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Avocados are doggone good, but are they good for canines?


Last updated 4/19/2007 at Noon

Though many dogs love avocados, words of warning are posted on the ASPCA Web page regarding the dangers of this popular fruit. While the oil from an avocado is known to give a pup a shiny coat, pet owners must be kept up to date on any sinister side effects.

Both the ASPCA and APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) have listed that persin, an element in avocados, is known to be toxic to pets. They note it can damage tissue in animals, including, but not limited to, the lungs and heart. Additionally, the high fatty content in avocados can physically provoke severe stomach problems, vomiting, or even worse, pancreatitis.

A number of Fallbrook residents have avocado trees on their property and generally see their canines munch on avocados without experiencing any detrimental results. Inevitably, reading the above information can be quite startling. With that said, we contacted three pet professionals in North County to give their opinions on the subject and shed more light on the issue.

“The biggest concern is when dogs eat avocados they can sometimes consume the seed, and if it is not vomited up on their own, you have to go in and remove it out of their stomach,” said Dr. Charlie Steiner, DVM, at Avocado Animal Hospital. As for persin being a major factor, Steiner really has not seen that component being a problem. His viewpoint is that an obstruction is a bigger concern than persin.

Steiner vocalized that it is best to keep dogs away from avocados because of the weight issue as well. “Many of these dogs become very obese. It can help their hair coat quality, but they become grossly obese.”

On the flip side, Thom Somes, owner and operator of Pet Tech, believes in strictly following the ASPCA guidelines regarding persin in avocados, which has been known to cause gastrointestinal problems. “We stick with what they [the ASPCA] say on their Web site,” he said.

Like Steiner, Somes sees the danger posed by the avocado seed, noting that there should be a choking caution for this fruit. He has had people in his Pet First Aid Class whose dogs like to tear the fruit apart. When dogs get down to the seed, those canine eyes see the round object as a toy.

“Lo and behold, what’s inside an avocado is a ball – this is a dog’s perception,” explained Somes. He has known pet owners whose dogs have choked on avocado seeds, while others have swallowed parts of the seed, causing blockage in the intestinal tract.

“Not only is there a chemical danger with avocados as far as our cats and dogs are concerned,” he said, “but the physical object itself [the seed] is a danger.”

In the cases of pet owners whose dogs nibble on avocados on a regular basis with no adverse side-effects, Somes asserts that these owners are quite lucky. He explained that the reason for this could be that the toxic process of persin might be less rapid.

“There could be a low level of poisonous buildup inside the pet as they are eating avocados,” he warned. “Just as a precaution, it’s still best to keep your pet away from <avocados>.”

In Vista, Dr. John Abella at Aloha Animal Hospital has many four-legged patients living in avocado country.

“In our vicinity there are a lot of dogs in avocado groves, and for the most part it appears not to be clinically significant as far as toxicity,” he said. “It definitely adds fat content to their diet. A lot of dogs do love them, but they do gain weight.”

Abella is well aware of the known toxicities in all parts of the avocado but asserts that specialists are still unsure how the toxic element actually works and the physiology behind it.

“We really don’t know the toxic dose,” he said, explaining that persin is a fatty acid derivative whose biochemical organic chemistry can cause a certain type of reaction.

Abella has surgically addressed avocado seed problems in his practice. “One thing I have definitely done is taken avocado pits out of dogs,” he said. “Avocados end up being more of a foreign body issue than a toxin issue.”

Although these pet professionals might have various versions in their pet health theories, they all agree that some type of warning is appropriate for avocados.

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