Can Dogs Eat Avocados?
Avocados aren't a natural food for dogs. It is OK for dogs to eat small amounts (think a tablespoon or less) of avocado that happens to have been mixed in with other foods, but you shouldn't set aside an avocado as an intentional addition to homemade dog food, treat, or supplement. And you shouldn't let your dog get into your bowl of guacamole!
Avocados Generate Chemical Defenses
You may have heard that avocados are toxic to dogs. And if you are talking about avocado leaves, avocado bark, avocado peels, and avocado pits, they are.
An avocado plant is susceptible to infection by a kind of fungus with the tongue-twisting name Phytophthora cinnamomi. It makes the roots of the tree slowly rot. First, some of the leaves turn yellow. Then the fruit falls off the tree before it matures. Then the whole plant dies.
Avocado plants have been bred to have resistance to these fungi. They create soap-like compounds called saponins that wash fungus spores off the plant. There is a lot of natural "soap" in the leaves and in the seed, so eating either of these parts of the plant causes stomach upset in dogs and humans. There are some saponins in the flesh of the avocado, but not enough to interfere with canine or human digestion.
Fungus-resistant avocado trees also produce a group of chemicals called glucosinolates. This is the same family of compounds that appear in broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. They contribute to the flavor of the avocado, and they are beneficial for canine and human health. Glucosinolates are cancer fighters.
As an avocado ripens, it emits ethylene gas. Ethylene has a sweet and musky odor, adding to the flavor of the avocado. It kills fungi and could be mildly intoxicating if you breathed in a lot of it. A dog that eats a bowl of guacamole will get a little woozy (before throwing up and developing diarrhea).
Avocados can even generate the principal ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, when they are injured by infections, insects, or rough handling. All of these chemical defenses are potentially toxic to your canine companion.
What Happens to Dogs That Eat Avocados?
Your dog's reaction to eating avocado depends on what part of the plant and how much they eat. Dogs sometimes ingest parts of the avocado plant that humans would not.
The flesh of the avocado is the least toxic part of the plant. It contains saponins, so eating more than a slice or two could cause your dog to develop vomiting and/or diarrhea. This part of the avocado also generates salicylic acid, so it can cause stomach upset.
The skin of the avocado has much higher concentrations of the chemicals the plant uses to defend itself against insects and infections. Dogs that eat avocado skin may quickly develop irritation of the mouth and gums. If they manage to swallow the skin, they may not be able to digest it. It may cause considerable discomfort as it passes through the dog's digestive tract.
The avocado seed contains numerous noxious chemicals that can harm your dog's health, but the bigger problem is that your dog cannot digest it. It can become lodged in your dog's throat, in the valve between the stomach and the small intestine, and lower in your dog's digestive tract. If it causes part of your dog's intestines to become strangulated, cut off from the circulation that brings them oxygen and nutrients, sepsis can set in, and your dog's life will be in danger.
It is OK for dogs to consume small amounts of guacamole (less than a teaspoon or five grams for puppies and less than a tablespoon or 15 grams for adult dogs) or avocado that has been mixed in with table food they share. It is never a good idea to intentionally add avocado in any amount to your dog food. There are safer sources of the nutrients in avocados for your dogs.
Always seek veterinary advice when you see your dog eat avocado skin or swallow an avocado seed. If you notice that your dog is hiding, lethargic, in pain, or straining to poop, take them to their veterinarian right away.
The best food for your dog is from Cornucopia Pet Foods. Cornucopia combines the flavors dogs love with the nutrition they need for happy, active lives with the people they love. Contact us in Huntington, NY today!