Can Dogs Eat Avocado?
Trends in the pet food space have oftentimes followed the trends in the human food industry, which is why it makes sense that avocados would inevitably make their way into dog food ingredients. Avocado infused dog foods, treats and supplements have been on the rise for a few years and although some parts of the avocado have been proven to be safe for human consumption, dog owners need to question whether there is enough data to support the safety of avocados in their canine’s food.
When looking into varying research on the topic, it seems the answer to this question could be quite complex and requires some dissection in order to make the best decision for your dog.
To start, it’s very important to note that the stem, leaves, pit and peel of an avocado are highly toxic to dogs and to humans. The skin of the avocado contains persin, a fungicidal toxin that should never be consumed. When we take this one truth into consideration, we have to question the likelihood that avocados are being peeled and pitted before making their way into dog food manufacturing. That process would be labor intensive and time consuming, and leads us to believe that it is highly unlikely.
If we take a look at what historical research has shown us, you will find that there is evidence of varying scenarios where different avocado parts have been ingested by dogs and have had varying outcomes.
There was a study conducted in 1994 (1) of 2 starving dogs in South Africa that found their way into an avocado orchard. The dogs ingested the whole parts of the avocado including the stems, leaves, skin and the tree bark which poisoned the dogs to death. In 2012, another study was published in (2) the FASEB Journal, which showed research results for a group of forty(40) Beagles who were given an avocado extract for six-months. The study findings showed that the extract did not cause any harmful effects for those dogs within that time period. Does that mean that avocados are safe for dogs? Or does that mean that avocado extract is safe for dogs? At what quantities and for what time frame?
Some of the commercial dog foods that now include avocado in their ingredient panel only include an avocado oil which has shown to be quite safe in small amounts (to date). Other ingredient panels show avocado meal as an ingredient. The issue with avocado meal is that it is really hard to find a standard definition of what “avocado meal” is comprised. Typically meal is less expensive to produce and would lead us to believe that that avocados are not being peeled and pitted before getting thrown into meal processing equipment.
Another thing to keep in mind in regards to avocados is that they are high in fat content and calories. If your pup is overweight, it’s probably best to consider a recipe that may be lower in calorie/fat content than an avocado-inclusive recipe. Understanding your dog’s daily caloric needs is very important in order to keep your dog healthy into their old age.
Last but not least, like any other ingredient, dogs can also develop allergies to avocados. Signs of an avocado allergy include diarrhea, vomiting, itching or swelling. If any of these symptoms occur while trying avocado-inclusive dog food, seek immediate professional assistance.
The research speaks for itself. There are far more questions than there are answers in regards to the safety of avocado inclusion in dog food, and it will take a bit more time and research to really understand the impact these ingredients can make on our furry friends.
(1) The Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 61 (1):107-9 April 1994
(2) THE FASEB Journal published online 1 Apr 2012 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology