Avocados and Pets

Is This Fruit Toxic to Dogs, Cats and Birds?

We wanted to know: What’s the truth about avocados and pets?

Avocado History

An avocado—rich in potassium, fiber and the “good” fat — is native to Central Mexico but can be cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates. A single avocado tree can produce more than 500 avocados each year.

Known as the “fertility fruit” by Aztecs, an avocado dating back to 10,000 B.C. was discovered in a Coxcatlan, Puebla, Mexico cave. Clearly, this fruit was popular long before it became a staple at Super Bowl games and summer barbecues.

Interesting facts: An avocado yields 60% more potassium than a banana and is also called an alligator pear and butter fruit in other parts of the world.

Is Avocado Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

Avocados

This much is true: Most parts of the avocado plant contain an oil-soluble compound called persin, which is thought to be the primary toxin. Persin is most concentrated in the leaves of the avocado tree but also present in the soft fruit (edible portion) the fruit’s seed, as well as bark and other parts of the plant. Ingestion of persin can result in damage to mammary glands and the heart. Intoxication is seen more often in livestock ingesting the leaves of the avocado tree. Some pet bird species are also at high risk.

But is persin poisonous to our dogs and cats?

“Thankfully, avocado does not appear to be highly toxic to dogs and cats” says Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist and director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline.

“In most cases, dogs and cats eating small amounts of fruit are not expected to be poisoned,” explains Brutlag. “The bigger risk to dogs is the foreign body obstruction that can occur when the avocado seed is swalled - it's a large seed and can get stuck in the esophagus, stomach, or intestinal tract. Because of the high fat content, it's also possible for dogs or cats to develop pancreatitis (painful inflammation of the pancreas).”

So, while avocado is fairly safe for our dogs and cats to eat, the best bet is to limit their access to just small amounts of the fruit itself. This can prevent accidental choking as well as unexpected emergency surgery to remove the golf ball-sized pit from within your pet’s body.

Pet birds, however, should never be fed avocado.

Avian and Avocado Toxicity

Parakeet

According to Brutlag, birds such as canaries, parakeets (budgerigars), and cockatiels are extremely susceptible to persin toxicity. Just 1 gram of fruit has been shown to cause agitation and feather pulling in parakeets.

Owners should avoid feeding their birds any avocado.

Other symptoms of persin toxicosis in birds includes the inability to perch, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the bird’s heart and lungs and liver and kidney failure.

If caught in time, your bird can receive treatment for avocado poisoning; however, due to a bird’s high metabolic rate and unique anatomy (including air sacs), many birds do not survive once exposed to avocado or other dangerous poisons.

Concerns about Poisons and Pets

Most veterinarians would recommend that we use the “better be safe than sorry” approach when it comes to feeding our pets table scraps and foods usually reserved for our dinner plates.

If you have concerns about fruits, vegetables and other foods that you might considering feeding your pet, make sure to discuss first with your veterinarian to avoid any accidental poisoning or gastrointestinal issues. There are numerous foods that have proven to be toxic to our pets.