Do your dogs drool at the smell and sight of a dollop of peanut butter? Have you ever wondered whether or not peanut butter is even appropriate for them to eat?
Fortunately, most peanut butter – in moderation — is safe for dogs to eat and is an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin. The healthiest options? Unsalted peanut butter, dog-specific peanut butter and homemade peanut butter since those with high levels of sodium can be problematic for many dogs — and homemade peanut butter, in particular, contains no extra sugar or other unwanted additives.
While the majority of peanut butter brands on the market may be safe, others can prove deadly to dogs. In recent years, some manufacturers of peanut butter have switched from using sugar to the artificial sweetener xylitol. This sugar substitute is now found in sugar-free “people” products ranging from baked goods, desserts, dietary supplements, chewable vitamins and cough syrups to breath mints, chewing gum, mouthwash and toothpaste. And although xylitol is harmless to people, it is TOXIC to dogs.
If a dog consumes peanut butter containing xylitol, it causes a condition scientifically called hypoglycemia. What are its symptoms? A rapid release of insulin in his body, resulting in an equally rapid and profound decrease in his blood sugar levels. Life threatening if left untreated, hypoglycemia can occur as swiftly as 10 to 60 minutes after ingestion.
Further complicating matters most recently are the other names for xylitol, including birch sugar, birch bark extract, sugar alcohol and wood sugar – all clearly visible on the product’s label of ingredients! Currently, the main sources of peanut butter containing xylitol are smaller companies with specialty brands such as Go Nuts, Co. Peanut Butter, Krush Nutrition’s “Nutty By Nature,” Nuts ‘N More and P28 High Protein Peanut Spread. Be particularly wary of the terms “natural sweetener” and “sugar-free” – clues that this peanut butter is probably sweetened with xylitol.
If you believe that your cherished canine companion has consumed xylitol, contact your veterinarian, an emergency clinic or a pet poison helpline immediately, and look for symptoms of xylitol poisoning, such as lack of coordination, staggering, weakness, collapse and seizures.
But, as a conscientious dog owner, YOU can prevent this from happening in the first place by simply checking the label of the peanut butter – especially the fine print.
Brush up on pet food label basics in our previous article
By Nomi Berger