With more and more people realising the health benefits of eating avocado for themselves, many dog owners are starting to wonder whether avocado would be a good addition to their dog’s diet. Can dogs eat avocado? The answer is yes and no.
Avocados are from the laurel family of fruit and contain a toxin called persin, which is designed as a defence mechanism against fungal attack. However, this toxic substance can be very harmful , and even deadly for many animals. Persin is found in varying concentrations across different parts of the avocado plant, being most concentrated in the skin and leaves. However, the good news is that dogs, much like us, are much more resistant to persin than other animals, and so as long as avocado flesh is consumed in small amounts it won’t cause any issues in dogs whilst conveying potential significant benefits.
How are avocados good for dogs?
Avocados are a great source of many vitamins and antioxidants such as vitamin A, B6, C and E as well as other substances such as folate, niacin and potassium. These vitamins are good for both bone and eye health. Healthy fatty acids contribute to a good quality coat and can be especially useful if your dog is prone to dandruff. Avocado is also packed with fibre that aids in digestion and normal gut movements so, as can be seen, its reputation as a top healthy food is well earned. However, as mentioned before, don’t overfeed avocado as your dog can have too much of a good thing!
If your dog has issues with its skin these omega 3 supplements for dogs and salmon oil for dogs are fantastic supplements for improving your dog’s coat texture and sheen and they promote excellent skin and fur health.
Why are avocados bad for dogs?
As mentioned earlier, the persin found in avocado is the main toxin we are concerned about. However, dogs would have to eat a large quantity of avocado to experience any toxic effects and persin is much more harmful to other animals such as birds, horses and cows.
The highest concentrations of persin are found in the thick skin, pits and leaves of the avocado plant. In the home environment we are most concerned with the skin and pits so it is essential to keep whole fruits outside of dogs’ reach to avoid them feeding on them. Not only is there the risk of consuming toxic persin, the skins of the plant are very hard to digest, so consuming them may result in gastrointestinal blockage or other serious implications. The avocado pit poses a serious choking hazard and may be the most dangerous part of the avocado to the dog. This is the very hard stone-like seed within the avocado flesh so be sure to dispose of it carefully somewhere that your dog cannot access.
The persin content of the fruit reduces as it ripens so if you would like to feed your dog avocado, I’d be sure to choose a ripe one.
If you are wanting to introduce avocado into your dog’s diet, I’d recommend going easy on the amount. One ripe avocado for a medium sized dog should be fine but any more may cause issues. Avocado is very high in healthy fats, but too much fat can cause gastrointestinal upset resulting in vomiting or diarrhea. This is especially true if your dog has ever been diagnosed with pancreatitis, as the excessive fats can cause this to recur.
Its also important to know that, much like us, dogs may have a genuine allergy to even the ripe fleshy part of avocado. Symptoms of allergic reaction can range from diarrhea to itchy skin and even anaphylaxis. If your dog reacts in this way, contact your vet immediately.
Symptoms of avocado poisoning to look out for.
If you are concerned that your dog may have eaten the skin, bark or leaves of an avocado plant or even an unripe fruit then look out for any signs of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea. In most cases this can be treated symptomatically with anti-vomiting medication and sometimes fluid therapy.
In severe cases poisoning can result in respiratory distress and heart failure
Since the pit also poses a significant foreign body risk that may lead to blockage within the gut, your vet may recommend X-rays or an ultrasound scan if this is suspected. In severe cases surgery may even be required to remove the pit.
Provided you follow all these precautions you should never find your dog with an avocado pit in its mouth, but if you think your dog may be choking on one get immediate veterinary attention.
What about guacamole?
Although delicious, guacamole often contains many other ingredients such as onions, garlic, tomato and salt. Onions and garlic are very toxic to dogs and many shop-bought avocado products will have a whole host of other ingredients that might be harmful to your best friend. If you want to feed your dog guacamole that’s okay, but be sure to make it yourself and keep it very plain, excluding the harmful ingredients, and don’t give them too much.
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Dr Alexander Crow is a RCVS licensed Veterinary Surgeon currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary centre, a small animal accredited veterinary practice in Nottingham, United Kingdom. He earned his Bachelor of veterinary medicine degree at the Royal Veterinary College London. His special interests include neurology and soft tissue surgery and hopes to start his surgical certificate in the next year. When not working, he enjoys travelling to Europe, painting and staying fit.
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