Are Avocados Good for Your Pets?

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
safe for pets
Dog with avocado

Story at-a-glance -

  • Avocados have a reputation for being poisonous for pets because parts of the plant contain a toxin named persin, which can cause various health complications such as vomiting, diarrhea and breathing problems. Only the seed, skin and leaves contain high amounts of persin (not the flesh)
  • Feeding your pets avocado may actually benefit their health, but only if they eat the flesh of the fruit
  • Your pet may benefit from the vitamins, minerals and healthy fats of avocado when given as treats

Avocados are some of the trendiest fruits these days. More and more studies are coming out showing that avocados can benefit human health.1,2 But what about your four-legged pal? Can they benefit from being fed avocados as treats? It turns out, they actually can, and you don't even need to buy the organic variety.

The majority of avocados sold in the supermarket are free from pesticides, according to a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In fact, avocados are at the top of EWG's "Clean Fifteen" list for 2020.3

Are Avocados Safe for Dogs?

Avocado has a reputation for being poisonous to dogs, a belief that some organizations, such as the American Kennel Club, agree with.4 But where did the myth about avocados being bad for your dog actually began?

This belief may have originated from a 1994 study published in The Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research titled "Putative Avocado Toxicity in Two Dogs."5 Note that putative means "supposed,"6 which means that avocados can cause health complications, but there is also a chance that they may not.

Avocado plants contains persin, a poisonous substance found in the skin, stems and leaves of the plant. Persin is also found in the flesh of avocado, in trace amounts. In the study mentioned earlier, the dogs wandered into an avocado orchard, and proceeded to eat the plants because they were starving. Note that their stomach contents weren't analyzed. The researchers only provided a visual comparison to 15 goats that displayed similar symptoms before dying. (It's surmised the goats primarily consumed avocado leaves, which are very high in persin.)

This study contributed to the reputation that avocados are bad for dogs, a myth that is thankfully resolving due to the benefits dog owners are seeing by feeding avocado oil and fruit to their animals. The fruit, which contains plenty of healthy fats (21 grams for a Hass avocado7), is a good nutritional supplement for your dog. It even boosts the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K) found in other foods.8,9 Avocados may also benefit your pet's gut bacteria.10

Aside from healthy fats, a Hass avocado, weighing around 136 grams, contains an assortment of vitamins and minerals with the following amounts:11

  • Magnesium — 39 milligrams
  • Calcium — 73 milligrams
  • Potassium — 690 milligrams
  • Vitamin C — 8.8 milligrams
  • Folate — 89 milligrams
  • Vitamin E — 2.68 milligrams

Are Avocados Bad for Dogs?

Avocados are not bad for dogs. In fact, it's the opposite — serving them as treats to your dog can actually benefit their health. A 2012 study finally debunked the idea that they are bad, after showing that beagles fed with avocado extract did not show any adverse health effects.12 However, you need to be careful on what part of the avocado you feed them, which is where many pet owners make mistakes.

When feeding avocados to your dog, only give them the fleshy part (the same part you eat). Take care to remove the skin and the pit to ensure that you're not inadvertently poisoning your dog with the persin that is in those parts of the avocado.

On the off chance that your pet consumes other parts of the fruit, you need to be aware of the signs of persin toxicity so that you can get your pet help right away:13

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory distress
  • Congestion

Can Cats Eat Avocado?

Research published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology noted that avocados should not be fed to cats due to the possibility of persin ingestion.14 However, as with dogs, there's not enough evidence to fully support this claim.

There's also a study that notes that of 1,616 phone calls made to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory over a period of three years, avocados comprised 4.1% of all the plant-based toxic substances reported.15 The main problem with this study is that the pet owners didn't specify what part of the avocado was eaten, so it's possible the cats consumed other parts of the avocado plant aside from the flesh.

There are many people who feed small amounts of avocado fruit to their dogs and cats. In higher amounts, the natural fats found in this fruit may upset your pet's stomach, so offering only tiny pieces is recommended. Most cats, being carnivores, will not choose to eat this fruit.

Exercise Caution With Avocado Stems, Leaves and Pits

It's important that your pets do not consume stems, leaves and pits of avocados. If you have avocado plants growing in your garden, make sure your pets do not ingest the stems, leaves or the tree bark (though this is very unlikely to happen). The biggest threat of persin ingestion is when dogs raid garbage cans and eat discarded skins and pits.

It's also important to remember that avocados should be given only as treats, and in tiny quantities. Ideally, treats should comprise only 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake, with avocado being a small percentage of overall treats. Work with your integrative veterinarian to compute your pet's total daily intake to decide how you can incorporate avocados into it. With the correct serving size, avocados can be a scrumptious, refreshing treat for your four-legged friend.

For more information on this topic, you can read my article "Is Avocado Safe for Dogs?"

Frequently Asked Questions About Avocados for Pets

Q: Is avocado poisonous for cats?

A: Avocado can be potentially poisonous for cats if they eat parts of the avocado plant other than the flesh, such as the skin and pit. When feeding avocado, only give your cat the flesh. But please note: Most cats will not eat avocado.

Q: Is avocado poisonous for dogs?

A: Avocado can be poisonous for dogs when they eat other parts of the plant other than the flesh, such as the seed, skin and leaves. Only the flesh should be eaten to minimize the risk of persin poisoning.

Q: Can pets eat avocado oil?

A: Yes, you can use avocado oil to gently cook your pet's meals.

Q: Can dogs eat avocado pits?

A: Dogs should not eat the pits of avocados as they contain persin, a toxin that can cause health complications.