Why is Your Dog Eating Pine Cones? [Answered]

Chewing is a regular habit for dogs. However, when the chewing involves pine cones, it is logical to wonder whether this activity is safe? Are pine cones dog-friendly or dangerous? 

Are dogs eating pine cones at risk of health issues? Pine cones are not directly toxic to dogs but chewing on them is associated with several gastrointestinal hazards – from tummy upsets and vomiting to intestinal obstruction and constipation. Therefore, dogs should not be allowed or encouraged to chew on pine cones. 

In this article, we will talk about the consequences of eating pine cones in dogs. We will cover each scenario and give tips on what to do. We will also emphasize the importance of providing your dog with chew toys. 

ARE PINE CONES TOXIC TO DOGS?

No, pine cones are not directly toxic to dogs. However, the ASPCA classifies pine trees as potentially poisonous and accents the dangers associated with pine spikes, oils, and sap. 

Most pine tree-related accidents occur during the Christmas holidays and in homes using real trees for decoration purposes. Anyway, accidents also happen during walks in parks or woods with pine trees. 

ARE PINE CONES DANGEROUS TO DOGS?

Yes, pine cones and other pine tree parts can be explicitly dangerous to dogs and often trigger consequences that warrant urgent veterinary attention. Here are several pine-related dangers for dogs: 

Danger number 1: Pine oil causes digestive upsets

Pine oil is an essential oil produced by pine trees and needles. However, it can often find its way on the pine cones too. Pine oil is hard to digest and, if consumed very likely to trigger a severe gastrointestinal upset manifested with appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. 

Danger number 2: The sap is a common allergen  

The pine tree also produces the sap, but it can be found on the cones as well. Pine sap is a common allergen, especially in dogs that are otherwise prone to allergies. The allergic reaction can manifest with gastrointestinal issues or facial swelling and impaired breathing. 

Danger number 3: The sap is quite sticky too

Even if your dog is not allergic, the sap can pose another danger – it is extra sticky and puts you and your dog in a messy situation. Getting sap on the paws and face will warrant a special bathing and some intense brushing. The mere presence of the sap on the skin can be irritating in dogs with sensitive skin. 

Danger number 4: Pine cones have sharp edges

Pine cones have sharp edges which can easily injure the dog’s mouth or distant parts of the gastrointestinal tract leading to vomiting blood or bloody diarrhea. Even if not ingested, the sharp ends can cause traumatic injuries and pose a risk to your dog’s health. 

Danger number 5: Inhaled pine cones are a choking hazard

It is not uncommon for dogs to run while chewing something, which makes it possible for pine cones or their part to enter the wrong pipe and causing choking. Choking is a medical emergency and a life-threatening situation. An inhaled pine cone piece can also cause aspiration pneumonia. 

Danger number 6: Ingested pine cones can cause intestinal blockage

Swallowing an entire pine cone or a substantial number of pine cone pieces can block the digestive tract, leading to a potentially fatal situation. Dogs with gastrointestinal obstruction are likely to vomit, have dilated abdomens, and have diarrhea followed by constipation. The only way to eliminate the block is to remove the pine cone surgically. 

Danger number 7: Pine cones can contain pesticides

Pine trees are often treated with fertilizers and pesticides to protect them from pests. These chemicals are dangerous to dogs and can cause a myriad of consequences ranging from digestive upsets through intoxications to organ failures. 

Danger number 8: Pine needles cause eye injuries

The pine cones often contain needles between their parts that can easily find their way into the dog’s eyes while chewing on the cone. Pine needles are extra sharp and, if they manage to pierce the eye, can cause severe damage. If left untreated or unnoticed at first, such eye injuries can culminate in compromised vision or even blindness. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF A DOG EATS A PINE CONE?

If you suspect your dog ate a pine cone or pieces of it, or perhaps you caught in the middle of the act, we recommend closely monitoring your dog and watching for red flags. If there is as little as one unusual sign, you must call your vet and make an urgent trip to his/her office. 

Here are some of the red flags indicating the pine cone accident is not consequence-free, and your dog might need medical help:

  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble walking
  • Vomiting. 

WHY IS MY DOG OBSESSED WITH PINE CONES?

Dogs and especially puppies, tend to experience the world through their mouths. Basically, they are willing to put everything between their teeth solely for the sake of it. If this habit is not adequately addressed, the pup will quickly grow into an adult that chews and eat inedible objects. 

Puppies find pine cones particularly interesting because of their shape, which scratches the gums and makes the teething phase a bit less uncomfortable. The second reason dogs seem to be obsessed with pine cones is their availability – it is hard to go for a walk in the park or near woodland without encountering few pine cones along the road. 

Finally, if your dog is interested in eating pine cones and other inedible objects like soil, cloth, pebbles, branches, plastic, or paper, chances are it is suffering from pica. Pica is defined as an abnormal appetite; it can stem from various underlying reasons and warrants veterinary attention. 

HOW TO STOP A DOG FROM EATING PINE CONES?

Suppose your dog enjoys batting pine cones when outside – well, you are not alone. Many dog parents around the world face the same problem. Many dogs are crazy about pine cones and enjoy playing with them, which more often than not involves chewing on them. 

As we already explained, eating pine cones is not harmless and should always be avoided. Here are some things you can do to stop your dog from eating pine cones. 

Solution number 1: Carry your dog’s toys

Dogs like having toys, and if they feel lacking ones while in the park, they are likely to start using pine cones as alternatives. To avoid such issues, it is advisable always to carry one or two toys for your dog to play with during walks. Namely, if you offer a tennis ball, a baseball, or a rubber branch, your dog will not pay any attention to pine cones in the park. 

Solution number 2: Teach the “drop it” command

Teaching your dog the “drop it” command is one of the basic commands your dog needs to know. It is best to start teaching while still a young pup, but it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks with the right approach. Mastering this command will help you on various occasions, not just when there is a pine cone in your dog’s mouth. 

Solution number 3: Provide ample chewing toys

Dogs chew – this is something you need to accept even before you get a puppy. Instead of expecting your dog not to chew, you should provide chewing toys. In other words, it is your dog’s instinct to chew, and it is your responsibility to provide objects that are acceptable and safe for chewing. Luckily, the modern pet market offers hundreds of different chewing toys. 

Solution number 4: Do not encourage the behavior

While in the park, do not feel tempted to play fetch with your dog using a tree branch or a pine cone, as this will make your dog associate these items with fun and play. Then, before you know it, your dog will be picking up every pine cone on the way just the initiate play. If you want to play fetch, carry a Frisbee or other dog-friendly toy. 

Solution number 5: Have your dog leashed at all times

If you have a dog with a particular fondness for pine cones and limited obedience when it comes to the “drop it” command, we recommend walking your dog on a leash. This is a safety tip and will help prevent many hazards, not just pine cone ingestions. You can let your dog run freely only in an enclosed area where there are not potentially dangerous plants or items. 

SUMMING PINE: THE DANGERS OF PINE CONES FOR DOGS

Although non-toxic, pine cones are dangerous to dogs – their wax, shape, and texture are risk factors and can lead to severe consequences. 

If your dog was playing with a pine cone, you should carefully observe it for unusual signs and symptoms. In case you notice something abnormal, call your vet immediately. 

Luckily, preventing pine cones related accidents is simple. All you need to do is provide your dog with safe toys and be extra careful during walks.