Karaka berries are poisonous to dogs

Karaka Berries and Dogs: Be Aware!


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Did you know karaka berries and dogs are a deadly combination? Whether the ripened berries fell 10 minutes ago or have spent weeks lying around on the ground they can be just as toxic. If you’re a NZ pet parent it’s important to know how to keep your dog safe from karaka berry poisoning.

The karaka tree grows on the North and South islands in nature reserves, parks and urban areas. It’s considered a weed in some circles due to its ability to rapidly spread and block out sun from other plant species, so the management of the karaka berry was up for debate recently. Nevertheless, it’s a firm favourite among us Kiwis (more on this below).

However, for our dogs it’s another story. To make sure that story is a happy one, read how to keep your pooch safe during karaka berry season …

Introduce your dog to other dog friends on Love Your Pet Day 2023, but gently if you have an adult Border Collie like this one.

Are karaka berries poisonous to dogs?

The leafy evergreen karaka tree produces sweet smelling berries that turn from emerald green to a yellow orange when ripe. In fact, the word ‘karaka’ means orange in Māori. The tree’s leafy canopy and succulent fruit provide a sanctuary and food for native birdlife and possums.

On the other hand, the berry is poisonous to domestic animals, including cows, sheep, and pigs. And last but not least: dogs.

Dogs have died after eating the karaka berry, so pet parents need to be on high alert whether in the bush or by the beach. Read about other beach dangers for dogs and wildlife on our Lead the Way programme page and DOC’s seven steps to keeping everyone safe.

They’re still dangerous out of season

‘High alert’ mode with karaka berries and dogs should extend through not only the warmer months as the berries ripen, but throughout the rest of the year too. This is because the fruit retains toxins when dried up.

Interestingly, the flowers may also be narcotic and poisonous to bees, however this still needs more research.

In short, it’s best not to have a karaka tree growing in your garden if you have pets (or kids – see the next section below). And if you’re out walking with them it’s always important to avoid places where karaka berries may have fallen.

Watch this video to see what the karaka tree and its berries look like:

When do they fall?

The karaka tree is an evergreen that fruits in summer, with berries ripening and falling from January to April.

Dogs have a tendency to taste and eat anything. So the sweet smelling karaka berries they see on a walk or while playing in the park could seem like an inviting nibble.

Unfortunately, the highly toxic berries can cause a range of health issues. Even years after the fruit has dried up and disappeared, the leftover kernel still contains toxins that could make a dog very sick or perhaps even kill it.

Signs your dog has been karaka berry poisoned

Here are some signs of karaka berry toxicity in dogs:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Hind leg paralysis
  • Death

Because you don’t always know when your dog has eaten rather than just smelled something it can be tricky to realise when they have karaka berry poisoning. Even more so because symptoms of karaka berries in dogs can begin to show anywhere from as much as one to two days after ingestion.

If you think your dog has been exposed to karaka berries – or if your dog is showing any of the above symptoms – take them to the vet right away.

Speaking of plants and doggie dangers, did you know grass seeds can cause a problem for your pup? Read more about grass seed infections in dogs!

learn how karaka berries and dogs should never be combined

Toxicity in dogs can have many causes

As a pet parent, you can pave a safer path for your pooch by reducing their exposure to toxic dangers. In addition to identifying routes for your dog walk that aren’t lined with karaka trees, there are various plants and other normal household items to keep your fur kid away from.

Here’s a list of articles that pinpoint what some of these are:

Remember to share the dangers of karaka berries and dogs with fellow dog parents. You can also share this article on social media to help spread awareness.

Watch the PD Pet Care vlog with Dr Cath Watson for prevention and treatment tips for karaka berry poisoning in dogs:

Are karaka berries poisonous to humans?

Karaka berries have a single kernel contained in their sweet and fragrant flesh. Although the flesh beneath the skin is safe for humans to eat – and tasty too – the kernel contains an alkaloid that’s poisonous to us. That said, there’s a time-worn Māori method of preparing the kernel to make it safe to eat.

However, if this process isn’t carried out absolutely correctly, humans can experience convulsions, paralysis or even death. Basically, it’s a no-go for humans unless you’re an expert. For this reason, always keep the berries away from children as well as pets.

Karaka berries on a tree

Dog insurance, berry or no berry

Dog insurance helps protect your pet and your pocket in the event of lurking dangers like toxicity. Just read what happened to one curious pup when she ate her pet parent’s pills – Hazelnut’s Story (My Dog Ate My Pills What Should I Do?)

Pet insurance helps you cover costs that can quickly escalate in troubled times like these. There are some health needs you know your dog will need – like visits to the vet for tests. And there are others you can’t foresee – like them eating a karaka berry. Happily, you can choose a plan for your pet to help pay the bills of both.

Did you know that if you buy pet insurance with PD Insurance online we’ll give you one or more months free? Plus, if you have more than one pet you may be eligible for our multiple pet discount. Why not get a quick quote now?

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