THEY are synonymous with the first signs of autumn, but an animal charity has been warning dog owners why conkers could be highly dangerous to pets.

Blue Cross says conkers are poisonous to dogs if chewed and eaten and could also cause blockages in your pet’s stomach.

Pet owners are now being urged to spread the word to help make other people aware of the dangers.

A charity spokesman added: "Few people realise that they can pose a serious health risk to your pet if ingested.

"Although cases are rare, Blue Cross has treated dogs who have fallen very ill after eating conkers.

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"In one recent case, children had been innocently throwing conkers for a dog to catch, unaware of the dangers."

Blue Cross has issued the following advice to dog owners regarding conkers.

Why are conkers dangerous to dogs?

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the large nuts could cause a blockage in your pet’s stomach.

Secondly, they contain a chemical called aesculin – found in all parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the leaves – which is toxic to dogs.

What are the symptoms of conker poisoning in dogs?

Although fatalities in cases where dogs have consumed conkers are thankfully rare it is still very serious.

Dogs who have eaten or swallowed conkers, allowing the toxins to enter their body, can be very sick.

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They can vomit, collapse, have diarrhoea, get very restless with the discomfort and pain, become severely dehydrated and go into toxic shock.

It has also been reported that dogs can experience respiratory paralysis and can die.

Signs of illness usually arise after a couple of days but dogs can show signs of being poisoned within one to six hours of consuming the conkers.

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What should I do if I think my dog has eaten a conker?

Contact your vet straight away for advice.

What treatment is my dog likely to receive if he or she has eaten a conker?

Poisoned dogs need to be rehydrated and medicated and any chewed up conkers still in their tummy need to be removed.

In rare cases, surgery may be required to remove blockages.

How do I stop my dog from eating a conker?

Although dogs love to forage when they’re out exploring, do keep a watchful eye on them when they’re around conkers.

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Don’t encourage them to catch or play with them and if they show signs of becoming unwell after you have been out and about then contact your vet as soon as possible.

Always take a suitable dog toy out with you to distract them if they are interested in playing a game.