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Is Peanut Butter Bad for Dogs?

A small white dog reaching up to eat peanut butter off a spoon
Dr. Erica Irish author of Is Peanut Butter Bad or Dogs
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Peanut butter is known for being an excellent source of protein and can be a healthy, tasty snack for people. Many of the treats made for dogs have a peanut butter flavoring, but can dogs eat peanut butter as a snack on its own? How much can you give to your dog, or is it potentially harmful?

Is peanut butter bad for dogs?

In short, peanut butter is actually safe for dogs in small amounts. It is a tasty treat that can be used to help hide the flavor of medications and oral flea and heartworm preventatives. But like all treats, calories matter!

One tablespoon of peanut butter contains almost one hundred calories, so if you have a small or medium-sized breed of dog who only needs 300 to 600 calories per day, one tablespoon of peanut butter makes up for a huge portion of that daily allotment! Therefore, it shouldn’t be a problem if peanut butter is given in small and infrequent portions.

In order to avoid conditions like overweight and obesity, your dog’s treats should account for less than ten percent of his daily caloric intake.

Which kind of peanut butter should I buy?

Homemade and organic peanut butters are best because they don’t contain any added ingredients. Some peanut butter products can be too salty for dogs or may contain excess sugars. This can contribute to conditions like pancreatitis in dogs and, if given too often, can increase your dog’s risk for diabetes.

Some peanut butters contain an ingredient known as xylitol. This is a common ingredient that is found in sugar-free products as a sugar substitute. Humans have no problem metabolizing and breaking down xylitol, but it is incredibly toxic for dogs. Even tiny amounts of xylitol can cause unsafe drops in your dog’s blood sugar because xylitol ingestion results in the rapid release of insulin from your dog’s pancreas.

Blood sugar, or glucose, is important for overall cell function and is considered “food” for the brain. Sharp decreases in blood glucose to cause lethargy, seizures, and death. Xylitol toxicity can also cause liver failure, which can cause clinical signs such as jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy, seizures, and even death.

You should also avoid peanut butters that are mixed in with other foods like jelly and chocolate. Jelly is commonly made from grapes which are toxic for dogs. Researchers aren’t sure why grapes are so severely toxic, but it only takes the ingestion of one to three grapes to result in kidney failure in dogs.

Chocolate contains methylxanthine compounds known as theobromine and caffeine. White and milk chocolate contain very small amounts of these compounds while semi-sweet and dark chocolates contain much higher quantities. Ingesting toxic amounts of chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and even death if immediate treatment is not started.

Are there benefits to peanut butter?

As mentioned above, peanut butter is a good source of protein. It also contains natural fats which, when ingested, can contribute to a state of fullness orsatiety.

These fatty acids can also contribute to a shinier hair coat, and peanut butter contains vitamins and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus.

While these minerals are fine for the average pup, dogs who suffer from urinary crystals should avoid eating peanut butter because magnesium and phosphorus will increase the amount of crystals formed in their urine.

Peanut butter is also great for dogs with anxiety. Many nervous and anxious dogs tend to lick things in order to help them calm down.

By using hollow toys like the RuffWear Gnawt-A-Cone, you can put a small amount of peanut butter inside the toy in order to make a long-lasting treat for your dog to lick. This particular toy can be purchased right here at SitStay.com.

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If your dog doesn’t like having his nails trimmed or being bathed in the tub, you can put a small amount of peanut butter on your bathtub walls so that your dog can focus on licking his tasty snack while you tend to his grooming needs.

Many veterinary hospitals keep a stash of peanut butter in their cabinets to give to scared or nervous pups. It’s even useful as a distraction for giving vaccinations!

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Peanut butter is a safe and delicious treat for your dog as long as it is in small quantities and devoid of additional ingredients that would pose a health risk. From hiding medications to helping curb your dog’s anxiety, peanut butter has numerous benefits. If you’re still not sure about giving your dog peanut butter, check with your veterinarian for their approval.  

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine

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