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Can Dogs Eat Peanuts? Yes, but Don’t Go Nuts

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Most dog parents know that dogs will go absolutely gaga for peanut butter. But what about the actual peanut? Can dogs eat straight peanuts that come out of the shell? Yes, but it's not that simple. 

Not all nuts and nut butters, including peanut butter, are created equal. If you don't read the ingredients carefully or monitor how much your dog is eating, there could be adverse health risks.

Though peanuts are generally safe for dogs to eat, there are a few health problems that can come from feeding peanuts to your pooch. Read on to find out how to safely let your dog eat peanuts and sidestep the potential dangers.

What Are the Risks of Giving Dogs Peanuts?

Can dogs eat peanuts? Chocolate-colored lab licking his nose

Like peanut butter, peanuts are okay as a sometimes dog treat as long as they are unsalted and free of any other seasoning and artificial sweetener. They should also be removed from the peanut shells. 

Seasoned nuts contain too much sodium and can be harmful if ingested in large quantities, potentially leading to sodium ion poisoning. Clinical signs of salt poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, inability to walk straight, excessive thirst or urination, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death when left untreated.

Throw away the shells, as well. Peanut shells are not good for dogs because they present a choking hazard. You don't want to get one of those lodged in your dog's digestive tract.

Just like nuts and seeds, including almonds, cashews, and pistachios, peanuts contain a large amount of healthy fats. Though they are "healthy" fats, they're still fats and, therefore, must be given in moderation. Dogs who consume too much fat content on a regular basis can get a severe upset stomach, and the excess fat consumption can even trigger pancreatitis. 

According to Fetch by WebMD, pancreatitis often comes on as a side effect of eating a fatty meal. Symptoms to watch out for include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea due to the dog's newly-sensitive digestive system

Though rare, there are some dogs who have food allergies and can develop allergic reactions to peanuts. A dog with a peanut allergy shows signs of itchiness and can get red or bald spots on their skin. They might chew their paws excessively to scratch the itch. 

If you think your dog might have a peanut allergy, take them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment. A veterinarian will perform skin tests and blood work to determine the cause of the allergy and how to treat it.

The Dangers of Xylitol 

Another ingredient to look out for in peanuts and especially peanut butter is xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many foods. Though it's safe for humans to eat, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the chemical can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, and even death in dogs. It is vital to check the ingredient list on any human food before you share it with your pet.

If the peanut butter jar says it contains "natural sweetener," this may be a hint that the product is actually sweetened with xylitol, which is sometimes labeled with its chemical classification "sugar alcohol." It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to vague labeling, so if you see that kind of language on the label, don't buy it. Otherwise, you could be putting your pet at risk.

If you think your pet might have eaten a product with xylitol in it, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 as soon as possible. It's a good idea to add the Pet Poison Helpline number to your phone so you'll be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Nuts to Avoid: Macadamia Nuts, Pecans, and Black Walnuts

Dog owners should never mistake macadamia nuts as an okay treat for dogs. Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. If your dog ingests them, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.

The Pet Poison Helpline lists symptoms of macadamia nut toxicity, including severe lethargy, vomiting, tremors, joint stiffness, and even an inability to walk. The nuts can also cause pancreatitis due to the high fat and oil content.

Keep your dog away from black walnuts as well, as these can cause tremors and seizures from the mold they contain. Moldy pecans can cause the same symptoms. Pecans in general have a component called juglone, which is toxic to dogs. If you think your dog has eaten a pecan or walnut, call the Pet Poison Helpline.

How Can Dogs Eat Peanuts Safely?

Woman holding a cute mixed-breed dog

It's difficult, if not impossible, to find a dog who would refuse peanut butter. There's no one strategy for giving your dog peanut butter. You can stuff it into a food puzzle toy like a Kong or place a tablespoon of it in their food bowl. You can even let them lick the spoon.

Ensure the peanut butter you give them is perfectly safe by buying it without xylitol or by making it yourself. Homemade peanut butter is simple to make and only requires two things: dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts and a food processor. 

Place the peanuts in the food processor, let it run for about five minutes, and voilà! You have healthy, dog-safe peanut butter, free of xylitol and made from unseasoned peanuts that are safe for dogs.

If you're going to feed your dog peanuts and peanut products, do so in moderation. Unsalted peanuts and peanut butter should be used as occasional treats in addition to regular dog food.

One tip for pet parents that is especially useful when your dog is bored but you can't give them your full attention is to freeze peanut butter in a kong toy. Frozen peanut butter will keep them entertained for much longer than the same stuff at room temperature. Plus, they get a bit of mental stimulation from trying to get the peanut treat out of the interactive puzzle toy.

Not only is peanut butter useful as a snack for bored dogs, it's great for hiding pills. Simply stuff your dog's pill into a glob of peanut butter and hand it over.

Are Peanuts Bad for Dogs?

No, peanuts are ultimately not bad for dogs. If you are going to feed your dog peanuts or peanut butter, do so within reasonable limits to avoid adverse health effects. Make sure they are plain, unseasoned, and removed from the shell.If you feed your dog peanut butter, don't forget to read the ingredient list and watch out for xylitol. 

Though peanuts and peanut butter are safe for dogs to eat, they are high in fat and must be fed in moderation. High fat content can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs who consume too much. As with all dog treats and food, portion control is vital to maintaining your pup's overall health.

Pet owners who have any further concerns or questions about feeding their dog peanuts and adding peanut products to their dog's diet should discuss it with their veterinarian.

To learn more about how you can make healthy choices for your dog and their digestive system, visit PetHonesty.com for a selection of high-quality treats and supplements.