Avocado poisoning in dogs is not something to be very concerned about. Sure, while many animals can get ill from ingesting avocados, the good news is that avocados are not particularly poisonous to dogs or cats.
So can you give your dog avocado? The answer is that in small quantities, avocado is not likely to cause any major problems, however, ingestion of avocado is not without any danger.
It is therefore best to err on the side of caution. Following is some information vets want you to know about giving dogs avocado.
Avocado Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog happens to eat a little bit of avocado you have chopped for a salad, it's not the end of the world.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, in dogs, the level of toxicity of avocado is mild, while in birds and ruminants such as cattle, goats and horses, it can range from moderate to severe.
The main toxic component in avocado is a toxin known as persin.
Persin acts as a defense mechanism to protect the avocado fruit from fungus.
Indeed, persin is a fungicidal toxin (meant to kill fungi) that is contained in the pit and it leaches into the fruit. Persin is mostly concentrated in the peel, pit, and leaves of the avocado plant.
Because persin is more concentrated inside the avocado's pit, it's more dangerous when the pit is crushed. Large amounts of persin in the avocado's pit and skin may cause gastrointestinal upset at lower levels and actual heart muscle toxicity at very high levels, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara.
If the pit is swallowed in a large piece, there's therefore less risk of toxicity, but then you should be worried about the pit causing a potentially dangerous obstruction, explains veterinarian Dr. Drew.
The risk and implications of an obstruction as a result of a dog eating an avocado pit are explained discussed below.
"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
The Problem with Fats
On top of persin, avocados tend to have a high fat content and this can sometimes cause problems.
Just consider that just a 100 gram serving of avocado contains 120 calories and 10 grams of fat out of which 2 grams are saturated and the remaining 8 grams are unsaturated.
This high fat content may cause in sensitive dogs a bout of acute pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the dog's pancreas, and affected dogs can get very sick and tend to develop severe vomiting, abdominal pain and fever explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
Help, My Dog Ate an Avocado Pit!
It may sound surprising, but the biggest risk to dogs when consuming avocado is ingestion of the pit. However, the issue is mostly not because of the pit's persin content, but rather because of the pit's size.
Once swallowed, based on the dog's size and the size of the pit, the pit may pass through uneventfully or it may get stuck and cause a blockage in the dog's esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract.
While at times, when dogs ingest something potentially harmful, inducing vomiting may be an option, it could be risky business with an avocado pit due to the fact that it could get stuck in the dog's esophagus making problems even worse!
And if the pit was chewed, consider that its jagged surface can cause injuries as it's brought back up. Doing radiographs may be the best course of action. Consult with your vet.
"Certainly, I would not suggest inducing vomiting at home because of the risk of asphyxiation if the pit becomes lodged in the upper esophagus or pharynx, potentially blocking the airway."~Dr. Drew.
Signs of Trouble
Ingesting significant amounts of avocado may cause in dogs the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
These symptoms may be due to eating too much avocado, but they can also be the first signs of an inflamed pancreas or even a blockage, if the dog managed to eat the pit.
In some dogs with a sensitive stomach or small dogs, just a small amount of avocado can be at times enough to cause symptoms of digestive irritation such as diarrhea or vomiting.
For mild cases of tummy upset due to just eating something different, a brief fast for 12 to 24 hours to allow the stomach to rest, followed by a dog upset stomach bland diet of boiled chicken (skinless, with fat removed), rice, or sweet potatoes fed in small amounts may be all that's needed.
If your dog ate avocado though is vomiting frequently or showing other signs of discomfort, or if he ate the pit, then it's important to see the vet, sooner than later, especially if it wasn't chewed much.
In such a recent ingestion there are chances that the pit is still inside the dog's stomach and an endoscope can be used to remove it, sparing the dog from going through an invasive surgery.
However, not always this option is feasible and at times surgery remains the only way to get the troublesome foreign object out.
A Case Report of Avocado Poisoning in Dogs
According to a case report, two dogs known for regularly eating whole avocados and other plant parts, presented with similar intoxication signs seen in goats, sheep and horses poisoned by avocados.
The Bottom Line
So to sum things up, the avocado pits and skin are the parts that contain the most concentrated levels of persin. The actual fruit contains very trace amounts, and as such, is unlikely to create any problems other than mid digestive irritation, however, in predisposed dogs it may trigger a bout of pancreatitis.
The biggest danger is the pit, especially when swallowed whole or in large pieces, since it can potentially lead to a blockage.
However, avocados shouldn't be purposely fed, as the subject of whether they are harmful or not remains a subject of controversy.
So much so that even Veterinary Information Network, the go-to website for veterinarians, lists avocados as one of the people foods not to feed pets.
Even board-certified veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Deborah E. Linder in an article for Tufts University suggests to skip avocados when making home-made dehydrated chews for dogs due to their suspected toxicity.
- Pet Poison Helpline: Avocado
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Avocado Toxicology
- DVM360: Keep pets safe at your Superbowl party, Guacamole
- Buoro IB, Nyamwange SB, Chai D, Munyua SM. Putative avocado toxicity in two dogs. Onderstepoort J Vet Res. 1994 Mar;61(1):107-9. PMID: 7898892.
- Veterinary Information Network: People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
- Tufts University, Petfoodology: How To Make Your Own Dried Chews