Can Dogs Eat Avocado Safely?
What you need to know about dogs and avocados 🥑
If you’re the kind of person who puts guac on everything, you’re probably wondering if you can share some with your pup. So, can dogs eat avocado?
It’s kind of complicated. All parts of the avocado — the stem, the peel, the pit and even the flesh — contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. The flesh of the avocado (aka the edible part) contains less persin than the other parts of the fruit, so you shouldn’t panic if your pup has a small slice or two.
While tiny amounts of avocado flesh are technically OK, you’d still have to be really careful about it.
We spoke with Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a consultant for FiveBarks, and Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, to find out about the benefits and risks of avocado for dogs.
Avocado benefits for dogs
According to Dr. Burch, there are some health benefits of avocados for dogs, since the fruit is a source of nutrients like:
- Potassium: good for muscle function, nerve function and fluid balance
- Vitamin B6: maintains and supports a healthy immune system
- Vitamin C: reduces inflammation
- Vitamin E: supports immune health, skin health and vision
While there are some health benefits of avocados for dogs, there are other sources of these nutrients that are safer alternatives, since they don’t contain any persin at all.
For example, spinach is packed with vitamin E and potassium. Wheat germ and sunflower seeds are good sources of vitamin B6. Vitamin C is something your dog can actually produce himself, so he typically won’t need anything supplemental in his diet for that.
Can dogs eat avocado in certain quantities? How much is too much?
It’s hard to say exactly how much avocado is too much, since we don’t exactly know how much persin is toxic to dogs. “The exact amount of persin that causes dogs' adverse effects is currently unknown but appears to affect dogs less commonly than birds and ruminants [aka animals like goats and sheep],” Dr. Burch told The Dodo.
If you really want to give your dog some avocado every now and then, keep that amount super small. “A small amount of this fruit is not toxic to your pet, and there is no concern if they eat a few slices,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo.
Signs of persin toxicity in dogs
While persin is found in all parts of the avocado, the highest concentrations are found in the leaves, skin and pit, according to Dr. Burch. (But your dog could still develop persin toxicity if he eats too much of the flesh, too.)
If your dog does ingest a poisonous amount of persin, signs of toxicity include:
- Gastrointestinal irritation
- Respiratory issues
- Heart damage (this is super rare)
Even though persin toxicity is rarer in dogs than it is in animals like birds, goats and horses, you should still give your vet a call if your pup gets into your guacamole.
Dangers of avocado for dogs
In addition to the presence of persin, there are a few other reasons why avocado’s bad for dogs.
The pit is a major hazard
The avocado pit does have higher amounts of persin than the fruit’s flesh, but the most dangerous thing about avocado pits is that they can cause a serious blockage if your dog swallows one.
Avocado pits are so smooth that they might be easier to swallow by accident than you’d think.
“The size and shape make it the perfect candidate for causing an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Simon said.
Signs of a gastrointestinal obstruction include:
- Reduced appetite
If you notice your dog swallow an avocado pit, bring him to the vet ASAP because that could be a surgical emergency.
It’s linked to pancreatitis
If your dog has a history of pancreatitis, the high amount of fat in avocados can actually cause flare-ups.
“This is more of a problem in those prone to pancreatitis, who have experienced it before,” Dr. Simon said. “Ideally, these dogs need to be kept on a low-fat diet.”
Can dogs have avocado oil?
While avocado flesh can be OK in small quantities, you should avoid letting your dog have avocado oil.
It also contains persin, but the main concern is actually that avocado oil is high in fat.
“This can lead to stomach upset; vomiting, diarrhea and potentially dehydration,” Dr. Simon said. “In susceptible dogs, there is also a risk of pancreatitis when we feed high-fat oils.”
If you’re looking for a healthy oil to give your dog, Dr. Burch recommends fish oil instead — like salmon oil.
“Avocado oil is also lower in the essential fatty acid omega-3 than fish oil,” Dr. Burch said. “Dogs do not metabolize and benefit from vegetarian sources of fatty acids compared to fish oil.”
Can dogs eat guacamole?
When it comes to guacamole, that’s one dip you definitely shouldn’t let your dog eat. Not even because of the persin content or high levels of fat in the avocado — the seasonings and veggies that go into guacamole are often toxic to dogs.
A lot of guacamole recipes will call for diced onions or garlic powder, and both of those ingredients are poisonous for your pup.
“These ingredients are toxic to dogs, especially onions and garlic, causing damage to red blood cells,” Dr. Burch said.
So while an occasional slice of avocado shouldn’t be harmful for your dog, you’re definitely going to want to store them somewhere your pup can get into. That way, you won’t have to worry about him accidentally swallowing the pit when you aren’t looking, or eating so much of the fruit (and skin) that he develops persin toxicity.
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