Can dogs eat peanut butter?

Pet care & safety
shepherd with peanut butter on his nose

Most dogs love peanut butter! Luckily, the majority of peanut butters are safe for dogs to eat. However, you’ll want to give it in moderation and always read the label as there are ingredients in certain types of peanut butter that can be deadly to dogs.

If your pet has an underlying medical condition, consult your veterinarian to find out if peanut butter is safe or should be avoided.  

Is peanut butter good for dogs?

Peanut butter is a good source of protein and a healthy fat when given in small amounts as a treat. Overall, treats should not provide more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories. Too many unhealthy snacks can add up fast. As a rule of thumb, small dogs should get no more than ½ a tablespoon per day and larger dogs should get no more than 1 tablespoon per day.

Concerns with dogs eating peanuts range from choking in a very small dog (such as if a large amount of chunky peanut butter getting stuck) to upset stomach or intestinal obstruction if eating peanut shells.

Be Sure to Read the Label

Many peanut butters contain preservatives or extra sugars which aren’t the healthiest. Try to find one that is low on or free of additives. You can also look for a peanut grinder in a natural food grocery section and make your own fresh peanut butter. Similarly, you can DIY at home with a food processor or blender.

Don’t be fooled by “all natural” or “no artificial sweeteners” on a peanut butter jar label. Xylitol is an “all natural” sweeter that can be deadly to dogs.

Xylitol Toxicity from Sugar-free Peanut Butter

Xylitol is an increasingly common sugar substitute that is highly toxic to dogs. Depending on the amount of xylitol ingested and the size of the dog, side effects usually occur within 10-30 minutes after consumption, but can take up to 12 hours if absorbed into the body slowly.

Signs may include lethargy, vomiting, low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and death. There is no antidote for xylitol toxicity, but fast and aggressive veterinary treatment are beneficial to help lessen the risk of severe problems developing. Hospitalization is best to allow frequent bloodwork monitoring of sugar levels and liver functions. If severe complications arise, the prognosis for recovery is poor.

Xylitol may also appear on the product label under other names. Look for other names with the letters “xyl” in the ingredient. Synonyms include:

  • 1,4-anhydro-d-xylitol

  • Anhydroxylitol

  • birch bark extract

  • birch sugar

  • d-xylitol

  • xylite

  • xylitylglucoside

  • Zylatol

If you suspect that your pet has eaten a xylitol-containing peanut butter product, please call your veterinarian, local veterinary emergency clinic, or animal poison control immediately.

Can dogs eat peanuts?

Plain peanuts are generally safe when fed to dogs. Fresh, non-salted peanuts (without shells) are best. Chunky peanut butter can be okay too. Keep in mind that all nuts are high in fat and can cause GI upset if eaten in large enough quantities; pancreatitis is possible in predisposed animals.

Peanuts can be susceptible to contamination by molds that produce dangerous toxins. Dogs are especially sensitive to these toxins which can cause liver injuries and neurological concerns. Avoid any suspicious peanuts.

Are other nut butters okay?

Sweet almond butter (avoid bitter almonds) and cashew butter are non-toxic and can be fed to dogs. The only actually toxic nuts are macadamia nuts. These nuts should be avoided at all costs. Signs of accidental ingestion develop within 3-24 hours and include weakness, vomiting, trouble walking, tremors, central nervous system depression, and hyperthermia. Joint and muscle pain may also occur.

Can my cat eat peanut butter too?

Technically, yes. Should you feed it? No. Even a small amount of peanut butter has more calories than are necessary for the average cat and can significantly increase their risk of weight gain and obesity. It can cause undesirable begging behaviors and disinterest in regular food. If your cat likes peanut butter, a small amount when administering medications or a small lick from a spoon as a treat is not harmful. Too much at once can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Additionally, keep in mind that peanut butter is commonly used as a popular disguise for rodent bait. If you have encouraged your cat to seek out this delicious treat, it may increase the risk your cat may be tempted to eat this poison “treat” in a trap, with tragic results. So, what’s the bottom line? Peanut butter is not poisonous for cats but is also not the healthiest treat and should not be fed on a regular basis. Stick to safer and more cat-friendly snack options. There are currently no known ill effects of xylitol toxicity in cats.