By: Dr Jennifer Hennessey, DVM, CVJ, Animal ER of Northwest Houston

Before Fido starts licking away, hold the treats and listen up! Recent videos of brilliant pet care hacks, such as successful nail trims, include delicious distractor ideas like providing a feeding frenzy with tasty items like peanut butter. Feeding our beloved furry companions tasty treats can be a source of joy and fulfillment, though can veer from being brilliantly delicious towards the verge of risk when done without caution and careful selection. Today’s human food array spans from safe to very unsafe when it comes to our pets so knowing what is appropriate versus what is risky for your four-legged family member is essential to sharing all love with no harm.

Peanut butter is a common treat for dogs for distraction or for disguising pills at medication time, although is one product that should be fed in moderation. Peanut butter is indeed safe in limited amounts, aiming for less than a tablespoon for large dogs. Limiting the amount consumed is important due to peanut butter’s characteristics of being high in fat, sodium and sugar; in perspective, an appropriate serving for a human is only 2 tablespoons. Harm comes into the equation with large volumes being fed which are overindulgent and rich, raising risks for gastrointestinal issues or pancreatitis, and if there are ingredients added such as the artificial sweetener, xylitol. Xylitol is one ingredient commonly used in human foods today for added benefits of reducing sugar content and calories though is unfortunately highly toxic to dogs. If your pet consumes xylitol, contact a veterinarian right away for care and intervention as xylitol can lead to severely low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, and is harmful to the liver. Human food manufacturers today create a targeted line of ingredients in snacks and food items that center around what is most excited for human taste buds or what is newly marketed for being the healthiest, inviting numerous hidden opportunities for unfamiliar additives that might post risks to pets.

As with your own diet, moderation is key, so unless your veterinarian particularly recommends against it for your dog, you can share some peanut butter if you feel the need. A good rule of thumb is that many human foods can be safe for pets, though should be cleared by your veterinarian before being included in a daily regimen. Although “to nourish is to nurture” as the saying goes, keep in mind that being aware and cautious on indulging those faithful furbabies may be more loving than the gesture to share those savory snacks.