If your dog ate an avocado, you may wonder whether avocados pose a danger to dogs. Avocados are among the most popular health foods available on the market. There is no modern diet or trendy health blog that does not include or mention avocados. The avocado’s benefits are well-established. The above stated is true for us humans, but what about our beloved canine companions? Are dogs and avocados a good combination? Should dogs eat avocados? Unfortunately, dogs and avocados are not a good combination – to prevent any problems, dogs should not eat avocados. In fact, there are several reasons to prevent dogs from eating this fruit.
Help, My Dog Ate an Avocado!
Avocados (Persea americana) are concerning because they contain a fungicidal, oil-soluble and naturally occurring toxin named persin. When compared to other animal species (cattle, horses and birds), dogs are more resistant to persin, but they are still sensitive enough to be troubled by its effects. The toxic substance can be found in the actual plant, the pit, the bark and the leaves (highest concentration).
Naturally, the pulp does not contain persin, but the persin contained in the pit can leak into the pulp. It should be noted that different avocado varieties have different levels of poisonous potential. The Guatemalan variety (the most frequently found in stores) has the highest poisonous potential. On the flip side, the Californian variety has lower toxic potential.
Unfortunately, the persin’s lethal dose is not determined. However it is determined that ingestion of avocado in dogs may lead to gastrointestinal upset. Gastrointestinal upset in dogs usually manifests with anorexia, frequent vomiting and explosive diarrhea followed by dehydration and lethargy.
Because the avocado is very rich in fats, frequent consummation of small amounts of avocado can lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). This applies particularly for dogs that are prone to chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis in dogs manifests with anorexia, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. It is a potentially fatal condition that requires prompt veterinary attention.
There is also a report of two dogs developing myocardial damage after ingesting avocado, but overall, dogs appear to be relatively resistant compared with other species known to suffer more from its damaging effects (caged birds).
Although it is true that avocados contain plenty of healthy substances like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fatty acids, these nutrients can be obtained by feeding other foods with fewer and lesser risks for side-effects.
A Word About the Pit
Perhaps, one of the biggest dangers of dogs eating avocados is the presence of the pit. The relatively big pit inside the avocado poses a choking hazard if it lodges in the dog's throat. As a condition, choking is a potential killer. If your dog is choking, do not wait for veterinary help because the dog is in danger of suffocating. Choking is frightening for dogs (even an otherwise calm dog is liable to struggle and bite).
It is important to therefore take extra care to restrain the dog so it does not injure you. Additionally, it is important to take care that the pit blocking the airway does not cause further damage.
Simply put, choking should be handled in two steps: 1) Restrain the dog. If the animal is small, wrap it in a towel with only its head visible. If the dog is large, restrain it by backing it into your legs. Alternatively, ask someone else to hold on to the dog while you examine the mouth and remove the obstruction.
2) Open the mouth by grasping the upper jaw with one hand and pressing the upper lip over the upper teeth. Draw the lower jaw down with your other hand. Use the blunt end of a spoon to pry the object off the teeth or away from the roof of the mouth.
On top of presenting a choking hazard, the pit can lead to a blockage. Dogs are not very picky eaters and often tend to foolishly swallow things. When dogs swallow avocados they also swallow the pit.
If the pit is smaller, it can pass through uneventfully or accompanied by soft stools or diarrhea. If the avocado’s pit has a larger diameter, it will become lodged in the stomach or intestines and cause an obstruction. Gastrointestinal obstructions manifest with vomiting, anorexia, refusal to drink water, fever, lethargy and pain. In most cases, the lodged pit needs to be surgically removed.
" The bigger risk to dogs and cats is a foreign body obstruction in the esophagus, stomach, or intestinal tract if part or all of a large avocado seed is swallowed. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is also possible due to the high fat content in avocados."~Pet Poison Helpline
Compared to other animal species, dogs are more resistant to the persin’s toxic effects. However, they are still sensitive and dogs can suffer avocado poisoning if exposed to sufficient amounts of persin.
Small amounts of persin in dogs, generally may lead to gastrointestinal upset manifested with diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs prone to pancreatitis may be at risk for an exacerbation of their condition. Another problem with the avocados is the size of their pits. Dogs are voracious eaters and they can easily swallow the pit. Once swallowed, the pit may cause gastrointestinal obstruction. If the swallowed pit ends up in the airway it can cause choking.
Preventing dogs from eating avocados to avoid these problems is therefore important. If you are a responsible dog parent and you like avocados, there are several steps you can take to prevent accidents. Those include:
- Making sure all household members are aware of the dangers associated with avocado consumption in dogs (it is advisable to make a list of fruits and veggies dogs can and cannot eat and put the list on the fridge)
- Investing in dog-proof garbage cans (this is particularly important if your dog likes to dig in the trash)
- Keeping the avocados out of your dog’s reach (keep in mind that dogs are very clever and cunning, so finding a place that is out of their reach can be tricky)
- Always reading the label (this applies when using human foods and snacks for dogs) to make sure the product does not contain avocados or traces of avocados.
"Avocado contains persin, a substance that can prove fatal to birds. For dogs and cats, it's unclear how toxic it is, but it is recommended that avocados or anything made from them not be fed to your pets. "~DVM360