regularly (some in substantial amounts) with never an ill effect.

It was at this point that I started to wonder.

(Always the wondering.)

Is the bad reputation of apple seeds really due to the actual, tragic loss of scores of fruit loving dogs worldwide?  Or is it more the result of theoretical chemistry being applied to theoretical dogs in a way that theoretically harms them?

Where are all the bodies?  I need bodies.  And preferably not just an unlucky dog here or there with a rare disorder that predisposes it to amygdalin synthesis.  I need numbers of injured animals that are statistically significant enough to warrant picking out the seeds.

Dane’s been eating an abundant and steady supply of apple cores for seven years now with no signs of anything but occasional gas.  For that matter he scavenges a good daily dozen windfall peaches from under our backyard tree during the season and peach pits are supposed to be more toxic still.

And yet…he thrives.

(He will also graze tomatoes, cilantro, and spinach, dig up carrots and turnips, and chew zucchini to the stem given the chance, not to mention wolfing down small birds and animals.  He was feral and starving before the Humane Society finally caught him and I’m afraid seven years has not been long enough to erase those memories.  A pox on people who abandon helpless, frightened pets into the wild.)

I’m reluctant to curb one of his few great pleasures without compelling evidence that it’s absolutely necessary.  Is there somebody out there with first hand experience of apple seed toxicity in dogs?  Especially vets?  Or any veterinary journals with studies I can read?  I’d be grateful for any contributions.

copyright Dia Osborn 2013

For Constance And The Other Pets We’ve All Lost

I learned that a big, flatulent, snore-prone, asthmatic bulldog died suddenly of a heart attack over in Wales a few days ago.  Her name was Constance and her bereft humans are John and Chris.  The news made me sad.  They’d only had her for about ten months…she was a kinda, sorta rescue dog…but in that short time they fell for her pretty hard. 

(Which was something of a puzzle to me, as it often is to non-bulldog people.  Bulldogs are not the most attractive of animals and she could be quite a bitch besides.  But I think that’s part of the reason WHY John and Chris loved her so much, because she was always so fearlessly and unapologetically herself, warts and all, and really, when I think about it, I kind of love that, too.  You go, girl.)

Today’s post was going to be about the dying music that’s come down to us through time, the valuable information embedded in that music regarding how to die, and how in the hell we’re supposed to extract said information all these years later, across changing attitudes, languages, and cultures.

But it doesn’t seem right.  Not today.  Instead, I’d rather play one of the songs I had in mind and dedicate it to Constance and the other beloved, joy-bringing, innocent, vulnerable, and deeply missed pets we’ve all lost over the years.  They’ve mostly died quiet and unnoticed by the wider world.  For some strange reason, we’re not usually given much room to grieve our animals when they die, in spite of the fact that their loss can be as painful and devastating as that of any other family member.  So today, I thought I’d make a little more room.

Goodbye Constance, and all you other beauties who graced our lives for a little while.  We love you.  We miss you.  We thank you.


Oh all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
Are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
Would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all

copyright Dia Osborn 2011