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Why do dogs love peanut butter?

March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day. What is it about peanut butter that dog's love?

Well, I scratched my head on this one because I've been involved with dogs for decades and tried to think when the first time I heard it was okay to give peanut butter to dogs since giving most people foods to dogs is discouraged. I was at a seminar about separation anxiety about 20+ years ago where it was suggested that stuffing a hollow, rubber toy or bone with peanut butter and then freezing it was a good way to occupy your dog so he would look forward to your leaving because he got this scrumptious treat only when he was alone. (Treatment about separation anxiety has advanced and still incorporates this as one of its tenets but certainly not the only one.)

I think from there it evolved to something along the lines of "just give it to your dog because it's easy for you to do, he enjoys it and it's good for him." Unfortunately, that's not entirely true.

But dogs do seem to love PB. Why? First, because it smells good, and we all know how many more smell receptors dogs have than we do. It also tastes good. And finally because we are excited when we share our "people food" with them and give it to them as a treat. I think all three contribute to our dogs' love of PB.

That being said, choose the right kind of peanut butter for your dog. READ THE LABEL to find out the ingredients. Absolutely positively do NOT get any PB that is sweetened with Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener, because dogs can die from Xylitol, which causes hypoglycemia and liver disease. Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning happen within 10 minutes of ingestion where your dog begins to get weak, staggers, collapses or has seizures. Get him to the vet FAST if you think he may have eaten anything with Xylitol, not just peanut butter, to begin treatment immediately. The longer it is in his system, the worse it is, and the more likely to cause death. Liver disease takes a bit longer to show up and can manifest within 24 hours. Some symptoms include vomiting, excessive thirst, and bloody diarrhea. Again, veterinary intervention is essential.

Avoid trans fats, usually identified on the label as "partially hydrogenated oils" because they can cause diabetes and heart disease.

Remember that peanuts are legumes, not nuts, and legumes contain aflatoxins which come from fungus and are carcinogenic, especially to the liver.

And then there's the salt and the high fat content...

Given all this "bad stuff," would I suggest never to give your dog peanut butter? No. Just be careful. Here are my guidelines.

  • First, check with your vet to see if any of PB's ingredients would exacerbate any underlying medical problem such as allergies or joint disease - and especially liver disease. Also check with him as to the amount for your dog. A good rule of thumb is that all treats - not just PB - should make up only 10% of your dog's food.
  • Then read the label. My preference is peanut butter made from 100% organic peanuts. Period. No salt, no sweeteners, no preservatives, and no extra fats.
  • Then video him eating it and add it to YouTube so we all can enjoy watching him.
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