Yes, natural peanut butter is OK for dogs to consume, though only in small doses. Most of the peanut butter you find on the store shelf needs a good inspection first, however.
Peanut Butter Should Be Fed in Moderation
Peanut butter is generally safe for dogs to eat, and when consumed in moderation, it can be a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin. Unsalted peanut butter or homemade peanut butter is the healthiest alternative, as high sodium levels can be harmful to dogs, and handmade peanut butters don't contain extra sugar, salt, or other additives.
Xylitol in Commercial Peanut Butter
Natural peanut butter is generally healthy for dogs to eat, but some commercially available varieties can be dangerous. Some peanut butter manufacturers have recently converted to using xylitol as a sweetener in their peanut butter.
Xylitol -- a naturally occuring substance found in fruits and vegetables that is classified as a sugar alcohol -- is commonly found in sugar-free items, such as chewing gum, toothpaste, breath mints, chewable vitamins, and baked goods. It is non-toxic to humans, but poisonous to dogs.
Consuming xylitol promotes a quick release of insulin in dogs' bodies, resulting in a rapid and significant drop in blood sugar levels. If left untreated, it can be life threatening. A dog can develop hypoglycemia as soon as 10 to 60 minutes after consuming xylitol.
Always read the labels and ingredient lists of any food you plan to offer to your dog thoroughly. If the front label states the peanut butter is "all-natural," or that it contains "no artificial sweeteners," don't assume it's safe for your dog. Technically, xylitol is an "all-natural" sweetener.
How to Feed Peanut Butter to Dogs
Peanut butter is high in natural fats and protein, but eating too much of it -- even if it's homemade and contains no excess sugar, salt, or other additives -- can contribute to obesity and other health issues, such as pancreatitis. Moderation is the key. Peanut butter is a treat, and not a main source of fat and protein for dogs.
You can use one of two methods to determine how much peanut butter to feed your dog on a regular basis. Calling your veterinarian and asking for advice is the first and most dependable option. This is especially crucial for dog owners who have pets suffering from diabetes or dietary sensitivities.
Following the 10 percent rule is the second alternative. In general, treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog's diet, and peanut butter is definitely a treat. Simply calculate how much food your dog consumes on a daily basis, and remember to alternate between peanut butter and other healthy treats, such as appropriate fruits and veggies.
How Much to Feed
Feed dogs weighing less than 10 pounds no more than a half teaspoon of peanut butter per day. Small dogs between 10 and 40 pounds can have no more than 1 teaspoon a day. Larger dogs in excess of 40 pounds should have no more than 1 tablespoon per day as a treat.
There are plenty of recipes available on the internet involving peanut butter. The Cookie Rookie offers a recipe for biscuits that may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months, or frozen for up to eight months. Not only are there biscuit recipes, but the Humane Society of Southern Arizona has compiled a list of six dog-safe recipes that include other beneficial foods in addition to peanut butter.
Natural Peanut Butter is the Way to Go
The safest option is natural peanut butter. If you don't want to make your own natural peanut butter, look for peanut butter (or other nut butter) that contains few or no added ingredients. Of course, make sure the brand you've chosen does not contain xylitol. Many types of peanut butter on the market are beneficial for your dog, but many also contain preservatives and added sugar, which can be hazardous to your pup's health.