22 Jul Avocados and Your Pets
Is avocado truly toxic to animals? Let us set the record straight!
Avocado or Persea americana contains a naturally occurring compound known as persin. This compound is known to have antifungal and insecticidal properties and is thought to protect the plant from fungal and insect pathogens. Unfortunately, persin can also be variably toxic to animals.
Persin is found throughout the Avocado plant and therefore all parts of the plant are potentially poisonous, particularly the leaves. Only the Guatemalan varieties and their hybrids (this includes the Hass cultivar) have so far been implicated in poisoning.
The toxic effects that are seen are dependent on the species of animal that ingests the plant. In general, smaller doses of avocado in most nursing mammals may result in swelling, warmth and tenderness of the mammary glands with a subsequent reduction in milk supply (sterile mastitis). Larger doses or even relatively small ingestions in some animals, can result in damage to the heart (myocardial necrosis) which can be lethal. Mammary and cardiac effects can be delayed by up to several days after ingestion.
Most pet owners will be pleased to know that there are no reliable reports of mammary or cardiac effects in dogs and cats. Most dogs and cats that ingest avocado either remain completely well or develop mild gastrointestinal upset. Dogs that ingest large amounts of avocado can be at risk of pancreatitis due to the high fat content. The ingestion of an avocado seed could potentially result in an obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.
Some pets are unfortunately very sensitive to persin and should never be fed avocado. These include some pet birds such as budgerigars, cockatiels, and canaries which may die of heart failure within 12-48 hours of ingesting small amounts of avocado. Rabbits may also be at risk of developing cardiac effects following the ingestion of avocado. Horses can develop swelling of the head and chest (oedema) due to an accumulation of fluid under the skin. There have been reports of fish dying after avocado leaves have fallen into pond water.
There is no antidote for avocado poisoning, however early veterinary treatment could be lifesaving particularly for birds that are highly sensitive to the toxic effects of this plant. If your pet has ingested avocado, please phone the Animal Poisons Helpline on 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ) for a risk assessment and advice. The Animal Poisons Helpline is a free service for all pet owners in Australia and New Zealand.
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