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