Holy guacamole! Keep pets safe during Cinco de Mayo celebrations

Rabbit poisoned by avocado demonstrates how this fruit can be dangerous to pets this holiday and beyond

Cinco de Mayo festivities typically consist of indulging and food and drink such as tequila, tacos, and guacamole, the delicious dip made from avocados. However, it is important to note that this fruit and its leaves are highly toxic to many animals, including rabbits, birds, and large animals such as cows, goats, and sheep, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.1 Also, if the avocado pit is swallowed, it can cause a foreign body obstruction in the esophagus, stomach, or intestinal tract.

“Avocados contain a chemical called persin, but only certain species of animals are poisoned by this fungicidal toxin present in the avocado,” said Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, in an organizational release.1

“In rabbits, persin can cause significant damage to the heart muscle, leading to cardiovascular abnormalities including arrhythmias as well as fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion), fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and respiratory distress. These abnormalities may result in rapid death. For those of us who like guacamole, fortunately, persin does not have the same effect on humans,” she added.

Several years ago, Andrew and Emma Simpson from Tonawanda, New York planted an avocado pit that has since grown into a tree. Unfortunately, this plant ended up poisoning their recently adopted rabbit named Skunk.

“We planted an avocado pit a few years ago, and it has grown into a little tree,” said Simpson, Skunk’s owner, in the release. “Skunk, who we rescued, is our first rabbit and he gets into everything. We had him about 3 weeks when he decided to go exploring and found the avocado tree. When we realized that he had eaten a portion of the leaf, we googled it and found that the leaves are the most poisonous part of the plant. That’s when we started calling veterinarians.”1

Simpson called various local veterinary hospitals to find one that treated exotic pets, Enchanted Mountains Urgent Veterinary Care in Olean, New York. During the search for this hospital, another practice suggested they contact the Pet Poison Helpline, who started working on Skunk’s case in the meantime.

“I thought, great, we’ve only had Skunk 3 weeks and we’ve already killed him,” added Simpson. “Fortunately, by the time Skunk arrived at the hospital the medical team was already in contact with the toxicology experts at the Pet Poison Helpline. They treated him right away with activated charcoal, and we took him home later that day.”

The quick action Skunk’s owners took to receive treatment for him likely prevented him from experiencing more serious signs that would have required more aggressive care.

References

Hide that guacamole this Cinco de Mayo if you have a pet rabbit. News releases. Pet Poison Helpline. May 3, 2023. Accessed May 3, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hide-that-guacamole-this-cinco-de-mayo-if-you-have-a-pet-rabbit -301813722. html

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