Feeding your dog the right foods isn’t as easy as it sounds! While it may seem that your best friend is quite capable of eating anything and everything, it doesn’t mean that he should. Just like kids, dogs are naturally curious about different foods and will often eat first and think later—sometimes when you’re not even looking.
Unfortunately, this innate curiosity means that he might happily wolf down things that aren’t good for him, or can even make him sick. But it’s also possible for you to feed your precious companion something that seems safe, only to find out later it’s not particularly good for him!
There are lots of foods out there that harbor nutritional benefits for both humans and dogs. Then, there are some that you might think are so ‘ordinary’ that they can’t possibly do any harm. One of these is avocado.
Avocados are a stone fruit that grow in warm climates. They have a pale-green, creamy texture and provide a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). As a ‘superfood,’ avocados are naturally rich in nutrients and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. This means that avocados are great for humans—but can dogs eat avocado, too?
Is avocado safe for dogs to eat?
This is a tricky one—the answer is yes and no. Avocados might be a delicious treat with loads of nutrients, but they also contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. Persin is a natural compound produced within the avocado plant to ward off pests. The levels of persin vary between the different types of avocados, and it mostly present in the leaves, skin, and seed. Persin can cause serious health issues in many animals, and may even be fatal if eaten in large amounts.
Dogs and cats aren’t particularly sensitive to this toxin, although other animals certainly are. Dogs can actually tolerate persin better than animals such as horses and birds. But that doesn’t mean dogs are completely immune to its potential risks.
In a nutshell? Avocados may not be the safest choice for your companion. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, it may be best to avoid making them part of his daily diet.
That said, dogs can still eat a small amount of avocado flesh without issues—so don’t panic if he gobbles up a piece that falls out of your salad! The highest concentration of persin is in the leaves, pits, and the thick skin. The creamy flesh actually contains low levels of the chemical, which is why it’s quite safe for humans to eat. After all, we know not to eat the leaves, skin, or pits! But dogs don’t; they’re inclined to chow down on the whole fruit.
The risks of giving your dog avocado
It’s not certain how much persin your dog would have to eat in order to suffer its ill effects. With that said, avocado flesh has a high fat content, and large amounts have been known to cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially even myocardial damage.
There are also reports of pancreatitis if a dog eats too much avocado.
It’s also important to note that while avocado flesh is a good source of healthy fats, it’s very high in calories. Regular consumption (and lack of exercise) could lead to unnecessary weight gain.
Another concern is the large pit or stone inside the avocado. Dogs aren’t the most careful eaters, and tend to ‘inhale’ their food when they’re hungry. This poses a significant risk for choking on the stone. But if they do swallow it, they still might have problems. The pit of an avocado is extremely difficult to digest, so it may get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract and cause an intestinal blockage. Obviously this can be very serious, and your dog may require surgery to have the pit removed.
If your dog does wolf down a whole avocado, make sure you watch him carefully for the next 24-48 hours. If he begins vomiting, has diarrhea, or shows other signs of abdominal discomfort, take him straight to your veterinarian.
Alternatives to serving avocado to dogs
It’s still quite safe to serve your dog a few thin slices of fresh avocado over his dinner: after all, it’s a very nutrient-rich treat and the health benefits are worth it. Small amounts won’t cause him any harm. Of course, there are plenty of other delicious, nutrient-dense foods that your dog can enjoy quite safely. As with any food, though, they must be given in moderation. Variety will keep your dog happy and healthy!
To add texture and crunch to your dog’s meal, try a few slices of fresh apple, carrots, or broccoli. These are all rich in vitamin C, which is highly beneficial for your dog’s immune function and antioxidant capacity. Other great fruits and vegetables that add vitamins and minerals to your dog’s diet include strawberries, peas, blueberries, cantaloupe, and even small amounts of spinach. As mentioned above, all of these must be in moderation.
If you want to top up your dog’s essential fatty acid intake without feeding him avocado, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a much healthier option: fish oil. Fish oil is rich in important omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, support cellular function, nourish connective tissue, and much more. Fish oil is particularly good for the health of his skin and fur. And it’s very easy to administer: the best way is simply to feed fish! Whole sardines are a great choice, but sardines canned in water work well too (and some dogs refuse whole fish).
Learn more about other foods dogs can and can't eat