Apricot kernels poison Canadian puppy


Latest Toxin Tails installment details how a lucky road trip allowed pet to be saved from poisoning

Melissa Martin took her golden retriever puppy, Subaru, to tag along with her on a 3-hour trip to Toronto. She lives in Dobbinton, Ontario, Canada, where she breeds dogs, and this expedition was to deliver one of the new puppies to its forever home. While on the trip, things went haywire.

Subaru, the golden retriever, who experienced cyanide poisoning (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline).

Subaru, the golden retriever, who experienced cyanide poisoning (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline).

"It was a disaster," Martin said in the release1, who has been a dog groomer for 13 years and worked at a veterinary clinic. "I was dropping off a puppy in Toronto, and left Subaru in the front seat of the vehicle. Normally I keep her in the back in a crate with the other dogs, but I wanted the company. When I came back from delivering the puppy, I found that Subaru had dug out a 300-count bag of apricot kernels I keep in the console." Martin eats 2 to 7 kernels a day as a supplement.

Apricot kernels are the seeds found inside the hard pit, and they can be harmful to pets as the seeds, leaves, and stems of the apricot tree contain cyanide. A toxicology expert at Pet Poison Helpline noted that this toxin prevents proper function of cytochrome oxidase, an enzyme required for cellular oxygen transport, inhibiting oxygen from being released from red blood cells and delivered to cells. The clinical signs of ingesting it in toxic amounts include: vomiting, ataxia, difficulty breathing, panting, bright red gums, arrhythmias, blood pressure changes, seizures, shock, and death can be seen.1 Additionally, there may be a bitter almond smell of the breath.

"I vividly remember her and I making eye contact," Martin expressed. "I could tell she was looking suspicious. That is when I saw the bag, and I remembered that apricots have traces of cyanide.”1 Because of Martin’s experience working with pets, she knew the clinical signs Subaru was experiencing including eyes rolling back in her head and panting meant she needed immediate medical attention.

"We live three hours away from Toronto, and an hour and a half away from our nearest veterinarian," Martin said. "If this had happened at home, she wouldn't have survived. The neurological signs were so fast that I knew she had minutes, not hours. My panic level went from zero to ten instantly, but luckily, we were only 15 minutes away from Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital, one of the best emergency facilities in the area.”1

Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline added, "Subaru was lucky that her owner quickly recognized how dangerous her clinical signs were and took immediate action. Due to the number of apricot kernels ingested and severe signs observed there was a true concern for cyanide poisoning."1

The medical team at the hospital immediately started providing intravenous fluids, supportive care and performed a gastric lavage to help remove any remaining kernels. Because they were returned so quickly after ingestion it decreased further progression of Subaru's clinical signs. In circumstances with severe cyanide poisoning, death can occur within minutes.

Different amounts of cyanide are found in the seeds of Prunus sp. fruit including peaches, apricots, cherries, and apple seeds.1 Generally, for cyanide poisoning to occur, an animal needs to chew open, crush and ingest many cyanide-containing seeds before signs of poisoning. It is common for animals to ingest the pits/seeds whole, which doesn't usually lead to poisoning, but may cause a gastrointestinal foreign body or obstruction concern.

"Subaru has made a full recovery, and I'm so grateful to the hospital team, as well as Pet Poison Helpline," Martin expressed. "It is important for people to understand when symptoms are critical and who to call."


Apricot snacks poison rural Canadian puppy. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. August 17, 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/apricot-snacks-poison-rural-canadian-puppy-301607207.html

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