Can Dogs Have Peanut Butter?

Posted by Lianne McLeod D.V.M. on

Can Dogs Have Peanut Butter?

Those big puppy dog eyes and wagging tail make it almost impossible to resist sharing your snacks with your furry friend. However, not all human foods are safe for dogs to eat. One treat that many owners wonder about is the crunchy peanut butter. Can dogs have peanut butter or is it off-limits?
 

dog eating peanut butter
 

Peanut butter is a common household staple that some use to give pills to their pups or as an occasional treat. But before you share that spoonful of nutty goodness, it's important to understand if peanut butter treats are safe and healthy for your canine companion.

A Brief History and Production Process of Peanut Butter

While peanuts have been cultivated for centuries, the peanut butter we know and love today didn't emerge until the 1890s. That's when a new process was invented to grind peanuts into a more shelf-stable, spreadable paste.
 

the manufacturing of peanut butter
 

According to the History of Peanuts & Peanut Butter, credit for popularizing this innovation often goes to John Harvey Kellogg, the famous physician who filed one of the earliest peanut butter patents in 1895. Kellogg claimed this easy-to-digest peanut paste offered health benefits by providing a plant-based protein source.

Back in those early days, peanut butter production was extremely labor-intensive. Peanut farmers had to shell each seed by hand, cultivate and plow fields manually, and roast and grind small batches of peanuts as needed using rudimentary tools.

The Modern Process  

These days, peanut butter production is a highly systematized process that begins even before the peanuts leave the farm. According to, the American Peanut Council, here's a look at the key steps:

  1. Inspection and Grading

After harvesting, the farmer's stockpile of unshelled peanuts goes through a rigorous inspection by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA/AMS). Samples are analyzed to determine factors like meat content, size, damage, foreign materials, and moisture levels. This data establishes the overall quality and pricing value.

  1. Cleaning and Shelling  

The graded peanuts then move onto the shelling plant. First, they go through a cleaning process to remove any remaining stones, soil, or debris. The cleaned peanuts are fed into shelling machines that forcibly crack off the inedible hulls.

Air columns and gravity separators isolate the edible peanut kernels from the discarded hulls and shells. Any remaining debris is removed using screening and electronic color sorters.

  1. Sizing and Sorting

Next, the peanut kernels are sorted by size using perforated screens and sizes. The different size categories are prepped for different product types - with larger kernels reserved for snacking peanuts.

More high-tech sorting equipment scans for any discolored, damaged, or defective kernels to remove them from the batch destined for peanut butter.

  1. Roasting and Grinding

To make peanut butter, the sorted peanut kernels go through a roasting process to enhance that distinctive nutty flavor. The roasted peanuts are then finely ground into an ultra-smooth peanut paste.

  1. Blending and Packaging

Depending on the product, the fresh peanut butter may have salt, sweeteners, or other ingredients blended in to achieve the desired flavor and texture. It's promptly packaged up while still warm to seal in maximum freshness.

Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter?

As a dog owner, you've probably wondered if sharing some peanut butter with your furry friend is okay. Yes, it’s okay as most dogs can eat peanut butter in moderation without any issues. This nutty spread can even provide some valuable nutrients for your pup when chosen carefully.
  

dog licking peanut butter spoon
  

Let's take a closer look at the key ingredients in peanut butter to understand the potential benefits as well as risks for our dogs eat peanuts.

  1. Peanuts: Peanuts are the primary ingredient in peanut butter., they are rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They also contain various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.

  2. Oil: Some peanut butter brands add oil to their product to achieve a smoother texture. The type of oil used can vary, but it’s usually a vegetable oil.

  3. Sugar: Sugar is often added to peanut butter to enhance its taste. While a small amount of sugar is unlikely to harm a dog, excessive amounts can lead to obesity and other health problems.

  4. Salt: Salt is another common additive in peanut butter. While dogs need some sodium in their diet, too much can be harmful.

  5. Xylitol: Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free products like chewing gum, toothpaste, breath mints, chewable vitamins, and baked goods. It is safe for people, but toxic to dogs.

Benefits of Peanut Butter for Pups

As a devoted dog owner, you want to give your furry friend the best of everything, including the tastiest and most nutritious treats. This dog peanut butter spread can provide some excellent health benefits when fed properly and in moderation.

Packed With Protein

One of the biggest nutritional advantages of dogs peanut butter is its high protein content. Protein is an essential macronutrient that builds and repairs tissues like muscles, skin, nails, and more. It's especially crucial for active dogs and growing puppies.

The protein in peanut butter is high-quality and provides all the essential amino acids dogs need like phenylalanine, tryptophan, and lysine. This makes it an excellent plant-based protein source to supplement their diet.

Healthy Fats

You've probably heard that too much fat is bad for dogs. But not all fats are created equal. Research shows that creamy peanut butter has unsaturated fats, which are much healthier.

These healthy fats provide energy, promote healthy skin and coat, aid nutrient absorption, and support other vital functions. The unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are especially beneficial. 

Just be cautious with portion sizes, as these good fats are still calorie-dense and too much can lead to weight gain.

dog with a spoon of peanut butter
  

Key Vitamins and Minerals  

In addition to protein and fats, studies find that a peanut butter treat is a good source of various essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health in dogs. These include:

  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that protects cells from damage

  • B Vitamins: Play roles in metabolism, red blood cell production, healthy skin/coat, and more  

  • Niacin: Specifically aids fat and glucose metabolism for energy

  • Magnesium: Supports bone/muscle health, protein production and nerve function

  • Phosphorus: Works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth

  • Zinc: Vital for immune function, wound healing, and thyroid health

While dogs shouldn't rely solely on peanut butter for their vitamin and mineral needs, it can be a good complementary source for the occasional treat.
  

dog licking peanut butter from a spoon


  

Fiber for Healthy Digestion

Natural peanut butter contains a decent amount of fiber, including both soluble and insoluble types. Fiber promotes good digestion by regulating bowel movements and feeding the beneficial gut bacteria that aid nutrient absorption.

The soluble fiber in particular may help reduce diarrhea episodes and even lower the risk of colon cancer in dogs. Just be cautious about introducing too much fiber too quickly, as it can initially cause gas or loose stools.

A Tasty Pill Pocket

Peanut butter makes an excellent, tasty disguise for bitter capsules or tablets. Simply wrap the pill in a small scoop of peanut butter, form it into a bite-sized treat and your pup will happily lick it up. The sticky texture helps everything bind together nicely.
 

there are potential health risks of giving peanut butter to dogs
  
   

Potential Health Risks of These Ingredients on Dogs

While peanut butter can be a good source of protein and healthy fats for dogs, some of its common ingredients can pose health risks:

  1. Peanuts: While peanuts themselves are generally safe for dogs, some dogs may have peanut allergies, which can cause symptoms ranging from mild (itchiness, redness) to severe (anaphylaxis).

  2. Oil: Most peanut butter with certain types of oil, particularly hydrogenated oils, can contribute to obesity and pancreatitis in dogs if consumed in large amounts.

  3. Sugar: Excessive sugar intake can lead to obesity, dental problems, and diabetes in dogs.

  4. Salt: Too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning in dogs, which can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.

  5. Xylitol: Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts in dog treats can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death in dogs.

The Danger of Xylitol in Peanut Butter

Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in many "sugar-free" products like gum, candy, baked goods, and even some peanut butter brands. While xylitol is considered safe for people, it can have severe, even life-threatening effects in dogs.
  


  

In humans, xylitol is slowly absorbed and doesn't significantly impact insulin or blood sugar levels. But in dogs, that's not the case at all. When a dog ingests xylitol, it rapidly enters their bloodstream and triggers a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This insulin spike then causes profound hypoglycemia: a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Symptoms can set in quickly, appearing within 30 minutes to 12 hours after xylitol ingestion. Mild cases may just cause weakness and lethargy, but severe hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, liver failure, and even death without immediate veterinary treatment.

Part of this problem stems from xylitol being added to an increasing number of products beyond just gum and candy. Unsuspecting owners may unknowingly feed their dogs xylitol-containing foods like certain peanut butter brands.  

Identifying Xylitol in Peanut Butter

This is where reading ingredient labels is essential. Xylitol can go by many different names like birch sugar, birch bark extract, wood sugar, and more. So you can't just look for that one word.

always check for xylitol when giving peanut butter to your dogs

The only way to ensure the peanut butter treat you're feeding your dog is xylitol-free, is to diligently scan the full ingredient list every single time before purchasing.

Safe Peanut Butter for Pups

The good news is that many dog-safe peanut butter options are available. Opt for natural, unsweetened varieties with peanuts or peanut butter as the only ingredient. These are xylitol-free and provide all the nutritional benefits without the dangers.

You can also make homemade peanut butter by simply blending up some roasted peanuts without any added ingredients. This ensures you know exactly what's in it.

Even safe, xylitol-free varieties should still be fed in strict moderation to prevent obesity, pancreatitis, and other issues from too much fat and calories. Some dogs may also have peanut allergies or sensitivities. So it's wise to introduce peanut butter slowly while monitoring for any adverse reactions.

How Much Peanut Butter Can Dogs Eat?

It's recommended to limit peanut butter intake to no more than 10% of your pup's daily calories from treats in general. For most dogs, this equates to:
 

how many tablespoons of peanut butter can dogs eat
 
  • Small dogs (under 20 lbs): 1-2 teaspoons per day

  • Medium dogs (20-60 lbs): 1 tablespoon per day

  • Large dogs (over 60 lbs): Up to 2 tablespoons per day

These are just general guidelines though. The ideal portion can vary based on factors like your dog's:

  • Age (puppies and senior dogs may need less)

  • Activity level 

  • Overall size and weight

  • Existing medical conditions

It's always best to consult with your vet to determine the appropriate peanut butter portion for your individual dog's needs. They can factor in your pup's unique characteristics and lifestyle. 

In addition to monitoring portions, Pet Poison Prevention advises selecting a dog-safe, natural peanut butter product. Many popular peanut butter brands load their jars with added sugars, sodium, oils, and other concerning ingredients. 

At the end of the day, your own peanut butter treat can be worked into a healthy diet for most dogs when given in proper moderation. The key is simply sticking to vet-recommended portion sizes based on your dog's size and individual needs, selecting natural products without risky additives, and thinking of peanut butter as an indulgence rather than a daily dietary staple.


References:


1. The Story of Peanuts & Peanut Butter. (n.d.). Nationalpeanutboard.org. https://nationalpeanutboard.org/news/history-peanuts-peanut-butter/

2. The Peanut Industry. (n.d.). American Peanut Council. Retrieved May 14, 2024, from https://peanutsusa.com/industry-resources/the-peanut-industry/13-peanut-shelling-grading.htm

3. Michel, K. E. (2006). Unconventional Diets for Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 36(6), 1269–1281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2006.08.003

 

4. Venter, C. S., Nel, C., Vorster, H. H., Jerling, J. C., Welma Oosthuizen, Frederick Johannes Veldman, Kellerman, J. A., Smuts, C. M., W. J. H. Vermaak, van, & J.H. De Ridder. (1997). Soluble-fibre concentrate lowers plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 in baboons (Papio ursinus). British Journal of Nutrition, 78(4), 625–637. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn19970179

5. Aleo, M., Ross, S., Becskei, C., Coscarelli, E., King, V., Darling, M., & Lorenz, J. (2018). Palatability Testing of Oral Chewables in Veterinary Medicine for Dogs. Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 08(08), 107–118. https://doi.org/10.4236/ojvm.2018.88011

6. Commissioner, O. of the. (2020). Paws Off Xylitol; It’s Dangerous for Dogs. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/paws-xylitol-its-dangerous-dogs

7. admin. (2023, June 7). Pet Poison Prevention: Understanding Xylitol Toxicity in Pets. Animal Emergency Care. https://animalemergencycare.net/pet-poison-prevention-understanding-xylitol-toxicity-in-pets/

8. Laflamme, D. P. (2012). COMPANION ANIMALS SYMPOSIUM: Obesity in dogs and cats: What is wrong with being fat?1. Journal of Animal Science, 90(5), 1653–1662. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2011-4571


9. Beynen, A. C. Dietary fat and overweight in dogs. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/364330478_Dietary_fat_and_overweight_in_dogs

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Author

Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.
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