We all love guacamole, right? Well, Fido or Fifi might try to convince you they do, too, but it’s best that you leave the guac and other avo-related dishes to your two-footed human friends and family members. While avocados and guacamole aren’t poisonous to dogs and cats, other pets, such as birds and rabbits, can be sensitive to avocados. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.
No Guac for Your Pets = More Guac for You
Most of the avocado tree, including the bark and leaves, as well as the fruit itself, its skin, and its pit, contain a substance called persin, a fungicide that can irritate some animals and even be toxic for others. Persin is fat-soluble and is actually very similar in structure to the monosaturated fats in avocados that support healthy cholesterol levels. The molecules start out in the avocado pit, and as the fruit gets fattier and tastier and more tempting while ripening on the tree, persin is drawn out of the seed and into the oily flesh of the fruit.
Obviously, persin has no toxic effect on most humans, though it is the suspected culprit for people who have an avocado allergy. And, if you’re a dog or cat owner, don’t worry, it won’t be life threatening if they manage to get into your avocado toast. However, eating the green flesh or the leathery peel can cause stomach upset, and swallowing the seed could lead to a blockage that requires an urgent visit to the vet. Some cat or dog foods are actually made with avocado oil and these are generally considered safe.
Other pet owners need to be more careful. Smaller fuzzy friends, like rabbits and members of the rodent family, don’t tolerate avocado well at all — it can cause serious heart problems. Birds also experience life-threatening respiratory symptoms if they eat enough of the fruit. This applies equally to smaller indoor breeds like canaries and parrots as it does to larger agricultural breeds like chickens and ostriches. Definitely don’t feed your extra avo slices to the ducks or deer at the nature park, and be sure to pack your peels home after the hike instead of leaving them to compost.
The effects of avocado could be part of the tree’s defense mechanism, not just against invading fungus, but against the feathered flock that descends into its branches for lunch. This presents a challenge, since most fruit trees rely on the animals that eat them to disperse the seeds and keep the cycle of growth going. The Resplendent Quetzal gets this great honor, swallowing the fruit whole. Other birds shouldn’t try to live up to that reputation.
If you have a farm full of animals in addition to your indoor pets, larger animals should avoid avocado as well. Keep the fruit away from horses, as well as any ruminants, including cattle, sheep, and goats. Just because they will eat anything doesn’t mean they should! Even fish should avoid avocado, so keep them out of the koi pond and stick to pellets.
Vets generally advise against sharing table food with your pets, but you can’t be blamed for giving in on the rare occasion. So, if you’re going to share a bite of your meal with a furry friend, it’s important to know what foods pets should avoid.
Any kind of symptoms of distress should be evaluated and treated by a vet, but if you aren’t sure what to do and suspect avocado toxicity, get in touch with the folks at the ASPCA’s poison control center (1-888-426-4435) who can help you with advice.