Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ASPCA Warns Dogs Should Not Eat Avocados

Amidst its warnings against feeding chocolate, alcohol, and coffee to pets, the ASPCA also proclaims that avocados contain dangerous chemicals, and their seeds can cause choking, if swallowed.

What's next?  Many dogs in Hawaii and California, where avocados fall off trees, eat avocados regularly without ill effects. Veterinarians in Hawaii accept pets' avocado-eating in moderation.  They even see benefits from dog's eating avocados -- healthier coats and fewer skin problems. 

Putative problem is avocado leaves, skin, and to a lesser extent flesh, contain a fatty chemical, called persin.  The Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine lists avian, rodent, and ungulate species that are susceptible to organ damage from persin in avocado leaves, stems, seed, and to a lesser extent fruit.  Dogs and cats are not among the known species adversely affected by avocado fruit.  The warning against dogs eating avocados rests on one case report of 2 dogs that were said to develop cardiomyopathy after injesting avocados.

Avocados are not a main food for my dogs, but they love to eat one they find on the ground in my orchard.   I have seen absolutely no problems in almost 9 years  from their eating the occasional avocado.  Each of the 10 dogs may find one or two avocados a week.  Avocados have a lot of vegetable fats, which are healthy for dogs' coats and energy levels, but too much of any good thing is undesirable.  Dogs can get quite fat from eating large numbers of avocados regularly.

The warning about a dog swallowing and choking on avocado seeds applies to all small, round objects, such as golf balls, ping pong balls, parts of toys, seeds of other fruits, etc.  I have not observed this phenomenon, but evidently some dogs try to ingest anything that is vaguely nutritious to supplement their inappropriate kibble diets.  It is said that kibble-fed dogs will eat cat poop, and feces of other dogs.  I supposes avocado seeds may be appealing to kibble-fed dogs for the same reason -- any bit of extra nutrition will be eaten.

Dogs choke on kibble and Greenies, too.  My dogs don't swallow or chew on avocado seeds. They also don't eat the cat's poop or each others' poop.  My dogs have raw meats to eat and meaty bones to chew.

On the same page on which the ASPCA issues dire warnings about avocados, they post the following bad advice:
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.
There is so much misinformation in this paragraph, one hardly knows where to begin. The warning about raw eggs applies only to egg whites fed alone, not to whole eggs.  How many pet owners separate egg whites from yokes to feed them to pets? The yoke of eggs contains plenty of biotin to offset avidin in egg white. Whole raw eggs are very healthy additions to pets' diets.  I feed my dogs and cat raw eggs (not just the whites) with crushed egg shells (calcium carbonate) two or three times a week.

The raw meaty bones they warn against should be the principal food in dogs' and cats' diets.. Raw bones don't splinter; cooked bones splinter. Bacteria?  How many times do they have to be told that dog/wolf and cat digestive system are highly acidic and short -- they are designed to handle bacterial loads that could make their human owners ill but do not adversely affect healthy pets.

Perhaps, the best warning I can issue is to remind readers the ASPCA is brought to you by Nestle-Purina, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive. Any advice they give pet owners is filtered through their corporate sponsors. Unfortunately, the ASPCA is against feeding pets anything not produced by their corporate sponsors, including avocados, raw meats, eggs, and meaty bones. Enough said.


  1. I was taken aback by seeing avocados on the list. I know that dogs like to eat them when they fall from trees which makes perfect sense as avocados are loaded with protein. You certainly don't see any dogs scurrying to eat fallen apples, oranges or peaches. You're right to advise readers to consider the source of the warning.

    I don't have any dogs now but do have 2 cats who are indoor-outdoor. I wonder what the ASPCA would have to say about my little ladies supplementing their diet with the birds, mice, rabbits and lizards they kill and to my annoyance insist on bringing in the house to eat. They're not too happy when I find they've brought something in and promptly take it away and put it in the outside trash bin.

    Cats and dogs didn't start out as domesticated animals but as predatory carnivores. Unlike domesticated dogs, many domesticated cats still like to hunt. Dogs having an affinity for protein rich avocados just seems to be part of the natural order no matter what the ASPCA says.

  2. Thanks for this article. Our dogs have been eating dropped avocados off the trees for years, much to the annoyance of my parents, who have to clean the pits off the lawn. They have been happy and healthy all along. What a strange thing to warn about!

    My current dog also likes apples and carrots, just about anything I put in front of her, the little rascal. She'll also happily pick up week-old dead rats the cat has dispatched and bring them in the house. No accounting for taste.

  3. My dog loves avocados and I regularly put them in her food (of which the main ingredient is raw, organic grass-fed ground beef). She doesn't have many teeth left (she's older), so she doesn't do as well with bones. But I feed her veggies all the time, plus raw eggs, and even ginger (she loves it) and grapefruit (she begs for it). They eat what their bodies need.

    Thanks for the post, and for the revelation that ASPCA's sponsors are the very companies that produce the kibble that kills them. Ew.