Are acorns safe for sheep to eat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “Are acorns safe for sheep to eat?”,           and discuss the potential risks to sheep from eating acorns. We will also answer other questions such as how many acorns a sheep can eat and how to keep your sheep from eating acorns.

Are acorns safe for sheep to eat?

No, acorns are not safe for sheep. Acorns contain tannins. When tannins are ingested they can cause a lot of health complications in sheep. Sheep and cattle are the animals most affected by tannin poisoning. Tannin poisoning can lead to kidney failure and death if it is not detected and treated on time.

Why are acorns poisonous to sheep?

Oak leaves and acorns have “tannins” or “tannic acid,” and it causes an animal’s protein absorption to be irregular. Tannic acid acts as an inhibitor, constricting the body’s tissues or canals. Tannins in acorns and leaves bind to proteins in the sheep’s gastrointestinal and intestinal tract linings, causing cell injury. 

This toxin is found in all oak trees, however, it is found in higher concentrations in the White Oaktree. Seasonally, and even year to year, the tannins in acorns, bark, buds, and leaves change. Acorns that haven’t fully matured are usually more poisonous than brown acorns.

The acorns, branches, and leaves of all oak trees have a bittersweet flavor. For certain animals such as sheep and cattle, this makes it a desirable food option.

How many acorns should my sheep eat to get sick?

Each sheep’s response to tanning poisoning differs. As a result, keep your sheep away from acorns and oak trees as much as possible.

The number of acorns that a sheep can tolerate is controlled by its diet’s protein intake. If the animal’s intake of protein is high, it can eat more acorns without becoming poisoned. Keeping your sheep hydrated is also helpful. Water will flush out some of the toxins before they can cause damage.

What are the symptoms of acorn poisoning in sheep?

The gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys can all be seriously harmed by the poisoning caused by the acorns. Some sheep have a better tolerance for acorns than others and show no signs of acorn poisoning. Others may become unwell after only a few bites. 

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Urine with blood
  • Abdominal discomfort (colic)
  • Anorexia  (not eating)
  • Fluid collection in the legs is known as edema.

What to do if my sheep gets acorn poisoning?

If you believe your sheep has acorn poisoning, remove them from the source, give them lots of water. and contact a veterinarian right away. Although the outlook for sheep displaying poisoning symptoms is often poor, the vet may attempt washing out the stomach via surgical treatment.

While there is no cure for acorn toxicity, vets can give affected animals fluids and electrolytes to keep their kidneys functioning, as well as mineral oil, which has a laxative effect.

IV fluids are also used in supportive care. The goal of IV fluids is to get as much toxin out of the animals’ systems. Intravenous fluids will aid in toxin removal and the prevention of organ damage. Dehydration will very likely be treated with intravenous fluid as well.

Activated charcoal may be used by your veterinarian. One of the first things you should offer poisoned sheep is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal will help to absorb toxic tannins before they cause serious harm and carry them safely out of their digestive tract.

If given early in the course of the sickness, anti-bloat drugs like mineral oil, magnesium sulfate, and sodium sulfate can be effective antidotes.

How to stop sheep from eating acorns?

The best option is to keep the animals away from oak trees so they don’t eat the acorns because once the kidneys quit working, there isn’t much that can be done. Here’s how you can keep the sheep from feeding on acorns.

  • Sheep are less inclined to feed on acorns if there is plenty of food available. So always make sure there is enough food available.
  • Keep an eye on the sheep and, if they’re eating too many acorns, transfer them to a different field or put up a fence around the trees to keep them out.
  • Clear up the fallen oak leaves and acorns that surround your property (especially after a storm)
  • Another option is to cut any oak trees in the vicinity. 
  • As a preventive measure, treatment with 10% to 15%  calcium hydroxide can be used. 


In this brief guide, we answered the question, “Are acorns safe for sheep to eat?”, and discussed the potential risks to sheep from eating acorns. We also answered other questions such as how many acorns a sheep can eat and how to keep your sheep from eating acorns.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

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