I’ve heard how crazy dogs are for peanut butter and decided to try it with my group. They’re generally not picky about what they eat unless I’m trying to give them a pill wrapped in something delicious or liquid medicine I’ve praised up and down for its gourmet qualities. I assume they’ll be happy to try peanut butter as long as their suspicions aren’t raised about why I’m giving it to them.
I tend to anthropomorphize my dogs a lot. I assume that whatever I like, they’ll like. It seems to work in reverse too. They’re always surprised when I shoo them off me after they’ve been rolling around in something smelly in the back yard. They assume I’ll like that smell just like they do. Yeck!
Since I love peanut butter, I’m sure my dogs will too. But before I introduce any new food or snack, I research it and everything in it.
In this case I wanted to find out about peanut butter. Is it healthy for dogs to consume? Are there any nutritional benefits? What are the common ingredients found in most peanut butters?
Here's what I discovered…
Is Peanut Butter Healthy for Dogs?
I do not trust any positive report from an organization about something they sell for a profit. This includes pharmaceutical companies, vitamin manufacturers, organic food farms, big grocery store chains, and in this case, dog food and treat producers and suppliers. I’ll review their articles and statements, but I always take them with a very big grain of salt and look for information from other sources that back up what they say.
I first wanted to see if peanut butter was tolerated well by dogs. The majority of what I find says that most dogs don’t have problems with small amounts of peanut butter although, like anything else, dogs with sensitive stomachs may have a bad reaction.
Peanut butter is very high in fat, however, and since a high-fat diet is a culprit in causing pancreatitis, and small dogs tend to be more prone to pancreatitis than larger dogs, if I give my dogs any, it will be a very small amount.
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Foods that are high in fat should be limited for any dog, large or small. Not only is pancreatitis caused by high fat diets, but too much fat can lead to your dog gaining weight rapidly. Obesity is as much of an epidemic in the canine world as it is for humans. Obesity can be detrimental to your dog's health, and ultimately take years off of his life.
So, peanut butter is okay for dogs in moderation.
Just for your information, I found many articles that explained that while some nuts are toxic to dogs, peanuts are not in that group. This always makes me suspect that the rest of the article is not well researched. Peanuts are not nuts. Peanuts are legumes (beans), most of which are good for dogs. They’re low in fat and high in protein.
This doesn't necessarily mean you should go feeding your dog peanuts all of the time. Most peanuts that are sold commercially are salted. Too much salt is not good for dogs. They are also usually coated in oil of some kind, raising their fat content. Make sure to read the packaging of peanuts, or any other treat that you're giving to your dog.
And what about the other ingredients in a jar of peanut butter? The brand I buy, a store brand, also contains “sugar, 2% or less molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed, cottonseed and soybean) and salt.” The peanuts themselves may be healthy for your dog, but let's take a look at the other ingredients.
While it’s probably okay for dogs to have a little sugar (remember, “a little” according to their size, not ours), it can cause the same things we experience when we eat too much: obesity, diabetes, and cavities. It would probably be best to avoid giving dogs sugary foods.
Think about what happens when you give a small child a large amount of sugar. They can become very hyper for a short period of time and then they will suffer from a “sugar crash.” As their body processes the sugar, their energy level slowly dwindles and they eventually become sluggish and tired. The same can happen to dogs.
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Overtime your dog could also develop diseases like diabetes, because processing the excess sugar is much harder for their body. Although there isn't much added sugar in peanut butter, it's best to only give your dog a little bit at a time.
According to what I found, molasses, which evidently can cure everything, is good for us and for dogs. Some forms are better than others, however. Blackstrap molasses has had all (or at least most of) the sugar removed from the cane by a process that leaves the vitamins in the molasses instead of in the sugar.
My peanut butter label says only molasses and not blackstrap molasses and only 2% “or less” at that. It’s not in a form that’s best for dogs (or us), and I think it’s too low a percentage to really do any good, but it should't do any harm either.
The articles I read were contradictory on whether the various vegetable oils and the forms they are in (hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, etc.) were healthy pet food additives. I think I’ll err on the side of caution and say any excess fats or oils are probably not the best thing to be feeding your dog.
Almost everywhere I looked I saw basically the same statement: While some salt is necessary for dogs, even a little too much can cause them to drink a lot of water in a very short time, which can lead to sodium ion poisoning.
Salt absorbs water in the body. That's why your dog will have an increased thirst if he eats too much of it. He will need to drink more water than usual to accommodate this thirst, which will lead to him urinating more. His body will struggle to process the salt quickly.
As your dog's circulatory system and kidneys try to cope with the excessive salt intake, they will become strained and his body may start to swell. Vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases seizures are all signs of sodium ion poisoning as well. If you believe your dog is showing any of these symptoms, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
In my opinion, even food labels for “people food” are not specific enough to do us much good. They can show salt as an ingredient, but they often don’t show how much, and I’m not sure they have to include the amount of sodium in the food ingredients themselves that is not in the form of added salt.
My conclusion is that my dogs already get sodium in their food and salt on the chips we inadvertently drop. I don’t think they need any more, whether from my peanut butter or from anything else.
Peanut butter made for dogs
Since it didn’t seem like human peanut butter was very healthy for dogs (or people for that matter), I looked into peanut butter made specifically for dogs.
The labeling requirements for dog food are even less stringent than those for people food, so in some cases I was unable to figure out exactly what was in doggy peanut butter. That makes me suspicious.
And peanut butter for dogs is considerably more expensive than peanut butter for humans — Kong ‘n Stuff human grade peanut butter for dogs is $1.20 per ounce at Petco as compared to Jif peanut butter at Walmart, which is $.16 per ounce. (I’ve never understood why taking something out of a product makes the product more expensive.)
Peanut butter made specifically for dogs is a fairly new product, so there isn't too much information available for pet parents just yet. Personally, I'd be skeptical to feed it to my dogs, and if I did it would be in very small amounts just for the lack of information available.
Nonetheless, more companies are emerging that manufacture peanut butter for dogs, one of the currently popular being Dog for Dog company who was recently making headlines for generously feeding shelter dogs. Customer reviews of their dog peanut butter products so far have been extremely positive (check them on Amazon) and the overall response to this start-up's ventures seems to be welcoming. Check out some of their popular peanut butter for dogs products on Amazon below.
Top 5 popular Dog for Dog peanut butter treats for dogs:
- Dog for Dog Peanut Butter for Dogs with Immunity and Digestion Formula
- Dog for Dog Peanut Butter for Dogs with Skin and Coat Formula
- Dog for Dog Original Peanut Butter with Flaxseed for Dogs
- Dog for Dog Dog Treats Peanut Butter
- Dog for Dog DOGSBAR Peanut Butter Bar for Dogs
The dog’s experience
I’m going to say something here that will probably get me drummed out of the isn’t-that-funny club. As I said, I anthropomorphize my dogs, and I know how I feel when I get peanut butter stuck in the back of my throat.
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I’ve watched several videos of dogs trying to swallow the peanut butter glob as the humans double over laughing. The dog licks and licks, his neck extended, as he tries to get the peanut butter out of his mouth one way or the other. It looks like a cruel form of teasing to me, and I don’t find it particularly funny.
As we all know, just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it’s good for us — not just in a nutritional sense but also in its potential for harm like choking, vomiting, or other unpleasant physical reactions. If peanut butter tastes that good to a dog, his memory is going to be of the taste and not his physical reaction to it. As a good pet parent, part of my job is to keep my dogs away from those things they may like but that represent a potential threat.
That being said, I will probably let my dogs try a little bit of peanut butter to see if they like it and what their reaction is. I don’t think I’ll be laughing though, and they'll only get a small amount to make sure that it doesn't get stuck in their throats.