If you have a dog lick mat or have been researching some recipes for homemade dog treats, you may have seen that peanut butter crops up a lot.
This is a storecupboard staple for a lot of humans, so hearing that our four-legged friends can also share it is great news. However, don’t rush for the spoon just yet. Yes, dogs can have peanut butter, but not all peanut butter is suitable for them.
For dogs, peanut butter that has no xylitol is suitable. It also needs to be fed in moderation, so don’t give them their own jar to keep them busy.
Are dogs allowed peanut butter?
The only peanut butter which is safe for dogs to eat is any which does not contain xylitol.
Xylitol is toxic to dogs. It is an artificial sweetener used in human foods instead of sugar. So, many ‘sugar-free’ sweets will contain xylitol, and it is also commonly found in chewing gum.
So, if the label states that xylitol is an ingredient in your peanut butter, you need to keep it for human use only.
What other foods contain xylitol?
As well as peanut butter, you also have to check the ingredients of any other human sweet treats before giving them to your dog.
Foods that may contain xylitol and should not be given to dogs include:
- Non-fat Greek yoghurt
- Preserves (such as jam)
- Flavoured water
- Sugar-free syrups and honey
Anything which is labelled as ‘sugar-free’ will probably contain xylitol, as will treats that are deemed healthy or low-fat for humans. So it may seem like your dog can easily have that healthy digestive biscuit because it avoids giving them sugar, but in actual fact, it could make them very ill.
If in doubt, just avoid giving your dog any human sweet treats. It isn’t worth the risk
Many chocolate products also contain xylitol, as chocolate is naturally bitter. Dogs shouldn’t be having chocolate anyway. The same applies to chewing gum, although this is the biggest source of xylitol poisoning in dogs in the UK.
Xylitol is often also present in household items such as human toothpaste or nasal irrigation sprays, so it isn’t just food you need to keep out of the reach of dogs.
In the UK, xylitol will often be listed as such on food labels. But if buying from the USA for example, you may also need to look out for terms such as Birch Sugar, E967, Meso-Xylitol, Méso-Xylitol, Sucre de Bouleau, Xilitol, Xylit, Xylite, or Xylo-pentane-1,2,3,4,5-pentol.
Why is xylitol bad for dogs?
Xylitol is toxic to dogs. Even in small amounts, it can give a range of symptoms, from mild hypoglycemia to liver failure and potentially death if not treated.
It stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. This surge of insulin causes hypoglycemia. Because there is so much insulin in the bloodstream, it causes a huge drop in blood sugar levels. This can result in:
Symptoms of poisoning, such as vomiting, can occur around 30 minutes after consumption. But sometimes, it could take hours. Then, the other symptoms will often kick in quickly. Your dog will be off their food and find it hard to drink water, too.
Ingesting just 100 milligrams of xylitol per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg bw) can cause these severe reactions. So, it is an even higher risk in smaller dogs.
Xylitol isn’t usually harmful to humans, bar causing stomach upset if consumed in large amounts, so it can be hard for us to consider the effect it could have on dogs.
Xylitol is safe for cats in doses of 1,000mg/kg bw, but many won’t actually appreciate the taste as they prefer something meaty.
Can all dogs have dog-safe peanut butter?
You’ve found a peanut butter without xylitol. Perfect, right? Not necessarily.
Peanut butter is still naturally high in fats, thanks to its main ingredient. Don’t feed peanut butter to dogs who are overweight or on a calorie-controlled diet. Opt for lean meats such as chicken or tuna instead, or stick to healthy dog training treats.
Peanut butter can also be high in salt, causing kidney issues. While it should be given in moderation anyway, avoid it completely for any dogs with underlying kidney issues.
Don’t give peanut butter to any dogs who are on a special diet due to allergies or health issues either. You need to stick to their diet for a reason.
How can I give peanut butter to my dog?
Peanut butter is commonly used on lick mats, which keep dogs distracted when in the bath or being groomed. It is easy to smear the butter onto the mat, and easy to clean afterwards. Plus, it smells a lot nicer than dog food or meaty products!
Peanut butter can also be baked into healthy homemade treats for dogs. We have a favourite peanut butter dog treat recipe, but there are loads of other recipes out there too. You can even make your dog a birthday cupcake using peanut butter and dog-safe carob!
It can be used as a training treat too. Just pop a bit on your finger and they can lick it off. You’d probably want to ensure they have their own jar for this, though…
It could be used inside a Dog Kong, whether you use it as a paste to keep other ingredients layered or solely on its own. Just don’t use too much.