A Household Staple
For many of us, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple in our lunchboxes. Even though I’m all grown up now, I will confess that a spoonful of peanut butter for a midnight snack sometimes just hits the spot. The creamy nutty taste and irresistible lip licking texture is simply wonderful. It has many health benefits, such as being rich in antioxidant vitamin E, muscle-friendly potassium, as well as good fibers and fats. With all of these great properties for us humans, it is no surprise as to why it is recommended as a tasty treat for canines as well.
For most of us dog lovers, we have learned over the years that our canine family members have a special affinity for the delicious nutty spread. Peanut butter is a common flavor for biscuits and it can be used in toys or to re-fill frozen bones. It can also be a good enticer to get them to eat pills or other types of medication. In many cases, using peanut butter as a treat is fine as long as it is just an occasional treat because too much peanut butter in excess can be problematic in causing pancreatitis and obesity. The point of this blog, however is not to discuss the effects of dogs being fed too much peanut butter, but rather to state that not all peanut butters are the same.
We always want to buy the best foods for our body as well as things we feed to enhance our animal’s health. As the current issues arise with GMO’s and added sugars, consumers are looking for products that are more “natural” with less additives and more whole ingredients. Overall, this is probably beneficial for everyone to have less “junk” in the things we eat and let our pets enjoy. The once thought good-for-you and super nutritious peanut butter has even stepped it up to reach out to the health conscious customer. Before you and your pet become a cautionary tale please be aware of the scares that some of these sandwich spreads can cause.
Recently, a few companies have started making a “healthier” peanut butter by adding a natural sugar alcohol sweetener called Xylitol. I learned about this sweetener a long time ago from my obsession with Trident gum: “made with Xylitol”. They use it because of its ability to help prevent cavities and tooth decay. With the newfound knowledge of the properties of xylitol as a natural sugar, its low glycemic index, and its benefit to our pearly whites, we have started to see xylitol popping up in all sorts of food and dental products in the last few years. While this natural sweetener may be harmless to humans it is extremely dangerous for our dogs, even in the smallest quantities.
Ingestion of as little as .1 gram of xylitol per kilogram of weight can cause a rapid drop in a dog’s blood sugar levels, causing a condition called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can show as staggering, appearing disoriented, weakness and seizures. Slightly more than that, approximately .5g/kg ingested can lead to debilitation, and sadly often deadly, destruction of a dog’s liver cells. This toxic dose could even be less for dogs with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes or hepatitis. Xylitol isn’t comparable to your dog eating avocados or some chocolate, where it may not affect your dog at all or the damage could be minimal. If you were out and about and Fido was able to ingest a whole jar of peanut butter containing xylitol before you came home, the result could be fatal….very sad….but very true.
So far the five biggest national brands of peanut butter containing xylitol to watch out for are:
1. Go Nuts
2. Hank’s Protein Plus Peanut Butter
3. Krush Nutrition
4. Nuts ‘N More
Safety is Key
I’m sure there are more out there on the market, but these seem to be the most commonly seen. Obviously these hound hazards can be easily avoided by simply reading the ingredients in your toothpaste or food items, especially peanut butter, and being aware of them in your house. Something else to keep in mind is if the package says “sweetened naturally” or uses a “natural sweetener”, make sure you flip it over and scan the label for xylitol. It is often misconstrued as an artificial sweetener- but it is not. Other sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, glycerol, maltitol, and sorbitol are not yet known to be toxic to dogs but better to be safe than sorry. Some companies have even said they would put a little blurb on the front saying “not safe for dogs” but until that day comes…. please read your labels.