You may swear by avocados, whether for the wonders it does for your health or your beauty regimen, but does your pet? Apparently, no, and it shouldn’t ever be an acquired taste for them either. Why? Because their metabolism is different from you and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists avocado as one of the top 10 toxic foods for pets.
No Avocado For Your Pets
Avocado fruit, pits, leaves, bark, and the plant are potentially poisonous for dogs, cats, mice, rats, birds, rabbits, horses, cattle, and goats.1 According to ASPCA, it is especially problematic for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants—animals, such as a cow or sheep, that have more than one stomach and regurgitate food.
It Contains Persin Which Is Toxic To Animals
Avocado leaves contain a toxic fatty acid derivative called persin that can cause gastrointestinal and other health problems in some animal species. The symptoms of avocado toxicity are edema of the throat and chest areas—edema is a condition where excessive fluid collects in the cavities or tissues of the body—congestion of the lungs, and a severe but non-infectious mammary gland inflammation called mastitis, with a marked decrease in milk flow.2
Avocado’s seed and bark may also contain persin. While different varieties of avocado can have different degrees of toxicity, the Guatemalan variety of avocado, one of the most common ones, may be more troublesome.3
If you have a bird friend, keep avocados away. Birds are particularly sensitive to persin, and most cases of avocado toxicity in birds are fatal.
In one study, researchers gave two varieties of mashed avocado to eight canaries and eight budgerigars and plain water to two control budgerigars. Six budgerigars and one canary died within 24 to 27 hours after the first administration of avocado, while the control birds remained normal and healthy.
Postmortem findings showed that there was an accumulation of fluid in the tissue spaces in the inner layers of the skin in the chest region—a condition known as subcutaneous edema. There was also an excessive accumulation of fluid in the pericardial cavity in the pericardial sac that holds the heart—a condition known as hydropericardium. Both varieties of avocado were fatal for the birds, and higher dose was associated with greater mortality.4
While the study reveals that avocados are less toxic to canaries than to budgerigars, more studies are needed to understand the level of toxicity in other birds. But it is best to avoid feeding avocado to any bird.
Not just that, make sure no part of the avocado tree, like its twigs and branches, is your bird’s playing or chewing accessories. To be safe, keep bird cages away from avocado trees so that there is no chance of falling leaves or your bird accidentally eating the fruit. And if you notice any signs of avocado toxicity, rush to a vet without any delay.
Can Dogs And Cats Eat Avocado?
There is some confusion about whether the avocado fruit is poisonous for dogs and cats. While some vets say that overeating avocados can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort in them, some pet food companies sell food items containing avocado and avocado oil, which they claim are completely safe for both cats and dogs.
One 1994 study on two dogs with a history of breathlessness, progressively enlarging abdomens, and edema in the lungs found that they had damaged liver and kidneys and the symptoms of toxicity in them were similar to the avocado toxicity symptoms seen in horses, goats, and sheep. It turned out that both the dogs were fond of eating avocados.5
There’s no debate on the verdict on avocado’s toxicity for rabbits, horses, and cattle, however. Studies have found it toxic for them. A study shows that two male Chinchilla rabbits died of severe congestion of liver, infarction of kidney, caused by interruption of the normal blood supply, and inflammation of the heart muscle, caused by the consumption of avocado leaves.6
If you keep fish as pets, keep the fish tank or aquarium away from any part of the tree or the fruit. The leaves, bark, seeds, and skin of avocado are toxic, and the leaves remain toxic even after drying. So don’t let the leaves fall accidentally into fish tanks. Cases of avocado poisoning in fish are not uncommon.
Goats And Sheep
Avocado’s leaves have serious health consequences on goats and sheep, too. A research published in Journal of the South African Veterinary reveals that 6 of 21 goats feeding on fresh avocado leaves from trees showed clinical signs of cardiac distress. Some sheep fed on the same variety of avocado leaves and other varieties, too, showed signs of respiratory or cardiac distress.7
Horses And Cows
Don’t feed avocados to your horses, nor allow them to graze in avocado orchards. By and large, avocado is dangerous for livestock and cattle. There is great risk of cardiovascular damage and death in birds and horses. And the ruminants end up with swollen heads and neck caused by excess accumulation of fluid in the brain, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, fainting, and, in severe cases, even seizures and coma.8
Not Even A Little?
The debate on what quantity of avocado is harmful for which animal will continue until new researches will come. Till then, follow the study published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology that states that feeding avocado to any animal should be completely avoided since the lethal dose is not known yet and the effect is different depending on the animal species.9
So check with your vet, or better still, stop giving avocados to your animal friends no matter how fond they might be of it. Stick to food developed specially for them.
|↑1, ↑9||Kovalkovičová, Natália, Irena Šutiaková, Juraj Pistl, and Václav Šutiak. “Some food toxic for pets.” Interdisciplinary toxicology 2, no. 3 (2009): 169-176.|
|↑2||Clipsham, Robert. “Avocado Toxidty.” AFA Watchbird 14, no. 2 (1987): 14-15.|
|↑3||Toxic And Non-Toxic Plants: Avocado. ASPCA|
|↑4||Hargis, A. M., E. Stauber, S. Casteel, and D. Eitner. “Avocado (Persea americana) intoxication in caged birds.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 194, no. 1 (1989): 64-66.|
|↑5||Buoro, I. B. J., S. B. Nyamwange, D. Chai, and S. M. Munyua. “Putative avocado toxicity in two dogs.” (1994).|
|↑6||Singh, W. Ramdas, Tridib K. Rajkhowa, KH Victoria Chanu, M. Ayub Ali, C. Lalmuanthanga, Pritam Mohan, and MA Ayub Shah. “Histopathological changes caused by accidental avocado leaves toxicity in rabbits.”|
|↑7||Grant, R., P. A. Basson, H. H. Booker, J. B. Hofherr, and M. Anthonissen. “Cardiomyopathy caused by avocado (Persea americana Mill) leaves.” Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 62, no. 1 (1991): 21-22.|
|↑8||Animal Poison Control: People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets, ASPCA|