Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter? The Answer May Surprise You!

Golden Retriever Eating Peanut Butter Out of a Jar with Tongue

Peanut butter is one of the most delicious and nutritious foodstuffs out there.

Many of us grew up on the stuff, you know, the kind your Choosey Mom used to buy for your sandwiches and after-school snack.  

Times have changed a bit and there are more types of peanut butter to choose from nowadays.  It has even changed from a kid’s food to the snack consumed by professional athletes.  

Even my personal trainer has recommended having a tablespoon or two of peanut butter before a long run to help give me energy. I will admit, the peanut butter does seem to help power my body.

But can dogs eat peanut butter? The answer may surprise you!

Pompapoo Smiling at the Camera

Like us, dogs absolutely can eat peanut butter.

I love peanut butter and my dog seems to love it too. He often doesn’t hear his name being called from the other room, but he seems to magically appear once I crack open a jar of PB.

My dog is naturally athletic and often accompanies me on runs. I actually started giving him a little bit of PB before our runs together for an extra boost.

However, when it comes to peanut butter, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start spooning it up for your canine companion. Here’s the run-down:

Peanut butter is a nutritious, useful tool

Peanut butter is packed full of good fats, protein and flavor. It is also the perfect, nutritious vehicle for giving your dog medication. If your dog takes medication, you can coat the pill or capsule in peanut butter before giving. Ask your vet first, as some meds need to be given on an empty stomach.

Peanut butter is delicious, but calorific

That’s right, peanut butter contains a LOT of calories. Across brands, the average is about 100 calories per tablespoon. Your dog, even a giant breed, has a very different metabolism from you and requires fewer calories each day.

A 30 pound dog needs about 800 calories per day to maintain their weight. They will need more or fewer calories depending on their age, health status and activity level.  An active Greyhound that runs 5k three times a week with her owner will need more calories than a Greyhound who spends most of his time on the couch.

Giving too much peanut butter can often lead to unwanted weight gain.  A teaspoon every so often (or before a long run) for a large-breed dog may be just about right.  Toy and small breed dogs like the Chihuahua and Shih Tzu need to enjoy even less.

Peanut butter is not okay for certain dogs

Peanut butter is naturally fatty.  Fat is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is necessary in our diets, both human and canine. However, too much fatty food can trigger painful pancreatitis in certain predisposed dogs, such as Miniature Schnauzers. Dogs with medical conditions like diabetes should not eat peanut butter, as it can adversely affect blood sugar levels.

Peanut Butter Treat

Some peanut butter can be dangerous for dogs!

Wait, what?  Bottom line:  READ the LABEL!

Why? Some peanut butters now contain the sugar alcohol xylitol as a sugar substitute. Xylitol causes harm by over-stimulating the dog’s pancreas and causing a massive release of insulin into the bloodstream.

The result is a rapid drop in blood sugar, leading to lethargy, vomiting, liver failure, seizures, coma and even sudden death.

Brands that currently contain xylitol include: “Nutty By Nature” (Krush Foods), P-98 and Nuts n’ More. Keep an eye out for xylitol in other brands, especially those marketed as “diabetic friendly,” “sugar free” or “no sugar added.”

Not all peanut butters are created equal

  • Across the board, peanut butter brands may be similar in calories, but ingredient lists can vary a good bit. Things to keep in mind when selecting a peanut butter for you and your dog:
  • “PB Purists” may go for grind-it-yourself, 100% peanut product, found in-store at high end grocers like Whole Foods and the Fresh Market.
  •  “All-natural” varieties can contain one or two ingredients (such as ground peanuts and salt); brands include Smucker’s All-Natural and Adam’s. Remember to stir and refrigerate these for optimum food safety and shelf life.
  • A couple smaller companies that I really like are Big Spoon and Saratoga Peanut Butter Company. Both of these companies make it the right way!
  • Some may contain palm oil or added peanut or canola oil, sometimes increasing the calorie count per tablespoon.
  • Added sugar is common in many brands, such as Jif and Skippy

In my humble opinion, I like to go for the “pure” stuff, just peanuts and a little salt. If you like it sweet, that’s okay for most dogs too.  You can even sweeten your own with a little honey.

Healthy, Tasty and In Moderation
It is perfectly okay to give your dog peanut butter now and again (as long as they are not one of the predisposed breeds mentioned above).

Always be careful when giving peanut butter and remember to do so in moderation.

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s health, always ask your veterinarian.

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