Peanuts are a great snack and are found in many products, including the family-favourite peanut butter. It’s well known that dogs love peanut butter, but can they eat plain peanuts too?
Plain, unprocessed, peanuts are generally fine for dogs to eat. Although most of a dog’s diet should be made up of animal-derived protein (meat), as they are facultative carnivores. This means they can eat some plant matter, so peanuts can be a good treat – albeit, in moderation.
Peanuts are full of carbohydrates and protein, so are great for an energy burst to keep your dog going until dinnertime! They also contain smaller quantities of calcium that is good for bone and muscle health as well as iron, a key component of red blood cells.
However, they also contain unhealthy saturated fat as well as salt. Both can lead to obesity and diseases like hepatitis, pancreatitis and diabetes. So don’t go overboard with the treats.
How to Feed Peanuts
All of the above information refers to raw unprocessed peanuts, the kind shelled from monkey nuts. In fact, these are the only kinds of peanuts your dog should eat: raw or dry roasted. Peanuts that are salted, honey-coated, or any other kinds of flavours are not safe to eat. They often contain unhealthy levels of sugars and salt, or may even be toxic due to a sweetener called xylitol (more on this later).
Stick to giving just a handful of peanuts per day at most, as a treat for good behaviour or to disguise the taste of pills you may have to give them. Remember that the peanuts should not replace their normal diet, so try to give them outside of normal mealtimes, such as after exercise for an energy boost.
You can incorporate them into games by filling puzzle toys with the nuts or scattering them in the garden; this is a great way to encourage exercise in overweight dogs! Many commercial dog treats are quite unhealthy, so replacing these with a small handful of peanuts is highly recommended.
We mentioned above that dogs love peanut butter, and it’s true! Peanut butter can be used to hide medicine, put into puzzle feeders, or just given as a treat – give only tiny amounts though! However, you must be careful when giving shop bought peanut butter. Many peanut butters are sweetened with an artificial sugar called xylitol.
Highly toxic to dogs, xylitol causes their pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. This results in acute low blood sugar, causing depression, weakness, seizures, comas and even death in large doses. Even small amounts cam be toxic to dogs. Please check your peanut butter does not contain xylitol before you give it to your dogs. If you are concerned, you can easily make homemade peanut butter at home from fresh peanuts, which is great for your dogs.
This warning should be extended for all products containing peanuts – many contain xylitol sweetener or other products dogs are toxic to, such as raisins or chocolate.
Peanut toxicity for dogs?
There is a chance that peanuts can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. This may be due to the dog not being used to new foods, specific peanut products being mildly toxic, or allergies. Although peanuts are a common allergy in humans, true food allergies are rare in dogs. However, look out for signs such as a swollen face or tongue, vomiting or diarrhoea, or itchiness, after you give your dog peanuts, avoid giving more until the cause has been investigated.
Peanuts can also become stuck and cause blockages if they are not chewed properly. If they are being swallowed whole, you may want to crush them first. You should obviously deshell all peanuts as well.
Finally, one study investigating peanut poisoning found 37 dogs became seriously unwell after eating peanuts, from 1996-2009. Gastrointestinal, neuromuscular and liver issues were reported, and two dogs later died. There has not yet been an answer why these dogs became ill. A possible cause may be contamination of the peanuts with toxins or fungi, or salt toxicity. Despite 37 cases of peanut poisoning reported in 13 years being a tiny number, it does show there is a possible danger to feed peanuts to some dogs.
Overall, it can be concluded that the risk of feeding your dog peanuts is very low. Nevertheless, no food can be assumed to be perfectly safe, and peanuts are no exception. Always be cautious when giving your pet new foods, and start with very small quantities. Although there are healthier treats out there, peanuts are still a generally safe, tasty and energy-packed treat for most hungry dogs.
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