Peanut butter is a popular, versatile dog treat. It can be spread in hollow bones or toys to give a pooch a fun chewing project to work on (or maybe you like to let Fido clean out the nearly empty peanut butter jar). Alternatively, peanut butter can be licked directly from a spoon as a treat; it’s also a good way to sneak some pills to a stubborn pup or distract a restless dog during a grooming session.
Generally speaking, peanut butter is safe for dogs to eat. But safe doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Before you make peanut butter a regular part of your dog’s diet, there are some things to take into consideration.
Moderation is Key
In addition to being safe for dogs, most peanut butter can also be a good source of protein and healthy fats, niacin, and vitamins B and E.
However, too much of anything can be unhealthy, especially with all of the natural fats contained in peanut butter. Overindulging in peanut butter could lead to obesity or other health complications such as pancreatitis. Consider peanut butter to be a treat; treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories.
One teaspoon per day is perfectly sufficient for a small dog, as is two teaspoons for a medium or large dog. After all, a small amount of peanut butter is just as exciting to your pup as a larger amount—a treat is a treat!
Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet, as individual dogs’ dietary needs and restrictions can vary.
Beware of Xylitol
While most peanut butter is safe, some can be extremely toxic for dogs due to one ingredient: xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in gums, mints, chewy vitamins, toothpaste, and, of course, peanut butter. Xylitol causes a rapid insulin release in dogs, leading to a rapid drop in blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include weakness, collapsing, staggering, lack of coordination, and seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, contact your vet immediately.
As many of us know, chocolate is also extremely toxic for dogs, even in very small amounts. Taking that into consideration, it’s important to note that the toxic dose of xylitol is even less than that of chocolate. Basically, avoid it at all costs.
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid accidentally giving your dog xylitol—just be sure to check the label before giving your pup a nutty treat. Keep in mind that because xylitol is a natural ingredient, “all-natural” peanut butter doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for your dog.
Palm Oil in Peanut Butter
Palm oil is an edible, odorless, colorless, vegetable oil used in many dog treats and supplements. Some peanut butter also includes palm oil, which raises eyebrows for lots of pet owners.
A quick internet search will likely lead you to articles warning against the toxicity of palm oil, urging pet owners to keep it away from their furry friends. These articles refer to palm oil discarded by large ships, often contaminated by bacteria and waste, and extremely toxic to dogs.
Rest assured, palm oil in its pure form is perfectly fine. In fact, it has a better fatty acid composition than coconut oil. There is generally not enough palm oil in an entire jar of peanut butter to be a cause of concern, just as there is no need to worry about the trace amounts of palm oil found in Pet Honesty’s supplemental chews.
Just like humans, canines can also develop food allergies. Even though peanut butter is generally safe for dogs, be aware of any of Fido’s food allergies, and be sure to monitor him closely after the introduction of anything new in his diet.
Some symptoms of food allergies can include vomiting and diarrhea, or skin issues such as itching or hair loss. Some allergic reactions can also include facial swelling or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of the above symptoms or other changes in appearance or behavior after giving your dog peanut butter, contact your vet.
Additionally, keep in mind that even if your dog isn’t allergic to peanut butter, he could transfer the allergen to an allergic household member through his mouth or breath. In this case, it would be best to avoid peanut butter altogether.
For dogs experiencing non-emergency skin allergies, Pet Honesty’s Allergy SkinHealth Chews promotes healthy skin and histamine levels.
Choosing the Right Peanut Butter
Once you’ve established that your dog doesn’t have any unique peanut butter restrictions, the next step is choosing the right peanut butter. Typically, any peanut butter that doesn’t contain xylitol or chocolate is safe for canine consumption. Some brands of peanut butter are healthier than others, though.
Ideally, you’ll want to feed your dog peanut butter without additives such as preservatives and extra sugar. Unsalted peanut butter is even healthier, as is homemade peanut butter made from just one ingredient: peanuts.
What About Other Nut Butters?
If peanut butter isn’t your go-to nut butter, you may be wondering whether you can share your almond or cashew butter with your pooch.
Almonds are safe for dogs, but not always easily digestible. While they’re not toxic, be mindful of any discomfort that Fido may feel after indulging in almond butter.
Dogs shouldn’t eat raw cashews, as they contain a toxin that disappears when cooked. Assuming the nuts in your cashew butter have been cooked or roasted, then cashew butter is a perfectly fine peanut butter alternative.
Whole hazelnuts can cause choking hazards, but hazelnut butter is also safe for dogs to eat.
Nut butters that should be avoided include pistachio butter, pecan butter, walnut butter, and macadamia butter, as these nuts can all be harmful to dogs.