Is it safe for your German Shepherd to eat peanut butter? Is it safe for any dog to eat peanut butter?
You hear about people giving their German Shepherds peanut butter and crackers as a special treat, but is this really a good idea?
The answer is it depends.
In most cases, it’s fine if your German Shephard eats peanut butter, but in some cases, it should be strictly avoided (such as allergy to it or peanut butter mixed with chocolate).
But it’s not a good idea to make it a part of their regular diet. You can, however, give peanut butter to your German Shepherd occasionally as a treat.
When You Shouldn’t Give Peanut Butter to German Shepherd
There are a number of situations in which German Shepherds and other dogs should NOT be given peanut butter, not even a tiny amount:
- Your dog has a peanut allergy, or has a tree nut allergy. Dogs that become allergic to peanuts will often become cross reactive to tree nuts, and vice versa. They can break out in a skin reaction that looks a lot like hives, or develop swollen tongues, swollen throats, and trouble breathing. Dogs that have peanut allergies usually were fed peanuts or were around peanuts when they were puppies.
- The peanut butter you have to feed your dog is well past its expiration date or rancid. The deadly byproduct of mold called aflatoxin can be found on peanuts, but the aflatoxin-producing mold will not grow in peanut butter. However, bacteria can contaminate peanut butter and make it go bad. Rancid peanut butter is usually hard and dry and smells “off.” If you wouldn’t eat it, you should not offer it to your dog.
- The peanut butter is swirled with grape jelly. The equivalent of just five grapes can kill a 20-pound (9 kg) dog. Scientists don’t know exactly what it is about grapes and raisins that makes them toxic to dogs, but dogs that eat grapes of grape jelly can develop kidney failure within 72 hours of consuming them.
- The peanut butter is sweetened with the sugar substitute xylitol. Industrial fermentation processes transform wood chips, corn cobs, or straw into xylitol. This super-sweet zero-calorie chemical produces an intense reduction in a dog’s blood sugar levels. Weak muscles, depression, vomiting, seizures, and coma can result.
- The peanut butter is mixed with chocolate. You should never give your German Shepherd or any other dog Reese’s Pieces. The chemical in chocolate that makes you feel better as you eat it is theobromine. In dogs, theobromine can trigger anxiety, agitation, restlessness, vomiting, rapid pulse, panting, and seizures. The Merck Veterinary Manual tells us that one ounce of chocolate per pound of body weight can kill German Shepherds and other dogs.
So, you should not give peanut butter to a German Shepherd or any other dog that is allergic to it.
You shouldn’t give your German Shepherd or any other dog peanut butter mixed with grape jelly, chocolate, or xylitol. Don’t feed your dog peanut butter that you wouldn’t eat yourself.
But what about small amounts of pure peanut butter for dogs that aren’t allergic to it?
Peanut Butter Has Real Nutritional Value
When it’s not mixed with problem foods or problem chemicals, and it’s fresh and edible, peanut butter has genuine nutritional value.
Peanut butter is a good source of calories. An adult German Shepherd needs 1740 to 2100 calories per day.
A hefty 100-gram (3-1/2 ounce) serving of peanut butter gives your dog 600 calories of energy or about a third of their daily requirements.
Peanut butter is an excellent source of certain kinds of vitamins That 100-gram serving of peanut butter can give your dog 100% of daily requirements for niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin E.
It provides a large part of an adult dog’s daily needs for pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and folate (vitamin B9). It’s a good source of copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
Peanut butter is about 25% protein, although it is low in the essential amino acid methionine.
Your dog gets more than enough methionine from meat, fish, eggs, and cereal grains.
The fact that most German Shepherds and most other dogs can eat peanut butter in their daily diets, however, does not mean that most German Shepherds and most other dogs should eat peanut butter in their daily diets.
If your dog is part of the majority that are not allergic to peanuts, it’s still best to use peanut butter as an occasional treat.
Smart Uses of Peanut Butter with Your German Shepherd
There is a good reason to make peanut butter a special treat.
When you have trained your German Shepherd, or any other dog, to associate peanut butter with special rewards, you can use it to take care of special needs.
Consider the problems of giving your dog a pill.
Sometimes dogs simply must have pain medication, or allergy medication, vitamin pills, or pills to help them sleep.
Pills aren’t chewy. They don’t taste good. But if they are disguised in a ball of peanut butter, your German Shepherd may just gulp them down whole.
The technique for hiding a pill in peanut butter isn’t very difficult:
- Spoon out a ball of peanut butter
- When your dog isn’t watching you, put the pill or capsule in the middle of it
- Pop the peanut butter in your dog’s mouth and watch them swallow it whole
Crunchy peanut butter is better for hiding pills and capsules.
If your dog doesn’t spit out the pill or capsule, you can assume they were swallowed with the peanut butter.
It’s also helpful when your vet gives medications inside meat-flavored or fish-flavored capsules.
Peanut butter can also be useful for helping your dog deal with loud noises, like fireworks or thunderstorms.
Make a habit of rewarding your dog for good behavior with peanut butter.
Then when a thunderstorm blows in or fireworks start, give your canine companion a nearly empty jar of peanut butter to lick out. The search for peanut butter distracts your dog from the noise.
If you get good results using the peanut butter jar with your German Shepherd, graduate to a Classic Kong chew toy.
This is a hollow tube toy that you can fill with peanut butter or other food treats.
You don’t have to use it for just peanut butter. You can put some other favorite food inside the toy and seal the opening with peanut butter.
Your German Shepherd will spend hours trying to get every last morsel of peanut butter or other treats out of the toy. She will be less disturbed by the storm/fire-crackers.
Frequently Asked Questions About German Shepherds and Peanut Butter
Q. What is the best brand of peanut butter to give to my German Shepherd?
A. If your favorite brand of peanut butter is free of xylitol and it either doesn’t contain sugar and salt or lists them as the last two ingredients, it’s OK for your dog.
Natural, organic peanut butter is always preferable, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. It’s always possible to make your own peanut butter from organic peanuts to which you add no other ingredients.
Q. How would I know if my German Shepherd has an allergy to peanut butter?
A. Peanut allergies do not always cause dramatic symptoms.
Sometimes owners don’t realize that unusual behavior in a German Shepherd or other dogs with peanut allergies is really part of an allergic reaction.
Peanut allergies cause itchy skin. If your German Shepherd is biting at her paws, scratching at her face or ears, or rubbing her belly against a hard surface a lot, the problem could be an allergy.
Allergies can also cause itchy paws that your German Shepherd will lick constantly to distract from the itch.
Peanut allergies can also cause:
- Areas of hair loss or bald spots.
- Hot spots of inflamed, red skin.
- Yeasty odor where Malassezia yeast had grown on inflamed skin. The skin could also smell like Fritos or tortilla chips.
- Pus-filled wounds on the skin.
- Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or other signs of gastrointestinal distress.
- Unusual shyness or unexplained aggression, depression, or irritability.
It’s important to understand that all of these allergic symptoms can be caused by foods other than peanuts.
German Shepherds and other dogs may also be allergic to chicken, chicken eggs, beef, lamb, pork, fish, soy, corn, or wheat in addition to or instead of being allergic just to peanuts.
There aren’t any handy blood tests for canine food allergies, so the only way to find out the cause of your dog’s allergy symptoms is an elimination diet.
Make sure your dog gets no peanut products for two weeks, and see if allergy symptoms improve.
Then go down the list, eliminating each food for a two-week period until there is finally a food elimination that relieves your dog’s allergies.
Food elimination diets take time, but once you have identified a food allergy, you can eliminate it from your dog’s diet forever.
If you suspect your dog is allergic to multiple foods, consult your veterinarian for an elimination diet plan.
Q. Are there any times I should take my dog to the vet immediately for treatment of peanut allergies?
A. Ingestion of chocolate, grapes, or xylitol is more likely to produce symptoms requiring a trip to the animal ER than consumption of peanuts.
But any time your German Shepherd suffers multiple seizures, seems to be in a coma, or has trouble breathing, get to the vet right away.
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