Update on avocados in canine diet and pet food. Avocado as ingredient in dog food, benefits, side-effect and risks when dog eats avocado (C) Perfect cocker spaniel blog by Natalia Ashton / canine nutritionist & pet nutrition coach / Breed, grooming, diet, nutrition, puppy training and behaviour information

An update on avocado in dog diet

I wrote about avocados and what they can do if a dog eats the fruit back in 2018. Three years on and the idea of including avocado in pet food is becoming a reality. Some companies are using it based on nutritional benefits of the berry, others rely on avocado meal as a fibre replacement for beet pulp or cellulose. But does it mean that avocado is good for our spaniels?

Essentially, avocado is still considered toxic to dogs by WSAVA, ASPCA and veterinary manuals. As I’ve previously written, the fruit, skin, leaves, stems, bark and stones are high in persin. If you give persin to a human, the substance may actually fight cancer and increase effectiveness of cancer fighting drugs. If you give it to an animal, including dogs, it can cause an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, breathing difficulties and death. Small quantities of the fruit will lead to diarrhoea and vomiting. The high fat content will increase the risk of pancreatitis or weight gain (and cockers are genetically prone to both). And the stone can cause obstructions or, if it’s crushed, repeat the worst-case scenario as above.

Of course, the parts of avocado contain different levels of toxin. Leaves and bark are the worst. The light green flesh you’d use in a guacamole, is least toxic, which does not make it safe – it simply means you are less likely to lose your dog. Studies have shown that feeding dogs small quantities of avocado didn’t always make the canines unwell visually, but their bloods had elevated levels lactate dehydrogenase, alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase. When rats were given avocado oils in another study, their livers showed abnormalities.

Update on avocados in canine diet and pet food. Avocado as ingredient in dog food, benefits, side-effect and risks when dog eats avocado (C) Perfect cocker spaniel blog by Natalia Ashton / canine nutritionist & pet nutrition coach / Breed, grooming, diet, nutrition, puppy training and behaviour information

What is also important to consider is that avocados are usually used in pet food in a form of meal. And the meal can contain any parts of the plant due to natural contamination during manufacturing process. In other words, you may be lucky and have “light green parts” or not to lucky and give your dog a treat or food containing traces of bark or leaves.

Does it mean that avocado is bad? Avocado is a fantastic source of fatty acids (the “good” fats), vitamin A, E, K and folate, minerals magnesium and potassium, as well as fibre. It’s packed with antioxidants, too. But this only applies to human diet.

This also means that simply because something is really good for humans, it does not necessarily need to become an ingredient in canine diet.

And please do check the ingredients list on your dog food and treats to ensure that they are avocado-free. Maybe one day there will be long-term studies to prove us wrong or a new process developed to make avocados safe for dogs. But honestly, why not simply focus on other sources of the above mentioned vitamins and minerals that are known and proven to be safe for dogs than trying to alter a fruit known to cause problems. Not everything in nature is meant to be tamed to suit the human brief or financial interests. But that’s how I feel about it.

Photo credit: images by Engin Akyurt and Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

what treats are best and worst for dogs? how much and many treats to give a dog a day? simple tips about dog diet from canine nutritionist / perfect cocker spaniel (C) english cocker spaniel dog blog, puppy tips, health, grooming, nutrition and healthy eating advice

Treats: the best, the worst, and the know how

I cannot imagine a pup parent who would not give their dog a treat. Unless it is absolutely forbidden due to medical reasons or spartan lifestyle (which, let’s be honest, is not really common among cocker spaniel families), all dogs get a little something special every day to express love, improve training, bribe them (again, I am simply keeping it real) or simply because they absolutely nailed the sad look.

To treat or not to treat? That is the question. And if you do choose to indulge your pooch, the list of questions turns into a puzzle…

What treats to give? Which ones to avoid? How many? How often? When? What if? And suddenly a simple moment of pleasure becomes a nightmare… So today we are going to talk about making this experience a joy for both you and your spaniel, just to make life easier…

The good news is that treats can be definitely on a menu for most dogs, and you should not feel guilty about including them in your spaniel’s diet. I personally think my boys would become depressed if I suddenly stopped making dog biscuits, or refused a little bit of yoghurt that they love to the point of ecstasy.

On the other hand I am fully aware of what I can and cannot do when it comes to treats to keep things in balance and avoid potential problems. And here are a few important pointers…

… keep the quantities of all treats under 10% of your dog’s daily calorie amount. You can count the calories yourself, but it is easier and more precise to contact customer care of the pet food company you buy the main food from. They will give you calories per 100g of dog food, so you can then calculate your daily total and what the 10% number would be.

… remember that just because your dog can have 10% of calories in treats does not meat you must meet this amount or put it all into a single type of treat. For example, an average raw carrot or massive cucumber can generously fit into 10% but feeding so much carrot or cucumber in addition to main diet may cause fermentation in the gut, bloating and upset tummy. Feeding almost 100g of natural yoghurt (which is also about 10%) may either tip over the balance of fat or lactose, and cause either weight gain (in first instance) or tummy problems (with the latter). So it is best to create a range of treats to include a variety of food groups – a handful of regular kibble, a couple of biscuits, 1-2 tsp of natural yoghurt, a slice of cucumber or carrot and a slice of fruit or a few blueberries, for example.

… if you feed over 10% you are likely to face a few issues from excess weight, changes in appetite, skeletal problems due to faster development or bloating or diarrhoea because of the higher volume of food, specific ingredients or excess of certain nutrients.

… be very cautious when giving treats to a growing puppy. This is such a crucial stage that reducing main food can lead to imbalance of vital vitamins and minerals, and imbalance of proteins, fats and carbs can affect his weight, bones, cause runny tummy or make your pup gassy, or may even alter his behaviour. It is always best to use main food as food and training or stuffing treats with a couple of extra special high value rewards (think puppy biscuits or carrot slice etc) thrown in when/if needed.

… if you choose to give raw or dehydrated treats, you potentially put your dog at risk of serious, very serious health problems.

know your ingredients by checking the label on every treat you get for your cocker, and checking every company to ensure they are PFMA-registered.

… store the treats correctly. Biscuits would normally last for a week or so in a beautiful pet treat jar, and any chopped raw veg, eggs, chicken pieces or occasional desserts should be refrigerated and eaten within 2-3 days.

Image credit: photo taken by me

Beyond the doughnut, ultimate cookbook for healthy gluten-free treats and meals for happy dogs by Natalia Ashton is featured in Town & Country

Beyond the doughnut is featured in Town & Country

I am so happy today. Just received the news that Beyond the doughnut is featured in Town & Country! A moment of absolute joy that I will treasure forever. It’s good to see my “Doughnut” going places and getting the love it deserves.

Food photos are by me, and the portrait is by wonderful Elizabeth Clarke / I am family photography