Dog owners warned to be vigilant as terrier’s case highlights dangers of conkers to pets

Pixie the four-year-old terrier needed emergency treatment after being poisoned by one of autumn’s biggest hazards — conkers.

Thousands of conkers — seeds of the horse chestnut tree — are lying around in parks, gardens and streets at this time of year. But many pet owners are oblivious to the fact they are toxic to dogs and can also cause nasty blockages if swallowed.

Pixie’s owner Josie Brant-Smith is a vet and aware of the dangers of conkers so she realised she had a problem when she moved into her new home and discovered the previous owner had scattered them throughout the house in an attempt to ward off spiders.

Image of Pixie with family, back to full health after eating conkers
Josie with her stepdaughter Willow and mischievous pet Pixie

Josie said: “They were placed in the corners of all the rooms so they must have been really scared of spiders. I’m not even sure conkers help keep spiders away.

“I knew they were toxic and did my best to clear them up, but I must have missed one as I found Pixie with a half chewed conker in her mouth.

“I knew it could cause her problems as she is only a 5kg dog.”

Conkers contain a toxin called aesculin, which is found in all parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the leaves. Most larger dogs need to ingest several to suffer severe poisoning but smaller breeds, like Pixie, are at risk from just one or two.

Pixie was taken to Vets Now in Middlesbrough where she was given medication to make her vomit and clear her system of any toxins. It was a procedure the terrier had been through before after once scoffing down a whole chocolate bar.

Josie added: “My own surgery was too far away for me to do anything. But it was impressive that we were able to sort the problem out within an hour of realising what had happened.”

Emergency vet Hannah Willetts, who works at Vets Now in Middlesbrough, said: “In autumn, our emergency vets regularly see cases of conker poisoning in dogs. While serious cases are rare, they do occur.

“Obviously Josie knew what to do as she is a trained vet, but hopefully other dog owners will take note and keep conkers out of the reach of their pets. There is no antidote to the toxins in conkers so it’s important to act quickly if your dog does eat them.”

The Vets Now clinic in Middlesbrough — where Pixie received treatment — was recently rated as “outstanding” in the delivery of emergency and critical care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It’s one of 55 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.