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Can Dogs Eat Peanuts? 

Dogs eating peanuts from owners heand

Peanut butter is a food beloved by people and their dogs. Most dogs eagerly lick up peanut butter, and it can be used as a way to keep your dog occupied while being groomed, as an easy way to get your dog to swallow a pill, or as a reward in a stuffed Kong. It is one of the most popular flavors for dog treats, toys, and even dog toothpaste. Because natural, unsweetened peanut butter can be a healthy treat for our pups, it might make you wonder if peanuts are also good treats for your dog to eat.  

Just as you need to be mindful of all food you give to your dog, it is important to understand both the benefits and hazards of letting your dog have peanuts. Keep in mind that treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet, and always watch your dog when introducing them to ‘people food’. Peanuts are not toxic for dogs, but the wrong type or too many can have negative health impacts for your dog. 

Table of Contents: 

Health Benefits

In small quantities, peanuts can be a healthy addition to your pet’s diet because they are a nutrient dense food. They contain high levels of protein and fiber, which are both important in maintaining good health. Protein is necessary to repair cells, muscle, and bones, to support the immune system, and to make hormones and antibodies. Peanuts also contain insoluble fiber, which helps bulk up stool and keeps your dog’s eliminations regular. Peanuts are also a good source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, to support metabolism and nerve function; vitamin E, which is essential for metabolizing fat and regulating cell function; vitamin B6, to support a healthy immune system; potassium, crucial for maintaining the electrical charges in the heart, nerves, and muscles, and much more.  

While these health benefits are important and critical to a dog’s overall well-being, they are found in the correct percentages in a well-balanced, high quality commercial dog food. The amounts needed as part of a dog’s overall nutrition snapshot cannot be gained from the quantity of peanuts that can be safely given to dogs as treats.  

To Consider

There are, however, some important cautions to consider when thinking about offering your pup a peanut. 

  • Fat: peanuts are high in fat, which can have negative impacts on your dog. Overweight or less active dogs can struggle to maintain a healthy weight, and limiting their intake of high-fat foods such as peanuts is one way to help. Dogs have a hard time digesting fat, which might lead to stomach upset and vomiting or diarrhea. Pancreatitis is a common but serious illness that may result from a dog eating too much fat. It is a painful inflammation of the pancreas, and while it can usually be treated, some serious cases can be fatal. 
  • Salt: salted peanuts contain high levels of sodium. While salt (sodium chloride) is a necessary element of your dog’s diet that helps regulate body fluids and aids in normal organ function, too much can disrupt the fluid balance and lead to increased blood pressure and bloating. People who have dogs with heart or kidney problems should be especially careful not to let their dogs have the elevated salt content from salted peanuts. Continued high levels of sodium can actually lead to salt toxicity, a potentially deadly emergency condition.  
  • Choking: peanuts in the shell can pose a choking hazard for your dog as the shells are fibrous and difficult to swallow. They can also be difficult to digest and might lead to an intestinal blockage. Dogs gulp their food rather than chew it, so even unshelled peanuts can cause them to choke. 
  • Allergies: just like humans, dogs can be allergic to peanuts. It is not a very common allergy, but signs that your dog is allergic after eating peanuts include red, itchy skin, excessive licking, diarrhea, vomiting, and even anaphylaxis. 
  • Other ingredients: honey roasted, Cajun seasoned, chocolate coated, and onion or garlic dusted peanuts are all potentially harmful for dogs as they may contain ingredients that are toxic for them. Some peanut butters also contain the artificial sweetener, xylitol. Whilst safe for humans, xylitol is toxic to dogs and causes life threatening low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia). Do not give your dog anything containing xylitol, even small amounts. If they accidently ingest xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice. 
  • Types of peanuts: only feed your dog shelled, dry roasted, and unsalted peanuts. Boiled peanuts often contain other flavorings and should be avoided. Raw peanuts carry a hazard of a fungus called aflatoxin, which grows in hot, humid environments. Aflatoxin can cause liver failure if ingested. Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning that might present in dogs include lethargy, yellowing of the eyes and skin, lack of appetite, and vomiting and diarrhea. Roasting peanuts eliminates most of the risk of aflatoxin. 

The Bottom Line

Peanuts in small amounts can be a tasty treat for your dog. They should be given sparingly and only as a once-in-a-while treat, as their high fat content can be harmful for dogs. If they happen to eat a salted peanut that has dropped on the floor, it will not cause harm, but too many salted peanuts can be dangerous. Similarly, be sure not to allow your dog to eat any peanuts that have other flavorings or seasonings as they might contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. The only safe types of peanuts to give your dog are dry-roasted to limit the chance of exposure to a dangerous fungus. You should only give your pet shelled peanuts to eliminate the danger of choking or stomach blockage that can come from the fibrous and difficult to digest peanut shells. Small dogs, especially, are at risk of choking and should be watched carefully if given a peanut as a treat.  

While a peanut once in a while can be a tasty treat for your dog to eat, there are nuts that are not safe for your dog to eat for many of the same reasons you want to limit your dog’s intake of peanuts. Almonds pose an increased risk of choking due to their tough skins, and pistachios and walnuts are similarly high in fat. Macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs, initially causing vomiting. Macadamia nuts can cause hind leg weakness and paralysis in dogs within 12 hours of eating.  

Consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet and if you have any questions about what foods are safe for them to consume.  

Sources:

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-peanuts/

https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/can-dogs-eat-peanuts

https://www.southernliving.com/culture/pets/can-dogs-eat-peanuts

https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-peanuts

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