Life might seem easier if we could feed our pets what we eat -- until you get the vet bill. Save the guacamole for your human friends and family; avocado contains a toxic ingredient that could cause illness or death in horses and unwanted symptoms in cats and dogs.
While it doesn’t matter what it’s called, experts with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals names the toxic ingredient in avocados as persin. It is believed to be present in all parts of the plant: fruit, bark, skin and leaves, whether they’re fresh or dried. This means if your horse can reach an avocado tree over the fence, move the tree or move the horse.
Symptoms in Horses
For mares, or female horses, eating a small amount can cause mastitis, which is an infection in the teats. If the horse is nursing a baby, she will likely produce less milk and the quality will range from poor to downright disgusting with curdling. If you notice swelling in any horse’s neck -- male or female -- respiratory distress or colic, it’s likely the horse ingested a higher dose of the toxin. Call your vet even if you think she ate only a small quantity.
Dogs and Cats
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You can count avocados among the many things that cause your dogs and cats to throw up and have diarrhea. To make it even more interesting, it can also cause constipation. Even though the toxicity is more mild in dogs and cats, this isn’t something you want going on in their bodies -- or your house. Definitely keep dogs away from the large seed, as it can get lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestine.
Benefits of Avocado
For all the harm it can cause to pets, smart scientists have figured out a way to properly extract a beneficial ingredient from avocado and combine it with a soybean extraction to create avocado/soybean unsaponifiables. ASU is popular in pet joint supplements, so if you notice it as an ingredient, don’t panic. Some dog and cat foods contain avocado meal and oil, but again, really smart people have carefully extracted these ingredients and only use small amounts to avoid harming your pets.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.