How big a risk are rapeseed fields to dogs?

Pete Wedderburn
19th May 2021 - 3 min read

Over the last month, there has been a social media surge of shared articles about the apparent dangers of rapeseed fields to dogs. Typically, these articles make frightening statements like “Rapeseed is extremely poisonous for dogs”, quoting reputable sources saying that “if ingested, this can cause symptoms such as: Haemolytic Anaemia, Blindness, Damaged Nervous System, Digestive Disorders, and Breathing Problems. ”

After reading these posts, many dog owners must be in a state of high anxiety if they even walk close to the bright yellow blossoms that form an increasingly common sight in the fields around our towns and villages. They may find themselves wondering how such a dangerous crop can even be allowed to be close to areas of human and canine habitation?

As is often the case, the truth is far from what’s propagated in some of these sensationalist, scary, social media posts: these have often been written in a style designed to optimise post view numbers rather than to genuinely educate and inform dog owners.

So what is the truth?

Rapeseed plants are highly unlikely to be ingested by dogs

This quote is, indeed, accurate at one level: if dogs ate a significant quantity of blossoms and seeds from rape plants, they would be at risk of various signs of poisoning. However, in reality, a dog is highly unlikely to do this, and as a vet in practice for over thirty years, this is something that I have never encountered. So dog walkers really do not need to worry if their pet walks close to fields of rapeseed in blossom: the risk of poisoning is almost non-existent.

rapeseed plant  in field

Most dogs are highly unlikely to expose themselves to enough rapeseed blossom to suffer any sort of reaction

Second, it is true that there are individual case reports of occasional dogs that have developed sore skin after running through fields of rapeseed in bloom. But if you read the details of these reports, you’ll discover that the affected animals may have been missing for over an hour, running through dense rapeseed in in bloom. In one case, the dog was “covered in rapeseed. He was all yellow on his back, and around his eyes and ears”. It is surely no wonder that the poor animal suffered some sort of allergic or irritant reaction. Total immersion for a lengthy period in any type of blossom or pollen is very likely to cause a skin reaction of some kind, whether it’s rapeseed or many other plants. This does not mean that there is a significant risk of any kind to the vast majority of dogs walking in the countryside.

Statement from official veterinary poison bureau

Dr Nicola Robinson, Head of Service at the Veterinary Poison Information Service (VPIS) and Animal Poison Line, has responded to the recent viral social media posts with the following official statement:

‘The majority of dogs remain well after coming into contact with rapeseed although ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal upset. For more severe signs to occur, such as the ones in various social media posts, a very large amount would need to be eaten. From our data, rapeseed poisoning mainly occurs in grazing animals (especially ruminants) who have had access to the crop over many days or weeks. Skin reactions resembling burns can occur in dogs but this is rare and it does not affect every dog which runs through rapeseed. It is very important to put this in perspective and for owners to not worry unduly after reading social media posts which are not evidence based and have no data to back up their claims.’

rapeseed field

What do dog owners need to do to protect their pets?

Common sense is all that’s needed here.

  • Dog walkers exercising their pets in the countryside should keep their pets under close supervision at all times.
  • If your dog does not have excellent and reliable recall, then you should keep them on a long training leash rather than allowing them to run off on their own.
  • Dogs should not be allowed to run through crops of any kind, out of respect to the farmers: how would you like to have a random dog running around the cultivated sections of your back garden?

Please don’t panic when you see a field of yellow rapeseed plants: your dog is as safe as walking close by a field of wheat or barley. Don’t believe all you read on social media.