When it comes to miraculous, delicious, jack-of-all-trades substances for pets, nothing comes close to peanut butter. Dogs love it, it’s (relatively) healthy and, heck, even some cats like it! And there are so many ways to use peanut butter in the pet world.
One of my favorites is to keep dogs busy in their crates. Fill a KONG® or other fillable toy with peanut butter and a few kibbles, and your dog will be entertained for a while. Peanut butter is also a great tool for any training that benefits from a yummy reward. Fill a spoon with peanut butter, pop it in the freezer and the next day, you might as well be holding a magic wand instead of a peanut butter spoon — that’s how great it is! And don’t get me started on how easy it is to give a dog pills coated in peanut butter!
But, all good things must end, right? Here’s where the story takes a sad turn.
In our never ending quest for “healthy” human products, sometimes we make changes to ingredients that aren’t so good for our dogs. The change I’m talking about here is the addition of the sugar substitute xylitol to candies, gum and, now, peanut butter.
Xylitol is perfectly safe for human consumption, but it is without a doubt unsafe for dogs. We’ve long known about the ill effects of xylitol — dogs who have gotten into gum containing the sugar substitute have been getting sick for years. But the addition of xylitol to a food we give our pets so often can only spell trouble.
Xylitol toxicity can cause low blood sugar in dogs in the short term, and in the long term, it can cause liver failure. Both of these conditions can easily be fatal, and both will rack up some pretty serious veterinary bills.
So far, xylitol has not been used in mainstream peanut butters, but a handful of specialty peanut butter makers have added it to the mix. Be sure to check the ingredients on your jar before you use it for training or treats for your pet. If it contains xylitol, leave it on the shelf.
The same thing goes for many sugar-free human foods and treats. Always check the label, and if xylitol is in the ingredients list, keep it well away from pets. Resourceful dogs are quick to search purses for gum, or jump up on counters or rummage through the trash can. There is no limit to the lengths some pets will go through for a treat. But when that treat contains xylitol, it could be deadly, even in low doses.
Back to the almost-perfect peanut butter. Yes, it is fine to give to your dog in most cases. Because of its high fat content, dogs who have had pancreatitis should probably avoid peanut butter, as should dogs who are on an elimination diet for allergy purposes. But when it is safe and xylitol-free, your dog will love you for it. Just check the ingredients first.