Avocados are having a moment. These delicious fruits — yes, they’re a fruit — are all the rage right now, as avocado toast appears on restaurant menus across the country and batches of homemade guacamole get concocted before every dinner party. With all of the avocado floating around in the past few years, it's safe to say that your dog might get his or her paws on the stuff at some point.
But is avocado safe for dogs?
Avocado frequently appears on lists of toxic foods for dogs, and is considered by some veterinarians and animal-care professionals to be a bad choice for our canine friends. Do some quick research online, though, and you'll find claims that the danger is largely overblown and that avocado is in fact a safe choice for dogs.
It turns out that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Let's clear up the misconception around dogs and avocado and answer the ultimate question: Can dogs have avocado, or is it not worth the risk?
The Nutritional Value of AvocadoOne of the reasons that avocados are so popular in the culinary world is because of their nutritional value. The actual fruit portion of the avocado contains healthy fats and fatty acids, as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals. Many of those same benefits translate to your dog. The nutrients that a dog can get from avocado include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Amino acids
Things like fatty acids, niacin, potassium, and folate are essential for your dog's healthy coat of fur — these nutrients help Fido's fur keep its smooth, shiny luster. Vitamins A, B3, B6, C, and E are good for bone health, skin and fur health, eyesight, and a host of other things. So, avocado fruit itself is rich in nutrients, many of which offer health benefits for your pup. But that doesn't mean that avocado comes completely without risk.
The Risks of Avocado
The fleshy fruit portion of the avocado is the safest part of the food for your dog. Still, veterinarians caution against giving your dog large amounts. Plus, the other parts of the avocado present a serious risk to your canine companion.
Persin is a toxic agent found in the avocado plant's leaves, stem, seeds, skin, and almost every other part of the plant — including the fruit. Persin is the reason that avocado gets its bad rap, but it turns out that our canine friends are mostly resistant to it. Your dog would have to eat a very large quantity of avocado to experience toxic effects from persin. The toxin is actually more dangerous to other kinds of animals, like birds, horses, sheep, goats, and cows. Still, it's a good idea to keep your dog away from the avocado plant to be safe, as there are higher concentrations of persin in the plant's seeds, stem, leaves, and bark than in the fruit itself. If you have an avocado tree growing in your yard, don't let your dog nibble at it, and clean up any branches, leaves, or other parts of the plant that fall onto the ground.
You might be surprised to learn that the greatest danger the avocado presents for dogs is actually the pit. The pit (also called the avocado seed) is the large, golf ball-sized object in the middle of the avocado. You remove it when slicing the fruit or mashing it up for guacamole and discard it in the trash, but remember that your dog might go after it. The pit contains persin, yes, but the bigger danger is the choking hazard it presents. The pit is the perfect size to get stuck in your dog's throat, blocking the airway. Even if it makes it past the esophagus, the pit can easily get lodged in the intestinal tract and cause a serious blockage. If your dog eats an avocado pit, take them to the nearest veterinary emergency room right away.
One of the nutritional benefits of avocado is that it contains good fats. Still, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Thanks to the fruit's high fat content, too much avocado can be dangerous for dogs. In fact, large quantities of avocado could even lead to a life-threatening case of pancreatitis because of all the fat. As mentioned above, large amounts of avocado also presents the risk of poisoning thanks to persin. As a general rule, don't feed your dog avocado in abundance. Large amounts can start to cause serious problems.
What About Guacamole?So, avocado fruit itself is okay for your dog to consume in moderate amounts. What about everyone's favorite dip? Guacamole might be delicious, but it's not a great choice for your four-legged friend. The reason is that guacamole almost always contains a few ingredients that are harmful to dogs, including:
These foods can cause an upset stomach at the very least, and a serious case of poisoning at worst. Onions and garlic are particularly dangerous for your pet and can even lead to organ damage and kidney failure if enough is ingested. Consider guacamole one of those human foods that is off-limits for your pooch. As is the case with avocado, it would probably take a large amount to cause serious problems ... but why risk it at all?
How to Give Your Dog Avocado
If you want to give your dog avocado, make sure you're doing so without presenting any risk to your pup. Here are three rules of thumb to follow:
- Keep the portion size small. Giving your dog avocado in large amounts raises the risk of poisoning thanks to persin, and the high fat content can prove dangerous for your pup as well.
- Only give your dog the fruit itself. Never allow your pooch to eat the avocado plant's stem, leaves, or bark. Completely remove the skin of each avocado and discard it, and remove the pit to make sure your dog can't choke on it.
- Only give your dog plain avocado. Never let your dog indulge in guacamole, as it contains other harmful ingredients like onions, garlic, and salt.
Keep a close eye on your pet while they're eating avocado to make sure they don't experience any adverse side effects. Keep the ASPCA's pet poison helpline number on hand in case your dog does exhibit a bad reaction. Remember: There are all kinds of fruits and vegetables that are dangerous for dogs, as well as some that are beneficial. Check out our guide so you can be absolutely sure that what you're feeding your pup is 100% safe.