Peanut butter has long been a mainstay in our homes. It’s easy to reach for this high-protein spread over and over, to satisfy picky eaters or as part of a quick meal. Now, more and more pet owners are reaching for that jar for their dogs, to hide a pill or fill a toy to keep him entertained…but is it as healthy for our dogs as it is for us?
So, how much peanut butter can a dog have? 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) per 10 pounds of your dog’s weight, per day, with a cap of 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) is an amount that is typically safe. Do not give the full amount right away, or it could make your dog ill; because too much can cause pancreatitis. Use a brand that contains only peanuts and a bit of salt. Beware of the sweetener, Xylitol, as even a small amount of it is toxic to dogs.
Whether or not peanut butter is safe for dogs is a serious concern. Let’s take a look at this useful food from every possible angle, for the health and well-being of your dog – How much is safe, how to use it, what ingredients to watch out for, and even if you should weigh cancer as a concern.
Peanut Butter Ingredients that are Bad for Dogs
Xylitol is an alcohol sugar more likely to be found in a “healthier“ peanut butter. No amount of Xylitol is acceptable for a dog of any size. It is so toxic to dogs, that even a small amount can be fatal. According to Dr. Lee Pickett, DVM, “xylitol poisons dogs in two ways: It induces liver failure, and it releases insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels enough to cause loss of coordination, seizures, and death. There is no specific antidote, but immediate veterinary care is often successful at saving the dog’s life.”
Sugars, including corn syrup, are better avoided: so are added fats. These aren’t necessarily dealbreakers, if you only feed your dog peanut butter occasionally. If he is having some every day, though, you should consider upgrading to a purer brand.
This infographic sums up good vs. bad peanut butter ingredients at a glance:
What Happens if the Dog Eats too much Peanut Butter
A main concern for any consumer of peanut butter is that too much would cause weight gain. An additional problem with dogs is that this much fat can dangerously overtax their digestive systems, especially the pancreas.
Can I Fill a Kong Toy with Peanut Butter?
I thought this was a cute idea, until I found out that people were completely filling one or more Kong toys with peanut butter, every single day, to keep their dogs content, while in their crates.
Certainly, peanut butter is healthy, in moderation; but the fact is, peanut butter is a condiment, not a course. What would you think of a parent who left his child, sedentary, eating a small dishful of peanut butter, every single day? Of course, none of us would do that!
Let’s reframe our use of peanut butter for our dogs. If we look at it as a condiment, instead of a side-dish, it scuttles a lot of the health concerns. After all, your dog can’t gain weight from it, if he is only having a small amount.
Instead of a huge amount of peanut butter in a Kong Toy every day, use a small amount, and spread it out more. Keep it fun by swapping out the Kong for a Likki Mat every other time. I love this 2-pack of Likki Mats, because having an extra gives the first one a chance to go through the dishwaher and dry completely before the next use, reducing the chance of hazardous bacteria formation.
Take it slow, if you are introducing your dog to peanut butter for the first time. Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, says that ‘some dogs will get an inflamed pancreas from peanut butter, because of the fat content. Other dogs take peanut butter; and, to them, it’s nothing. Make sure that you start small with peanut butter, 1/2 teaspoon a day. Then, make sure that there’s no vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or other strange reactions (which would be very unusual, because peanut allergies are not common in dogs, but they do exist). Do that the first day. Then, the next day, you can work your way up to 3/4 teaspoon, and then maybe even go up to a teaspoon and a half.
Now, some of this will also depend on the size of the dog.’
This graph spells out a simple plan for introducing peanut butter into your dog’s diet, safety and cautiously.
The Best Peanut Butter for Dogs
Don’t worry, there’s no need for an exhaustive list of peanut butters! This is very, very simple. Dr. Susan Wynn, DVM, says it best:
That’s all there is to it! The best peanut butter for your dog (and you, too, for that matter) is the one with the shortest ingredient list. Dr. Dressler also notes that added fats and sugars feed cancers, so are best avoided whenever possible.
Upgrade to a better peanut butter, if you haven’t already. When a peanut butter is made of only peanuts, and no fillers, it has a highly concentrated peanut flavor that will send your pup over the moon! Trust me, you will not need to use as much as you do of the cheap stuff, and your dog will be thrilled…and healthier. A good example of a really pure peanut butter is Teddy brand, my old favorite. When I use this kind to give my Lily a pill, I don’t even need to coat the pill; I just put a dab on the spoon and stick the pill to it.
DIY Peanut Butter for your Dog (and you!)
I can’t resist adding this amazing peanut butter recipe from the Taste of Home website (source). Basically, you just put peanuts and salt in your food processor and zoop it up until it…well, until it looks like peanut butter!
- “2 cups unsalted dry roasted peanuts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
Start by placing the peanuts and salt in your food processor. Process for about 5 minutes—or until the desired consistency is reached—scraping down sides with a spatula as needed. If you prefer a super-smooth, creamy peanut butter, you’ll want to process for a little longer. If you like a chunky peanut butter, process a little less.”
Can you believe it’s so simple? Put it into a clean jar. It doesn’t need to go in the refrigerator, but it will keep better, if you do, and have less chance of separating. If it does separate, just stir it back together with a spoon.
Resources for Further Info
Dr. Dressler’s podcast about dog cancer is an amazing resource!
A good primer on the dangers of Xylitol.
Damage-Control from the National Peanut Board