If you've noticed that Fido seems to act extra adorably when you're holding a jar of peanut butter, you're not alone. Peanut butter has been used in a variety of ways over the years, including as an aid to administer medication and a means to provide hours of entertainment when added to an interactive toy. Most pet owners agree that their furry friend can't get enough of the creamy treat.
We know that peanut butter certainly has its benefits, but as a whole, is it entirely safe? There are a number of important facts that you, as a dog owner must understand before serving up a spoonful of peanut butter to your beloved four-legged companion. In fact, knowing all there is to know about peanut butter could ultimately save your dog's life. Let's get started!
Xylitol & Dogs: A Deadly Combination
If you stay up-to-date on the latest news in dog health, you've likely heard of xylitol. Accidental dog poisoning is on the rise in the United States and xylitol is one of the main causes. You've likely consumed the ingredient, perhaps unknowingly. It is a sugar substitute often found in many sugarless gums, breath mints, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, baked goods, and candies. The ingredient is safe for human consumption but can be incredibly toxic to dogs. In fact, studies report that xylitol is 100 times more toxic than chocolate.
There has been a massive surge in xylitol-related poisoning over the last decade, but why? Clearly, pet owners aren't giving their dogs sugarless gum or chewable vitamins. In some cases, the answer may be peanut butter. With the health craze to cut back on sugar intake, several brands of peanut butter have switched to using xylitol as a sugar substitute. While this may be fine for people, the switch is responsible for xylitol poisoning and the death of a horrific number of pets.
Luckily, avoiding xylitol poisoning is incredibly easy. Simply check the label of your peanut butter (and other treats that your pup may get into). Having a xylitol-free home is a great way to prevent your dog from accidentally consuming the dangerous ingredient.
Signs of Xylitol Poisoning
The ingestion of xylitol in dogs causes a rapid release of insulin, which quickly leads to a massive reduction in blood sugar levels. The condition is referred to as hypoglycemia and can be life-threatening, if not treated immediately. Signs will typically arise 10–60 minutes after consumption and often include:
- Staggering/Lack of coordination
If for any reason you believe that your dog may have consumed xylitol, it is imperative that you take them to the veterinarian straight away. Xylitol poisoning is not something that should be taken lightly or something that may pass with time. Even in extremely small amounts, xylitol can be deadly for dogs.
Peanut Butter Brands That Contain Xylitol
With all of the negative reports about xylitol and the threat it poses to our beloved furry friends, many brands of peanut butter that initially switched from sugar to xylitol have made the switch back to natural ingredients. However, there are still some popular brands of peanut butter that contain the dangerous ingredient.
These brands include:
- Go Nuts, Co.
- Krush Nutrition
- Nuts 'N More
- P28 Foods
Again, it is always important to check the label of your peanut butter and other foods before giving them to Fido. Unfortunately, ingredients change all the time. A brand that may have been perfectly safe a year ago may now pose a threat. A quick and thorough scan of your peanut butter jar could mean the difference between life and death for your dog.
Where Else Can You Find Xylitol?
Finally, we want to briefly cover the other places in which xylitol may be hiding, as it's not only found in peanut butter. It is extremely important to make sure that you are keeping all of the following foods, medications, and items out of your dog's reach.
Xylitol is also found in:
- Sugar-free gum (including Orbit, Mentos, Ice Breakers, Starbucks, Stride, Nicorette, and Trident... among others)
- Throat lozenges and hard candies
- Breath strips
- Mentos and other chewable breath mints
- Many chewable vitamins
- Toothpaste and mouthwash
- Certain medications (including Allegra, Gummy Vites, and Nature’s Plus)
- Certain yogurts
- Certain brands of protein bars
As you can see, checking your peanut butter isn't the only thing you'll have to be aware of as a responsible pet owner. Keeping products that contain xylitol out of your home is an easy way to prevent poisoning and irreversible harm to Fido.
Is Peanut Butter Bad for Dogs: Additional Dangers
While it is always important to check your labels, thankfully, a number of peanut butter brands do not contain xylitol. However, there are other potential dangers associated with peanut butter that pet owners should be aware of.
No Xylitol = Lots of Sugar
We’ve established that the sugar substitute xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs. However, a common alternative, white sugar, also poses potential issues. Sugar is a leading culprit of a slew of issues, including yeast infections, parasites, bacteria, and even cancer. All of these ailments feed off of sugar, so the more Fido consumes, the more likely an issue may either arise or persist. Additionally, sugar consumption is directly linked to conditions such as premature aging, diabetes, food allergies, and low-level inflammation. The troubling part... many peanut butter brands that do not contain xylitol, do contain white sugar.
Aflatoxins in Peanut Butter
Aflatoxins are naturally-occurring mycotoxins that are produced by the fungus, Aspergillus, and they can be present in varying levels in peanuts. The troubling part? Mycotoxins are known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances. Furthermore, mycotoxins have also shown to be toxic to the liver, and studies on laboratory animals have found that they can cause liver cancer.
Peanut Butter Allergies
Additionally, like people, dogs can be allergic to peanut butter. Peanut allergies in dogs are much less common than in people, but can still exist and are something pet owners should be aware of.
Signs of dog allergies include:
- Skin irritations
- Chronic/recurrent ear infections
- Thinning coat
- Weight Loss
Most peanut butter is produced to be able to stay on the shelf for a relatively long period of time. Unfortunately, this process produces trans-fatty acids, a potentially toxic food substance.
Peanut Butter Calories
It's likely no secret that most peanut butter is not considered a low-calorie food. If your dog is suffering from weight issues, your veterinarian will likely advise you to skip out on the peanut butter treats, even if you are purchasing the best of the best.
Peanut Butter Benefits
Now, with all that being said, peanut butter is not all bad. In fact, peanut butter has some incredible benefits for people and dogs alike. The important thing is to know the product you are purchasing and ensure that you are feeding Fido appropriate amounts of the tasty treat. In moderation, peanut butter can prove to be a great addition to your dog's diet.
A Great Source of Protein
Peanut butter is known for being a great source of protein. Protein is an essential part of your dog's diet and plays several roles in the body including building and repairing muscles and tissues. Additionally, protein (along with carbohydrates) are needed for energy production and continual immune system support. Without the necessary amounts of protein, your dog's body won't be able to function properly.
Peanut butter also provides a great source of healthy fats that are necessary to maintain optimal health and function. Without healthy fats, problems such as a weakened immune system, heart disease, and diabetes can develop. Skin issues and dry, irritated coats are also associated with a lack of healthy fats in the dog's diet.
Of course, too much of a good thing would not be in your dog’s best interest. Too much fat (even healthy fats) can ultimately lead to obesity and serious conditions like pancreatitis. We always recommend talking to your veterinarian and following their guidelines for how much peanut butter you should be giving your pup.
Vitamins & Niacin
Finally, peanut butter contains vitamins B and E, along with niacin. Niacin is one of the B vitamins that is essential for both humans and dogs alike. It occurs naturally in a great number of foods, yet many dogs still lack the important vitamin. Peanut butter is a great way to treat your furry friend all while providing them with several health benefits.
Best Peanut Butter
At this point, you're probably wondering which peanut butter you should choose. As we stated, first and foremost, ensure that the peanut butter you purchase does not contain xylitol. You should recognize all of the ingredients listed on the label and if you don't, look it up! It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your fur baby.
Next, look for peanut butter that is unsalted. Sodium can be a big issue for dogs and many peanut butter brands contain high amounts of salt. Luckily, you'll easily be able to find unsalted peanut butter, you may just have to dig a little deeper.
All-Natural & Organic
Additionally, we always recommend purchasing all-natural, organic products. If the product (regardless of what it might be) is not all-natural, there is a possibility that its raw materials were cultivated with herbicides or pesticides. The last thing you want to do when treating your pup is to inadvertently cause them any harm.
Make Your Own Peanut Butter!
Finally, many pet parents have found that making their own peanut butter is a fun way to ensure that they know exactly where all the ingredients are coming from. Furthermore, homemade peanut butter does not contain any secret added sugars or substitutes that could potentially harm your dog.
Ways to Serve Peanut Butter
Now that you've chosen or made the perfect peanut butter, how can you incorporate it into your dog's diet or routine? There are a variety of ways that pet parents have found useful for their dog's individual needs.
Many dog owners know first hand what it's like to have a rambunctious pup that needs what seems to be constant entertainment. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to play with our dogs all-day-every-day, most of us have to go to work or leave home from time to time. This is where the Kong toy comes in handy. Pet parents can stuff the appropriate amount of their healthy choice of peanut butter in the rubber Kong toy to provide their fur baby with hours of fun and mental stimulation.
Additionally, if you have ever had to give your dog medication, you may very well know that dogs and pills do not always go “hand in hand.” Many pet owners have found that using peanut butter to coat the medication is an effective way to ensure their pup is getting the necessary treatment without spitting half of it out or hiding it somewhere. (Some dogs are particularly tricky when it comes to pills) Peanut butter is a great way to make sure your dog receives the medication without forcefully having to administer it, which is heartbreaking enough as it is.
DIY Dog Treats
For our crafty pet owners, you may want to consider making your own peanut butter dog treats. Homemade dog treats are a great way to ensure that you know exactly what is going into the food and minimizes its ability to cause Fido any harm. You can also add ingredients like pumpkin for dogs, CBD, or glucosamine for extra benefits! The sky is truly the limit when it comes to DIY dog treats.
Homemade Peanut Butter
We previously mentioned homemade peanut butter, but we want to tell our readers exactly how to go about the process. Here's an easy-to-follow guide from Bark: The Dog Culture Magazine.
- 1 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
- 1 tsp. honey or molasses (optional)
- 1 tsp. or more peanut or safflower oil (optional)
Simply add the ingredients to your food processor and blend until desired consistency is met.
A Delicious Spoonful
If you choose to seek out a great, healthy, store-bought peanut butter, that's completely fine. Pet owners don't need to use peanut butter in any creative way, they can simply place it on a spoon and have their dog lick up the delicious, beneficial treat.
Peanut Butter: A Food Complement, Not a Meal Replacement
Again, peanut butter should be used as a treat, not a meal replacement. Generally, a good rule of thumb is that treats should not make up more than 10 percent of the dog’s diet. Feeding small amounts of peanut butter can be a great additive to their already balanced dog food, but should never be a substantial part of their meal. Additionally, it may be a good idea to switch between peanut butter and dog-appropriate fruits and veggies from time to time.
Peanut Butter Alternatives
Speaking of fruits and vegetables, there are several great alternatives that you can use to switch up the health benefits that your dog receives from their treats.
Can Dogs Eat Apples
We have all heard the expression "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Surprisingly, apples also have great health benefits for our dogs. Apples contain vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and phosphorus and make for a great, healthy treat for Fido. With that being said, be careful not to feed your dog any apple seeds or the core of the apple. Apple seeds contain cyanide, a substance that is toxic to dogs. Additionally, the core can be a choking hazard and experts advise to keep it far out of your dog's reach. Pet parents can slice up an apple to make it easy for their beloved furry friend to enjoy.
Again, it’s possible to feed your dog too much of a good thing. Too many apples can cause belly aches and diarrhea. Moderation is key! Even though they are healthy, serve them in moderation. For an extra special treat, dip the apple pieces in your homemade peanut butter!
A Great Rawhide Alternative: Can Dogs Eat Carrots
Another great veggie to add some variety to the peanut butter treat is the carrot. Carrots also make for a great alternative to rawhide bones, which can cause a slew of health issues (and something we recommend avoiding). Pet owners can feed their dog whole, raw carrots as a great chew that will keep them occupied for hours. Additionally, pet owners can cook carrots and add them to their dog's food as a healthy supplement with loads of health benefits.
Can Dogs Eat Celery
Yes! Dogs can also enjoy celery. Celery is very low in fat and cholesterol. It is also a great source of fiber that contains vitamins A, C, and K as well as potassium and folate. Again, all fruits, veggies, and peanut butter should be considered treats. In other words, they should not make up more than 10% of the dog's diet. Celery has also been used to help freshen up stinky breath. With that being said, too much celery should be avoided, as it can cause excessive urination and an upset stomach.
CBD for Dogs
By now, you've likely heard about CBD for dogs. Many pet parents have been incorporating CBD oil into their dog's food or their homemade dog treats, which their beloved four-legged friends can't seem to get enough of.
CBD Infused Peanut Butter
Honest Paws has recently developed CBD infused peanut butter to satisfy Fido's taste buds. Of course, Honest Paws cultivates only the best all-natural ingredients that ensure the product's safety and allow pet parents to rest easy, knowing they are giving their dog the absolute best-quality CBD peanut butter available. The peanut butter is rich in protein and minerals and can be added to your dog's food daily if you so choose.
Suggested Serving Size:
- 1/2 tablespoon - dogs under 25 pounds (64 servings per jar)
- 1 tablespoon - dogs over 25 pounds (32 servings per jar)
How Much CBD does the Peanut Butter Contain?
Our CBD infused peanut butter contains 5 ml of CBD per 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your furry companion. We also know how much you love to treat them to the very best that life has to offer. Oftentimes, this means yummy treats and goodies. First and foremost, we encourage you to give your pup all the wonderful things you can offer. However, when it comes to treats, moderation is key. Furthermore, knowing exactly what the treat contains is paramount. Our hearts break for all of the pet parents who truly thought that they were feeding their dogs a yummy peanut butter treat (containing xylitol) and inadvertently poisoned their four-legged family member. Do your homework! Read the labels! And if you have questions, ask them! It can be the difference between life and death for your dog. However, once you find (or make) the perfect peanut butter, your dog will be over the moon with the tasty addition to their diet.
Petal Smart is a veterinarian who, after a brief stint in clinical practice, has been a medical, veterinary, and science editor for the past four years. She has edited hundreds of research studies that have been published in various academic journals, and more recently, she has been editing blog articles on pet health. She holds a DVM (Hons) from the University of the West Indies - St. Augustine. Her pets in the past have included dogs, fish, birds, and a turtle. At times, she also likes to think of herself as a horse whisperer. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
*This article has been edited and updated for publication by Petal Smart, DVM.