It’s no big secret: Humans love avocados. And we absolutely love the way the heart-healthy fruit loves us back! But while your furry friends might try to convince you they, too, love guacamole, it’s important to be sure — can animals eat avocado? Better yet, should they?
It’s best that you leave the guac and other avo-related dishes to your two-footed human friends and family members. Dogs, cats, and other pets, such as birds and rabbits, can be sensitive to avocados. Some may even experience serious distress if exposed to certain parts of the fruit. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.
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’ stomachs, while it could 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, the levels of persin found in an avocado’s smooth green flesh has no toxic effect on most humans, though it is the suspected culprit for people who do have an avocado allergy.
Not to worry if your kitty or pup accidentally manages to snag a bite of your avocado toast. Some cat and dog foods are actually made with avocado oil and these are generally considered safe. However, eating the green flesh or the leathery peel can cause stomach upset for your furry friend, and swallowing the large seed could lead to a blockage that requires an urgent visit to the vet. So better not to share your guac. (More for you!)
Keep your avocados out of reach of your pet by knowing how to store avocados properly.
Other pet owners need to be more careful. Smaller fuzzy friends, like rabbits, rats, mice, and hamsters don’t tolerate avocado well at all. The peel or pit may cause serious heart problems in small rodents if they consume the peel or pit. In fact, dried avocado seeds have historically been an ingredient in homemade rodent deterrents. Sorry, Mr. Fuzzywhiskers.
Birds who get their beaks into avocado can experience life-threatening respiratory symptoms. This is true for smaller indoor breeds like canaries and parrots AND larger agricultural breeds like chickens and ostriches. Certainly don’t feed your extra avocado 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 any feathered flock that might descend into its branches for lunch. Though it may be a defense, this also presents a challenge for the future of the avocado plant, since most fruit trees rely on the animals that eat them to disperse the seeds and keep the cycle of growth going. Native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal gets this great honor, swallowing the avocado’s massive fruit whole and regurgitating the unpassable seed. Other birds should not try to live up to that reputation.
Another animal known for consuming the avocado whole and disposing of its pit was the giant prehistoric ground sloth. Now extinct, this large mammal may be part of the reason we still have avocados to this day.
If you have a farm full of animals in addition to your indoor pets, it is important to note that larger animals should avoid avocado as well. Keep the fruit away from horses, as well as any ruminants like 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 to avoid increasing the toxicity of the water.
Vets generally advise against sharing table food with your pets, but we all have our moments of weakness when we see those puppy eyes. Learn what other foods pets should avoid here, but when in doubt, try to refrain from giving scraps
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 if your pet has consumed avocado.
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