Pet Peanut Butter Basics: Looking out for xylitol.

It’s National Peanut Butter Day!  Whether you like it creamy or chunky, between two slices of bread with jelly or bananas, or even spread on some celery with raisins, peanut butter is a classic comfort food for us humans.  Peanut butter is also a popular treat for dogs.  What is cuter than watching our canine friends lick some peanut butter off a spoon or smack their lips as they lap it up….as Dexter is demonstrating below!

In small quantities, regular peanut butter is safe to give to dogs as a treat or to hide medication.  We even use peanut butter here at the hospital as a distraction for our more anxious pets, to help them have a positive veterinary experience!


Many peanut butter manufacturers have started producing lower or sugar-free peanut butters.  These products contain a sugar substitute called xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs.  Just a small dose can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, and/or liver failure.

Xylitol causes a rapid release of insulin from the dog’s pancreas, which results in a significant decrease in their blood sugar. Higher doses of xylitol can cause liver failure.   Prompt treatment by a veterinarian is essential for a good outcome in these cases.  You do not want to wait until you see signs of low blood sugar—your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as you suspect xylitol ingestion.

Besides low and sugar-free peanut butter, xylitol is used in many types of gum, mints, baked goods and even hygiene products (such as oral/dental care products).

Because xylitol is gaining in popularity as a way to reduce sugar and calories in foods, it is extremely important to read ingredient labels before feeding any human grade products to pets.   If they do ingest a product containing xylitol, contact a veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control hotline  at (888)426-4435 (Be prepared with your dog’s approximate weight, product, and amount ingested).

Xylitol sugar substitute toxic to dogs


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