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Avocado may be a safe source of fiber for dogs

Avocados are a common food in the US and use of them as a source of oil and for other products is on the rise. According to the internet, there’s one thing avocados aren’t good for – dogs. Lots of sources claim that avocados are toxic for pets, pointing in particular to a chemical known as persin as the culprit. Scientists at the University of Illinois were suspicious of this claim, and set out to test avocado meal for use in dog foods.      

“Being from Brazil, avocados grow in our backyards. They fall on the ground, and if dogs get hold of them, they eat them. Just like they do with mangoes, bananas, or any other fruits that grow natively in our country. I’d never heard of a dog dying from eating an avocado, so I was really curious why they were considered toxic here,” said Maria Cattai de Godoy, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

The scientists discovered that there is little research on the toxicity of avocados in dogs. 

“When you look at the literature for avocado toxicity, all that exists are a few case studies,” said Cattai de Godoy. “Dogs reported to have a fondness for avocado showed some signs of toxicity, but the case reports couldn’t prove avocados caused those symptoms. There are a lot of uncontrolled factors in these cases.”

The scientists prepared avocado meal by drying avocado pulp, seed and skins after the fruit has been used for oil. They tested this meal for persin and found that none could be detected, leaving no active ingredient claimed to be toxic to dogs.

“Persin is structurally similar to a polyunsaturated fatty acid, meaning there are a lot of double bonds,” said Cattai de Godoy. “They’re not very stable; heat and light can make them break down. Processing is very likely breaking down persin, which is probably why we cannot see it in the meal.”

The researchers then tested the avocado meal on beagles and found it to be comparable to other fibers already used in dog food and quite palatable. The experts caution, however, that more research is needed before avocado meal becomes a staple of pet foods. 

“I certainly think there’s still work to be done in order to say there are no concerns, especially if we were giving the fresh fruit. But according to our study, I think avocado meal is a safe bet and can be used effectively as a sole source of dietary fiber or in fiber blends.”

The study is published in the Journal of Animal Science.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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