You may have seen coverage in the media recently about human nut butter products posing a health threat to dogs. At issue is xylitol, a sugar alcohol used in human foods as a zero-calorie sweetener.
Because nut butters are not generally considered a “sweet” food, most people would not think to check their peanut butter jars before giving their pets a treat. And if your pet got into a jar of peanut butter accidentally, you might not be particularly concerned.
However, nut butter products (including not just peanut butter, but walnut butter, almond butter, and others) are increasingly using xylitol as an additive. Xylitol is toxic to dogs and can have effects ranging from mild hypoglycemia to potentially fatal liver failure.
What to look for
Xylitol can be listed on ingredient labels under a variety of names. According to the Veterinary Information Network and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs should be kept away from any food with ingredient names starting with “xyl-“, as well as all of the following:
- birch bark extract
- birch sugar
Where to look
Sugar alcohols (including xylitol) and other non-nutritive sweeteners are becoming more and more common in a wide range of human foods. Always check the ingredient panel of any product you buy before feeding it to your dogs, or whenever your dog accidentally ingests human food.
Any product not specifically formulated for pets should be carefully examined before using as a treat. Products should ideally be stored in their original containers so the ingredient panel is available for reference in the case of accidental ingestion.
Safe peanut products
For many dogs, peanut butter is a highly prized treat, and it is fine in limited amounts, provided you purchase a brand that does not contain xylitol. Avoid products with added salt, sweeteners, or artificial ingredients.
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