Researchers out of the University of Illinois now dispute earlier research which indicated that the nutrient-dense fruit was toxic to dogs.
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Credit: Scheimpflug Digital

Every household that has a dog as a member of the family knows their beloved pet can't quite eat the same foods they like to indulge in on the regular. Avocado, while it's known for its heart-healthy properties, is one food that has gotten a reputation over the years for being potentially harmful for dogs to eat because of persin. Previous research noted that this substance comes from avocado meal (the ground, dried, and defatted pulp, seed, and skin that's left after avocado oil is processed) and could cause canines to vomit or have diarrhea. However, scientists out of the University of Illinois didn't find any persin in their avocado meal, based on their study published in the Journal of Animal Science.

"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 Cattai de Godoy, the associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at University of Illinois, in a university release. "When you look at the literature for avocado toxicity, all that exists are a few case studies. 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 researchers discovered that persin is actually similar to polyunsaturated fatty acid, which is found in foods like salmon and nuts. "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," Cattai de Godoy said. "In fact, the concentration was so small in the avocado meal that it was out of our standard curve linear range, meaning it was below detection level. We observed, however, detectable amounts of persin in the raw fruit, including the peel, pulp, and pit."

As a part of their study, the team fed avocado meal, beet pulp, and cellulose to beagles for two weeks to see which improved their health the most. The team didn't find any signs of toxicity from the avocado portion and noticed that it was a solid fiber source for the dogs (right between the cellulose and beet pulp). "High fiber diets are not always palatable for pets, but that is not what we saw. The dogs consumed enough food to meet or exceed their energy requirements. The high inclusion of avocado meal [about 19 percent] was acceptable to them," Cattai de Godoy shared.

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