There is pretty much zero doubt that avocados are absolutely great for human consumption. The fruit is extremely nutritious and could be added to a host of things to make for a delicious snack. But are they equally good for dogs too? Or is there something dog owners should know before they feed their pets the alligator pear.
Dogs can eat avocado, but the fruit is not ideal dog food per se. Avocados contain a host of nutrients but also have a fungicidal toxin called persin, which can cause health problems in animals and may be fatal at times. However, dogs are not as gravely affected by avocados as other animals are.
If you were just about to cut up an avocado to feed your dog and happened to stumble upon this article, finish reading the entire piece before you proceed any further. Though there is nothing seriously harmful in putting avocado on your dog’s plate, there are certain things you should know regardless.
Why is Avocado Not Ideal Dog Food
Before discussing why avocado is not great dog food, it’s imperative you understand that your pet doesn’t “need” avocado. If your dog is already on a properly formulated, high-quality diet, it has no special need for any extra nutrients from other food sources – certainly not from avocados. Avocados should be thrown in only as a supplement and not be staple dog food. If your dog likes the taste of avocado, let the fruit be its reward for good conduct.
Now that the significance, or “insignificance”, of avocados in a dog’s diet has been established, here are some reasons why the fruit is not the best dog food ever.
Persin Could Play Spoilsport
Persin is the primary reason why this whole discussion online and elsewhere about dogs and avocados exists. The toxin is primarily found in an avocado’s leaves, pits, and the stem. The concentration is primarily in the leaves, followed by the pit and the skin.
Albeit in smaller amounts, persin is found in the pulp or edible fleshiness of the fruit too. The toxin’s concentration is the maximum in an unripened avocado, however. In ripe avocados, persin levels are pretty much non-existent. If the fruit is hard as a rock, it means it’s raw and not ideal for both animal and human consumption.
No Uncut Avocados, Please!
Your dog, as mentioned above, should be generally safe eating avocados. This, however, doesn’t mean you should feed your dog avocados without restraint or let it deal with a whole, uncut avocado all by itself.
Some dogs, out of curiosity or for some other reason, could try to swallow or chew on the fruit. This could turn into an extremely dangerous situation if the dog manages to bite through the fruit and get to the core or pit of an avocado. The hard pit, or the seed, can be a potential choking hazard. Even if your dog manages to swallow the pit, it won’t be able to digest it hours or even days after consumption.
The pit would remain stuck inside the dog’s system like a stone stuck in a human digestive tract. It could get stuck in the intestinal region. And if that happens, surgically removing the pit out would be the only resort.
Let the Avocado Supply Be Limited
Even if your dog only eats the pulp of an avocado, you must still restrict the portions. Too many avocados could cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs (and also humans), diarrhea, and/or vomiting. One avocado a day is usually fine; two or three avocados daily are way too many.
Avocado is a calorie-dense food. A medium-size avocado would contain approximately 30 grams of fat and 320 calories. Though the fat is considered “good”, it still accounts for your dog’s calorie consumption. In other words, eating a lot of avocados over a period could cause weight issues in your pet. If your dog is already heavy or needs to lose some weight, it should steer clear of avocados, at least until the weight is brought under control.
Could Cause Pancreatitis
The fruit’s high-fat content could even trigger pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, a digestive organ. In certain cases, the inflammatory condition could be fatal. The good news, however, is it would take a lot of avocados for your otherwise healthy dog to develop a serious health condition like pancreatitis.
The stems and skin are bad for your dog not just for their high persin levels, but also because they are not easily digestible. They, along with the pit, are tough to digest even if ground up.
And if your dog has a history of digestive tract issues, even eating small amounts of the avocado pulp could cause pancreatitis. Some dog owners, due to the distant possibility of food poisoning, choose not to feed their dogs avocados at all.
Why It’s Relatively Safe and Even Healthy to Feed Your Dog Avocados
Avocado’s toxin content deems it unsafe for ingestion by certain animals, including horses, goats, cows, rabbits, birds, etc. Dogs, on the other hand, should be fine if the consumption is limited to the fruit’s ripen portions, or anything except the skin, pits, stems, or leaves of the fruit.
As mentioned above, the flesh or the edible portion of avocado has the least amount of persin. The toxin amount is negligible not just for humans, but also for dogs. Some slices of the fruit in your dog’s dinner plate, therefore, would do more good than harm.
Dogs, in fact, happily munch on avocados, invariably avoiding the pits and skin of the fruit by themselves. The tough exteriors of the other parts of the fruit and the fact that they don’t taste great make it easier for the dog to steer clear of them.
Here are a couple of other reasons why avocados are great for your dog:
The Nutrient Profile of Avocados
The green, ripe part of the fruit contains several beneficial nutrients and minerals that could give a major boost to your dog’s health. The nutrients include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Amino acids
Potassium, niacin, folate, and fatty acids help your dog keep the shine and luster of their hair. The various vitamins are essential for your dog’s bone health, fur and skin health, eyesight, etc. The antioxidants found in the fruit could help fight cancer and various other diseases. Avocados also contain “good” fat, which helps lower cholesterol levels. The fat intake, however, should be limited as clearly mentioned above.
Avocados are Found in Commercial Dog Food
Thanks to the host of nutrients found in avocados, the fruit is used as an ingredient in prepacked dog food too. When you feed your dog avocado in its commercial form, the fruit becomes a lot safer to ingest.
Several pet food firms are promoting avocado meal and avocado oil as healthy constituents in their dog food products. The avocado meal is basically dried and ground avocado flesh. Neither avocado meal nor avocado oil contains persin, and they are, therefore, safe for consumption.
Feeding Your Dog Avocados the Right Way
Avocados are relatively safe for dog consumption if served the right way. But do not go ahead and feed your canine friend avocados yet. Talk to your veterinary doctor or dog nutritionist before considering avocados as dog food.
If your dog has certain health issues, avocados could exacerbate those problems. And if you’re a bit too paranoid about persin poisoning, it’s recommended you ditch the fruit altogether and look for something comparable with a nutrient profile similar to avocados.
If you’ve, however, decided to give your dog avocados – of course, after having got the go-ahead from your vet – do it with deliberation. Here are a few things to consider:
- Choose ripe, organic avocados that have no additives and chemicals.
- Remove the skins, pits, and stems of the fruit.
- Serve the avocados plain as much as possible. If that seems a bit bland, mix the fruit with your dog’s regular foods.
If you are blending the avocado with other items, however, make sure you don’t go the guacamole route.
Guacamole is basically a dish made of mashed avocado mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, and some seasoning. Needless to say, these ingredients could be a bit too overpowering for your dog, and even hazardous at times.
To conclude, your dog can certainly have avocados, provided it consumes the fruit in limited portions and doesn’t eat the fruit’s persin-heavy components. Commercial dog food that contains avocado should also be fine. However, it’s recommended you still be cautious and observe how your dog responds to avocado.
Different dogs react differently to food. Just because your neighbor’s dog is doing well on avocados, it doesn’t mean your dog should be fine eating the fruit too. Therefore, if you have just started feeding your dog some avocados, monitor its response to the fruit over a period of days or even weeks. Check for any visible signs of vomiting, diarrhea, itching, difficulty breathing, hives, etc.
If there are no adverse responses, go ahead with the avocados. But if the dog reacts unfavorably to the fruit, revert to the dog’s original diet. Also, talk to your veterinarian to confirm or rule out foul play by the avocado.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.