Avocado health benefits for dogs and cats - this fruit can be an excellent addition to your pet's diet. Avocado, also called alligator pear, or butter fruit is botanically classified as a single seeded berry. The flesh of the avocado is a nutrient-rich dog-safe, and cat-safe food. The seed (pit) of the avocado is NOT safe for dogs and cats to consume, it is toxic to dogs and cats. Consuming the skin may cause gastrointestinal upset. When offering your dog or cat avocado – always remove the skin, and the seed – offer ONLY the flesh of the avocado.
Avocado Health Benefits for Dogs and Cats
A good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate; a source of protein due to the presence of eighteen essential amino acids; minerals such as calcium, copper, folate, iron, pantothenic acid, potassium, and magnesium.
An excellent anti-inflammatory food possessing a unique profile of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich properties. The majority (85%) of calories from an avocado come from potent anti-inflammatory fats that support healthy function of the brain, blood vessels, joints, and more. Avocado is also an anti-carcinogenic food.
Heart healthy for your dog and cat when consumed on a regular basis (daily or several times per week), avocado can contribute to cardiovascular health helping to lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), and reduce oxidative stress within the blood stream.
Excellent for metabolic health and can help your dog or cat avoid the on-set of metabolic issues including improving blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity when avocado is consumed regularly as part of a well-balanced, species appropriate diet. This fruit has a low glycemic index– it is not a significant source of carbohydrates.
Good source of dietary fiber that helps regulate blood sugar levels, aids digestive and eliminatory health, and detoxification.
Liver health supporting. Avocado is excellent for your dog’s and cat’s liver health as nutrients in avocado support production of the important antioxidant, glutathione.
Rich source of carotenoids and the fat required to help the body make full use of the beneficial carotenoids. If your dog’s and cat’s food or treats contains carotenoid rich, low fat vegetables and fruit such as kale or spinach, carrot, and tomato - add a slice of avocado to the meal to help maximize the benefits of the carotenoids.
Good for your dog’s and cat’s eyes – avocado contains lutein and zeaxanthin two natural source phytochemicals that are crucial for eye health.
How to Select Avocado, and Know When Avocado is Ready to Eat
Organic vs. Non-Organic
While it is great if you can purchase organic avocado, conventionally grown avocado is a good choice too. The USDA’s and FDA’s recent (2015) tests indicated that conventionally raised avocado was the cleanest of all fruit tested for pesticide residue – only 1% of avocados tested showed any detectable pesticides.
Don’t purchase mushy avocados. Purchase slightly soft-to-the-touch or firm avocados. If firm, do not refrigerate – simply place in a bowl on the counter (where your dog cannot ‘steal’ it) and allow to ripen. If the avocado has ripened to the point of being mushy throw it in the garbage – do not give over-ripe avocado to your dog or cat. The flesh of overripe avocado is brown, may have dark spots, and the flesh may be sunken or have cracks. Overripe avocado is not healthy food for your do or cat.
Avocado is ready to eat when the avocado is a little soft (not mushy), and when you remove the skin the flesh is green with no brown or dark spots.
How to Serve Avocado to Your Dog and Cat
The pit of the avocado contains substances that are very toxic to dogs, and cats. The skin can cause a little upset tummy. Make sure you carefully remove the seed (pit), and skin of the avocado. Your dog and cat should only consume the flesh of the avocado.
When removing the skin, be careful to preserve the dark green flesh that is found just underneath the avocado skin. The dark green flesh is packed with valuable antioxidants, and carotenoids. I use a knife to nick the avocado, and then draw the knife from the top tip of the avocado down to the bottom of the avocado on one side (vertical, not horizontal), and then the other side – do this all around the avocado and then you can slip a spoon under the skin to carefully peel away the skin while preserving the integrity of the dark green layer of flesh attached to the fruit.
You can then slice the avocado flesh with a knife, or spoon. The fresh, raw piece of cut avocado flesh can be given as a treat, or mixed in with your dog’s and cat’s food.
The nutrients in avocado are degraded by heat and cooking so serve fresh and raw – do not heat or cook.
If you are not going to use the entire avocado at one meal you can sprinkle a little organic apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice on the flesh of the avocado to prevent oxidation (darkening of the flesh after prolonged exposure to air).
How to Introduce Avocado to the Diet
If your dog or cat has never had avocado before make sure you introduce it to his/her diet by giving a very small piece as a treat on its own – not with other foods. After you have tested your dog’s and cat’s tolerance you can add it to meal’s following the guidelines below.
Daily Amount – General Guideline
Cat or small size dog – 1 to 2 teaspoons
Medium size dog – ½ to 2 tablespoons
Large size dogs – 2 to 3 tablespoons
X-large dogs (100+ lbs) – 3 to 4 tablespoons
Do not give your dog or cat avocado if any of the following conditions apply…
Your dog or cat has an allergy to latex.
If your dog or cat is pregnant or lactating.
Do not allow your dog or cat to consume large amounts or unlimited amounts of avocado.
Always remove the skin and seed (pit) – both can be toxic to your dog and cat. Some dogs are able to tolerate consuming a little skin without adverse side effects.
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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld