Trail mixes are a fantastic and almost addictive food. If your snack shelf includes trail mix, chances are you have considered sharing the combo of flavors with your dog. However, as any responsible pet owner, you probably have wondered whether trail mixes are dog-friendly?
Can dogs eat trail mix? The simple and straightforward answer is no – dogs should not eat trail mix. First of all, most trial mixes contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Even if made without such ingredients, trail mix is too high in sugars and fats and can wreak havoc on the dog’s sensitive digestive system.
In this article, we will talk about the dangers of feeding your dog trail mix. We will cover each hazardous ingredient and give tips on what to do in case of accidental ingestion. Finally, we will list some trail mix alternatives that are safe for dogs.
TRAIL MIX – INGREDIENTS AND NUTRITIONAL VALUE
The first trail mix was created in 1968 and was called GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts). As the name suggests, it contained nothing but raisins and peanuts.
Today, the trail mix formulas have evolved and include a variety of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Some recipes take the game on an even higher level and contain non-traditional ingredients like granola, candies, chocolate chips, and crackers.
Trail mix is the most popular snack option for backpackers and hikers. The simple reason for this popularity is its high-caloric content. Namely, trail mixes contain enough calories to fuel any highly energetic activity.
Although the exact nutritional value of the trail mix varies based on the included ingredients, here is a short overview of what you can find in 100 grams of trail mix:
- Calories: 353
- Protein: 10 g
- Total fat: 23 g
- Saturated: 4.4 mg
- Polyunsaturated: 7.9 mg
- Monounsaturated: 9.5 mg
- Cholesterol: 2.9 mg
- Total carbohydrates: 33 g
- Sugar: 17 g
- Fiber: 3.7 g
- B complex
- Iron and calcium.
IS TRAIL MIX GOOD FOR DOGS?
To say that trail mix is suitable for dogs would be an exaggerated statement. While it is true that some trail mix components are beneficial and rich in health-boosting nutrients, there are far safer food choices for dogs that can serve as good sources of those same nutrients. To be direct, the truth is that trail mix is not good for dogs.
CAN TRAIL MIX HURT A DOG?
Yes, several kinds of trail mix can hurt a dog, and the extent of the harmful effect can vary from simple digestive upset through chronic pancreatitis to a life-threatening intoxication. Which scenario is most likely depends on the ingredients included in the trail mix, the consumed amount, and the serving frequency.
THE DOG-UNFRIENDLY INGREDIENTS IN TRAIL MIXES
As mentioned, trail mixes recipes vary greatly depending on the manufacturer. Some trail mix companies even offer customized trail mixes based on individual taste preferences. To illustrate the dangers of trail mixes for dogs, we will cover each ingredient group separately.
Ingredient number 1: NUTS
In general, nuts and dogs do not go together. Although rich in nutrients (healthy fats, natural sugars, and vitamins and minerals), some types of nuts contain chemical compounds that are toxic to dogs.
Plus, there are several more caveats linked with nuts. First, nuts are the perfect breeding ground for aflatoxin-producing fungi. In dogs and humans, aflatoxin causes neurological deficits and liver damage. Second, nuts can cause tummy issues or, in the long-run, pancreatitis. Finally, most dogs have voracious appetites, and in such pets, all nuts pose a choking hazard.
Here are some commonly found nuts in trail mixes and their suitability to dogs.
Walnuts are not dog-friendly nuts because they contain a toxic chemical called juglone. The levels of juglone are different in different walnut types. For example, English walnuts are low and Black walnuts are high in juglone. However, it is best to consider all walnuts as dangerous to dogs.
Pecans pose a double danger to dogs. Pecans contain the same toxin as walnuts – the notorious juglone. Plus, pecans are often molded and tainted with aflatoxins.
Pistachios do not contain toxic compounds, but they are still considered a no-go for dogs. Simply put, they are frequently contaminated with aflatoxins and, unless the shell is removed, can be troublesome for the teeth.
Almonds are not directly toxic to dogs, but they contain too many fats and are often heavily salted. While an almond or two is unlikely to cause issues, regular almond consumption will put the dog’s overall health at risk.
Hazelnuts are more dog-friendly than most members of the nuts family. However, that does not mean you should make them a frequent addition to your dog’s menu.
Cashews are one of the few nuts that are neither toxic nor otherwise harmful to dogs – that is, when consumed infrequently and in small amounts. Cashews can be used as an ingredient in dog-friendly trail mix recipes.
# Brazil nuts
Although not toxic, Brazil nuts are not the ideal fit for dogs. Namely, because of the fat content, people are advised to limit the consumption to one nut per day. So, imagine the fat overload for a small dog after eating just one Brazil nut.
# Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and often cause issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and hind legs weakness. A dog that ate macadamia nuts needs to be examined and treated by a vet as soon as possible.
# Pine nuts
Pine nuts are not straightforward toxic to dogs. However, they should not be offered because, in addition to the high-fat content, they are loaded with phosphorus. Small amounts of phosphorus are essential for dogs, but if consumed in excess, it can inhibit calcium metabolism and cause kidney damage.
Ingredient number 2: DRIED FRUITS
Fruits are generally healthy for dogs when offered in small amounts. The serving sizes are even smaller in dried versions because they are higher in sugars. However, some dried fruits are toxic to dogs.
Raisins are among the most toxic human foods for some dogs. We say some dogs because not all canines are sensitive to raisins – some dogs lack the enzymes necessary for digesting raisins, and others have them. Since you cannot know your dog’s enzymatic makeup, it is best to refrain from giving raisins.
# Banana chips
Raw bananas are dog-friendly, but the banana chips option contains more sugars than dogs can handle, especially if additionally sweetened or covered with honey. However, one or two slices are unlikely to cause harm.
# Dried berries
Most dried berries (strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, cranberries, blackberries) are safe for dogs as long as they are plain. Sugared varieties should be kept away from the dog’s menu.
# Candied orange peel
This is a huge no-no. The orange pulp is safe in small amounts, but the orange peel is packed with pesticides, and the added sugars can trigger severe digestive upsets.
# Dried tropical fruits
When offered in moderation and occasionally, most unsweetened tropical fruits (mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, coconut flakes, ginger, kiwis, papayas) are dog-friendly. In fact, they make excellent substitutes for high-sugar commercial treats.
Ingredient number 3: LEGUMES
Most legumes are allowed for canine consumption. In fact, some legumes like peas and beans are included in commercial dog food formulas. But, let’s review the legumes found in trail mixes.
This is not a mistake – contrary to popular belief, peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes and members of the peas family. Peanuts are dog-friendly, especially if raw and plain. However, they are not part of the dog’s natural diet, meaning they can be given on rare occasions and in treat-sized portions.
# Wasabi peas
Do not be confused by the fancy name – this is old-fashioned peas covered with wasabi. Although crunchy and tasty, wasabi peas must not be fed to dogs as they are way too spicy for the canine stomach.
Ingredient number 4: SEEDS
In general, seeds are classified as dog-friendly, and many members of this family are used in dog foods and supplements. However, the amount of seeds used in trail mixes is not something the dog’s sensitive stomach can handle.
# Pumpkin seeds
Cooked and peeled pumpkin seeds are health-boosting for dogs. They are rich in various minerals like copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and iron.
# Sunflower seeds
Pesticide-free and unsalted sunflower seeds are a good addition to the dog’s feeding regimes. However, like all seeds, they are allowed in small amounts and infrequently.
# Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are extra beneficial for dogs – they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, thus supporting healthy skin and shiny coats. And do not worry; hemp seeds do not contain cannabinoids and cannot make your dog high.
Ingredient number 5: GRANOLA & CEREALS
Granolas, whole-grain cereals, and oats are dog-friendly when used responsibly, while commercial and popular cereals like Fruit loops and Cheerios should be troublesome because they contain too much-added sugars.
Ingredient number 6: CANDIES & CHOCOLATE CHIPS
If you have a sweet tooth, chances are you like trail mixes featuring candies or even chocolate chips. Here is how these ingredients score on the dog-friendliness scale.
Everyone loves candies, but sadly, dogs cannot enjoy the experience. In addition to being high in processed sugars, candies often contain xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, and it is extremely toxic to dogs.
# Chocolate chips
Another toxic food for dogs is chocolate. The higher the chocolate content in the chips, the more dangerous they are. Namely, black chocolate chips are particularly harmful, while white chocolate chips are not so dangerous. However, the final verdict on chocolate for dogs is hazardous.
Ingredient number 7: MISCELLANEOUS
Many non-conventional trail mix recipes feature ingredients snacks like puffed rice, pretzels, popcorn, cacao nibs, chocolate-covered coffee beans, peanut butter chips, etc.
With the exception of puffed rice, all of these foods are a no-go for dogs. Pretzels and popcorn are processed and unnatural; cacao and coffee beans are toxic to dogs, and peanut butter chips often contain xylitol.
Ingredient number 8: SPICES
Last but definitely not least, many trial mixes feature added spices like sea salt, chilly, nutmeg, cinnamon, curry, garlic, and onion powders. Nutmeg, garlic, and onion are directly toxic to dogs; sea salt is toxic in large amounts; the other spices irritate if inhaled and cause gastric ulcers if consumed.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY DOG EATS SOME TRAIL MIX?
What happens after a dog eats some trail mix depends on three factors:
- The trail mix ingredients
- The dog’s size
- The consumed amount.
There is no need to rush to the vet’s office if the trail mix does not include any directly toxic ingredients like macadamia nuts, pecans, and raisins. However, based on the other two factors, you should expect a diarrhea bout due to your pup’s potential stomach issues.
In the heat of the moment, if you cannot determine how much your dog ate or which ingredient in the mix is safe or not, the best option would be to grab your dog and the trail mix package and visit your trusted veterinarian.
TRAIL MIX ALTERNATIVE FOR DOGS
If you are tenacious about giving your dog trail mix, you should be extra mindful about the ingredients you are using. For example, you can mix some cashews, dried but unsweetened berries, and hemp seeds.
However, you also need to consider the serving size and frequency – one bite-sized chunk of the trail mix and on special occasions (once per month).
SUMMING UP: DOGS EATING TRAIL MIX FOR SNACKS
Trail mixes are not dog-friendly snacks and must be kept away from the dog’s food bowl. The trail mix ingredients are dangerous for dogs on various levels and, in some cases, may even cause life-threatening intoxications.
If you like snacking on a trail mix, do so when your dog is not present and then store the leftovers in an out-of-reach place. If tempted to share the trail mix snack with your dog, think about all the consequences we discussed.
Finally, just because dogs cannot eat trail mixes, it does not mean you cannot indulge them with homemade, dog-friendly, and extra-tasty snacks.