A question was posed to me about avocados and their oil. In particular, holistic vets were talking about how wonderful this oil is for dogs’ coats and overall skin health.
Avocado oil for dogs: The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. Let’s review some of the history of avocado and its effects on animals:
Avocados are not toxic to pets in general, but they can cause upset stomachs if ingested by animals who aren’t used to eating them; plants in the same family (Sapindaceae) such as poison ivy can also produce rashes or even be fatal when eaten by an animal that’s not used to them.
The pit and leaves are most toxic, but the fruit of an avocado is not toxic to dogs or cats unless they are severely allergic. When it comes to using avocado oil with animals, here’s what experts have found:
Avocado oil can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets just as it does in humans.
Avocado contains persin, which is also toxic to horses. Horses can be fatally harmed by as little as .1% of their body weight; for a 1000 lb horse that would mean eating roughly 8 ounces of fresh avocado or about 2 tablespoons of oil (but since some horses will eat more than others, some breeds, like Clydesdales who love avocados, might consume more). Symptoms of avocado poisoning in horses include colic, diarrhea, respiratory distress, and cardiac failure.
Avocado oil can cause fatty liver disease in dogs.
In a study of over 100 dogs with fatty liver disease, half were given avocado or soybean oil as part of their treatment. The other half received safflower oil as a control group. Researchers found that those dogs receiving the avocado or soybean oil were much more likely to have an increase in triglyceride levels than those who received safflower oil. The lead researcher advised against giving these oils to dogs with any kind of hepatopathy (liver disease).
In addition, feeding pets too much fat can result in pancreatitis. If you’re going to use any type of oil to add healthy fats to your pet’s diet, make sure you limit it properly.
Avocado oil is also a potential allergen for dogs and cats, especially if they have allergies to other foods in the same family (such as poison ivy, oak, or sumac). Some animals may experience itching or rashes if exposed to avocado oil or other parts of the fruit.
Where I stand on using avocado oils for dogs:
If you’re going to use any kind of fat supplement for your dog’s diet, current research suggests that safflower oil might be the least problematic option out there about causing triglyceride levels and liver problems. Although an occasional bit of guacamole won’t kill your dog, there aren’t nearly enough real studies on avocado oil in dogs to know for sure whether it’s safe to use in any way, so I recommend avoiding the stuff until there are more conclusive findings.
If you want to use a natural oil source that comes from an animal source, why not try olive oil? We have several kinds of food-grade olive oils available at Work The Bag; they can be used as part of a heart-healthy diet for pets and people alike!