Avocados have gained popularity in recent years in the health food industry. As with a lot of popular health foods, dog owners are left wondering if it is good for their dogs too, especially as there can be conflicting information out there.
Are There Health Benefits of Avocados for Dogs?
Avocados are well known for being high in so-called 'good' fat. This is the kind of fat that can lower cholesterol in people. They aren't just full of healthy fats, though. They are a good source of Vitamins A, B3 (Niacin), B9 (Folate), B6 (Pyridoxine), C, and E. They also are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and digestible fiber.
As avocados have taken off in popularity as healthy human food, some brands of so-called BEG diets (that is, Boutique, Exotic protein, and Grain-free diets) have started incorporating avocado oil and/or avocado meal into their formulas as a source of vitamins and minerals.
Risks of Giving Your Dog Avocado
Although a little avocado flesh is unlikely to be a problem for most dogs, there are a number of risks that you should be aware of.
The Pit, Leaves and Skin Have High Concentrations of the Toxin Persin
Among the vitamins, fiber, and fat avocados possess, they also contain a fungicidal (that is, fungus killing) compound called persin. This toxin can be found in almost all parts of an avocado plant. This includes the avocado pit, leaves, skin, stems, and even in the flesh.
The highest concentration, however, is in the pit, leaves, and skin. It is only present in the flesh in minute concentrations. The toxic dose of persin is unknown, but the amount in the flesh is small enough that it is safe for human and, in most cases, dog consumption.
Of course, as with people, not all dogs react to foods the same, so one dog may be fine eating avocado while others may not. Other companion animals, including horses, birds, and guinea pigs, are much more sensitive to persin, and avocados are considered unsafe for these pets.
Avocados are High in Fat
Avocados are also known to be high in fat. While this is considered to be the healthy, cholesterol-lowering fat, it's still fat. Some dogs are much more sensitive to fatty foods than others.
If your dog happens to have such an intolerance they may suffer gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis if they are fed avocado. Symptoms of feeding your dog a fatty food can vary from a mild case of runny stools to vomiting and not eating.
Of course, even if your dog doesn't get gastrointestinal upset from the fat content of an avocado, if not given in moderation you may start to see weight gain.
The Pit is a Choking Hazard
One more hazard avocados pose is the pit itself. If a dog were to try and eat an avocado pit whole it would be a choking hazard and could even cause a foreign body obstruction.
Gastrointestinal foreign bodies, while not immediately emergent, do require veterinary attention. If caught early enough, the pit may still be in your dog's stomach. If this is the case it's possible that it may be removed via an endoscopy, where a camera is passed down your dog's esophagus so the pit can be located and removed. If the pit has passed into your dog's intestinal tract they may require more invasive surgery to remove it.
Avoid Giving Your Dog Guacamole
Additionally, although avocados are delicious enough on their own, they are most often used to make guacamole. Generally, guacamole (if it's any good) will contain garlic, onions, tomatoes, and salt. All of these ingredients can be unsafe for your dogs for different reasons.
Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family. While a ripe, red tomato isn't harmful for your dog to eat, under-ripe tomatoes and all the green leaves and stems associated with the plant are toxic. Were your dog to eat an under-ripe tomato you may see signs of general gastrointestinal upset, muscle weakness, a loss of coordination, tremors, and even seizures.
Salt can not only cause GI upset, but it can also throw off your dog's electrolyte balance, causing something called hypernatremia. This essentially means there is too much sodium in your dog's bloodstream. This can have detrimental, sometimes even fatal effects as the muscles in your dog's body (including their heart) utilize sodium to function properly.
So if you want to share your avocado with your pup, make sure to do so before you make your favorite Mexican dip.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Avocado
If your dog consumes an avocado, if you are not sure if they may have ingested skin, leaves or the pit, then you should seek immediate veterinary attention.
Even if you are certain the dog has only consumed the flesh of an avocado, if they have eaten a lot or are sensitive to fatty foods, they could end up with an upset stomach, so it is still worth checking in with your vet for their advice