Regular peanut butter is usually OK as an occasional treat or a helper for getting medications into dogs, though too much can be fattening. However, some newer peanut butter formulations now contain xylitol, a sugar substitute also found in sugar-free gum, candies, toothpastes and baked goods.
Xylitol is dangerous to dogs because it causes a large release of insulin from a dog’s pancreas, leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels.
It can also cause acute hepatic necrosis, meaning large numbers of liver cells suddenly die. This leads to a cascade of issues that are life-threatening, including seizures, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and uncontrolled bleeding. The specialty brands Nuts ‘n More, Krush Nutrition and P-28 Foods make peanut or other nut spreads that contain xylitol.
With so many foods now containing xylitol, owners should check labels of any food before they feed it to their dogs.
Food labels may say “xylitol,” “natural sweetener,” “sweetened naturally,” “no sugar added,” “sugar free” or “sugar alcohol.”
Not all sugar alcohols are toxic to dogs, but if the label does not specify the ingredient, do not risk it.
When brushing your dog’s teeth, be sure to only use toothpastes that are specifically formulated for dogs, as human toothpastes can contain xylitol.
If you think your dog has eaten gum or food containing xylitol, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Xylitol is absorbed very quickly from the gastrointestinal tract; do not delay treatment!
If you have questions about xylitol or other toxins, please contact your veterinarian.
— Alison B. Reichard, DVM,