Avocados are a delicious, nutrient-rich food and are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as health-promoting monounsaturated fats. But are avocados safe for dogs? The answer is yes, and no. To understand more, we need to look at the avocado itself, and the ways in which human and canine physiology differ.
Can Dogs Eat Avocado?
Sometimes called the “alligator pear,” the avocado is a fleshy fruit with a thick green skin and a large single seed (or pit). To protect itself from molds and fungi, the plant has evolved to produce persin, a natural fungicide and pesticide. Persin can be found throughout the avocado plant, but is most densely concentrated in the leaves, bark, the skin of the fruit, and the seed. Persin concentrations in the buttery meat of the fruit, called the mesocarp, are far lower.
While humans are able to process persin safely, dogs are often not as fortunate. If consumed in sufficient amounts, persin can cause the following symptoms::
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty passing stools
These symptoms can often mimic those of other disorders, such as gastroenteritis, and pancreatitis, so it’s important to ascertain whether your pet has consumed avocado, what part of the plant, and how much. Smaller dogs are likely to have a lower tolerance to toxins by weight when compared with their large-breed counterparts. So while a small amount of avocado may produce symptoms in a small breed, it may not do so in larger animals.
In extremely rare cases, persin overdose has resulted in myocardial damage.
How Much Avocado Is Safe for Dogs?
The avocado’s interior is safe if given in small amounts, proportionate to the size and weight of your animal. A teaspoon stirred into kibble or given as a treat can actually be beneficial for your dog. Avocados contain nutrients that help boost red blood cell production, maintain hormone balance, and reduce cancer risk.
If you’d like to give your dog avocado:
- Discard the avocado skin and pit
- Add a spoonful of the avocado’s interior to kibble
- Substitute avocado for peanut butter in a chew toy
- Give a spoonful as a treat
Most important, keep the discards from your avocado out of your pet’s reach, especially the pit, as it can be a choking hazard. Also, use your best judgment when feeding your pet. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, or other stomach issues, it may be best (and safest) to avoid avocados altogether.
What to Do if Your Dog Has Eaten Avocado
Don’t panic. If you believe that your pet has consumed the pit or skin of an avocado, call your veterinarian immediately. They’ll be able to assess your pet and guide you through the next steps in its care. You may be asked to take your animal to an emergency vet, depending on its condition, size, symptoms, and amount of avocado consumed.
In less severe cases, your vet may instruct you to observe your pet at home, monitoring for any changes in symptoms or affect.
Safe Avocado Alternatives for Dogs
While avocados are healthy for humans, the same isn’t always true for dogs. If you’re looking for alternatives, ask your vet. They can suggest healthy, natural treats that are safe for your pet. If your pet has developed a taste for avocado, peanut butter or almond butter can be good substitutes. These too should be offered in moderation because many brands contain xylitol, a sweetener that isn’t healthy for dogs.
Your pet’s health is important to us. We hope you’ve found the above guidance useful. Turn to us for the latest information on pet health, wellness, and care. Remember that your animals trust you to create a safe place for them to live, eat, sleep, and play. If you have questions about your pet’s behavior or health, contact your veterinarian. They’ll have the skills and resources to address your needs.