Nuts, especially peanuts, are the perfect, portable, tasty snack filled with various nutrients and healthy fats. This popular human snack is often mixed with other fruits, nuts, treats, or seasoned in savory or sweet ways. It's not uncommon to want to share everything with your dog, especially a delicious snack or a bite of your PB&J. But is it safe to share peanuts with your dog? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. Some nuts are safe for most dogs to consume in moderation, while others are toxic or fatal. Not all peanut products are created equally - it’s important to keep your dog’s diet in mind and watch for any allergic reactions when feeding peanuts.
Should Dogs Eat Peanuts?
Although peanuts are not toxic for dogs, they are not required to keep your dog healthy and can cause illness in some cases. Peanuts are not technically a nut but are part of the legume family. They contain various nutrients, including protein, biotin niacin, folate, and Vitamin C and Vitamin E, which can support skin and coat health, brain health, heart health, and good circulation. Peanuts are also high in fat calories, so they should only be offered to your dog in small amounts as an occasional treat.
Feeding too many peanuts can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. Because of the high-fat content, excess peanut consumption can also lead to pancreatitis, which is painful and potentially fatal in dogs. Additionally, peanuts should not be given to dogs with certain underlying health issues, including:
- Overweight dogs or dogs with obesity. Dogs who are overweight or obese are at risk for many underlying health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Peanuts should not be fed as a snack to overweight dogs because of their high-fat content, which can inhibit weight loss.
- Food sensitivity or intolerances. Dogs on veterinary-prescribed diets for conditions such as food allergies or irritable bowel disease should only be fed peanuts or other treats if your DVM approves.
- Kidney or heart disease. Dogs diagnosed with heart or kidney problems should not eat peanut butter or treats, as most contain some sodium, which can exacerbate their illness.
Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter?
Peanut butter and almond butter are popular treats pet owners and veterinarians use to sneak in their pup's daily medication. Like peanuts, peanut butter or almond butter can be fed to most dogs in small amounts as an occasional treat or when given a pill. However, it's critical to check the label to ensure no additives or artificial sweeteners may be pet-toxic.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute in many nut butter or other sugar-free foods. Interpreting food labels can be tricky, so look for and avoid products with any ingredients labeled as natural sweeteners, sugar alcohol, D-xylitol, xylite, anhydroxylitol, xylitylglucoside, or 1,4, anhydro-D-X-xylitol. Small amounts can be deadly; for some small dogs, just one stick of sugarless gum can cause poisoning.
Xylitol is quickly released into a dog's bloodstream. It triggers the pancreas to release three to seven times the amount of insulin typically released with equivalent sugar, resulting in dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Dogs who ingest large amounts of xylitol are at risk of liver failure and death. Immediately call your veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if your dog accidentally eats anything containing xylitol. Signs may include:
- Weakness or lethargy
- Yellowing of the skin or mucous membranes
- Difficulty standing
Safe Nuts for Dogs
All nuts, including peanuts, can be dangerous for dogs if they become moldy. Aflatoxins found in mold can lead to GI problems, decreased appetite, lethargy, and liver failure. Ensure that all nuts are appropriately stored and free of mold. Feeding your dog any nut also puts them at risk for a choking hazard or blockage, so only provide them one nut at a time and monitor them closely. Generally, raw, unsalted, unseasoned peanuts, cashews, and pecans are safe for dogs to consume in small amounts occasionally.
However, never feed your dog the following:
- Black walnuts are highly susceptible to mold-containing mycotoxins, which are fatal to dogs. Walnuts can also lead to GI upset, obstructions, and toxin-associated seizures.
- Pistachios are not inherently toxic; however, they are high in fat, which can put dogs at risk for pancreatitis. Additionally, some may contain aflatoxin, which is grown from mold and can cause GI upset and seizures in dogs.
- Macadamia nuts contain an unknown toxic agent. Dogs who ingest macadamia nuts are at risk for hind limb weakness, lethargy, GI upset, and tremors.
- Almonds are not easily digestible, which can result in GI upset or pancreatitis. Plain, smooth, almond butter fed as the occasional treat in small quantities is generally safe.
How to Safely Feed Your Dog Peanuts (and Peanut Butter)
As with any treat, peanut treats should not comprise more than 10% of your dog's daily calories. When introducing a new treat or food, offer just one or two peanuts to gauge your dog's tolerance and reaction. Always check the label when providing any peanut-flavored treat to ensure it is free of dog-toxic ingredients like xylitol, salt, or other toxic seasonings and flavorings. The safest way to feed your dog peanuts or peanut butter includes the following:
- Offering a few plain, unseasoned, unsalted, raw peanuts - never feed your dog peanut shells!
- Giving them a small spoonful of plain, xylitol-free peanut butter, or place it as a food topper
- Dog-formulated commercial pet treats
- Putting a small amount of plain peanut butter in a Kong toy or lick mat
- Incorporate peanut butter into a homemade dog treat. Try making a pupcake and combine it with bone broth or pumpkin powder.
Other Tasty Treats to Give Your Pup
Feeding your dog the occasional treat is a great way to bond, show your dog love, or reward them for good behavior. If peanuts or peanut butter are not an option for your pup due to underlying health issues, or they are not a fan, here are numerous healthy and tasty treat options.
Some of my favorites include:
- Offering unseasoned, steamed, or raw pet-safe veggies, like cucumber, green beans, or bell peppers
- Providing a long-lasting chew
- Visiting a local bakery and trying a new, creative treat
- Making homemade frozen treats to keep your pup cool in the summer months
For more tips on your dog’s health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.