Have you ever wondered just what it is that makes your furry canine so excited when you break out the peanut butter? Well if so, you're not alone. That frantic excitement from your pup when he or she sees and smells peanut butter makes us all want to give in and hand over the whole jar. Even though you may want to give into that excited puppy, there are a few things to consider first. Here we will take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly to giving your dog that creamy, delicious treat that they love. And if you have never asked yourself why dogs like peanut butter, you definitely want to keep reading and find out.
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The Root of the Behavior
Exactly why dogs love peanut butter so much has been quite the topic of discussion in the canine community for some time. While most agree the initial attraction is from smell, the varying opinions on just which smell is attracting your pooch may surprise you. Additionally, some experts feel that the attraction could be the sugar content in peanut butter or simply the fact that they like it because you like it. By now, we all know that smell plays a huge role in most aspects of a dog's life. There are some experts who feel that smell is the key to your pup wanting that tasty peanut butter treat. Which smell, however, seems to be where the debate starts. On one front, you have those who say that the aroma from fats and proteins are the attraction. When the peanuts are roasted to make peanut butter, the proteins and fats in them are changed. These experts believe that this change causes the fats and proteins to take on a smell that is a bit more like that of caramelized meats. And let's be honest, what dog wouldn't love that smell?!
Another popular opinion is that it is the sweet scent of sugar that appeals to your fur baby. Since dogs are omnivores, meaning that they eat foods that are both animal and plant based, they have a sensitivity for sweetness. This sensitivity stems from the instinct that in the wild, sweet could equal something that is high in carbohydrates. The need for high carb foods is the same as in humans, energy. A more simple explanation is that your dog likes peanut butter because you like peanut butter. Granted, that would mean that your pup would like anything that you like, but there is a bit more to it. And let's be honest, you are more likely to share your peanut butter sandwich with Fido than you are that large bowl of chocolate ice cream. So, since owners are more likely to share the peanut butter, the dog sees this as a special treat. It comes down to the desire to get a piece of whatever the pack leader is eating. And in a domesticated canine, the pack leader is you.
Encouraging the Behavior
Most experts, including veterinarians, agree that using peanut butter as a treat is fine as long as you keep it to a minimum. There are a couple of ways to help you determine how much peanut butter is just enough for your dog's daily treat. First, and the most important and reliable option, is to contact your vet. He or she can give you advice on the amount that is safe for your puppy's size and health. Another option would be the general rule of thumb known as the 10% rule. What this means is that all treats, including peanut butter, should make up no more than 10% of your dog's daily caloric intake. Too much peanut butter not only makes your pup happy, it could also cause health concerns, such as obesity or pancreatitis. Those who are not opposed to peanut butter as a treat do agree that either homemade or unsalted, unsweetened options are the best. With homemade butters especially, there are no added extra sugars, salts, or other additives that could be more harmful for your dog. Since not all of us have the time, or patience, to make homemade peanut butter, there are all natural options available at the grocery store. Either option you choose for your pet should still be limited. It is also a good idea to change it up a bit when giving snacks. Dog-friendly veggies and fruits are a great idea to add into the mix.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are definitely health concerns to take into consideration with any peanut butter you choose for your four-legged friend. The biggest concern is when it comes to how the peanut butter is sweetened. Make sure you read the label carefully, looking for the natural sweetener Xylitol. This sugar substitute can be deadly for your dog. Xylitol rapidly causes a release of insulin into the bloodstream. A quick release such as this results in a profound decrease in blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can occur as quickly as 10-60 minutes after Xylitol has been consumed. Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include weakness, staggering, lack of coordination, collapse, or seizures. Another dangerous side effect of your canine consuming Xylitol is known as Hepatic Necrosis. By definition, Hepatic necrosis is a toxic injury to the liver, with sudden and dangerously high marked elevations in serum aminotransferase levels. Symptoms of hepatic necrosis typically are noticeable within 1-14 days and could include vomiting, excessive thirst, bloody diarrhea, jaundice, and more. If you notice any of the symptoms of either hypoglycemia or hepatic necrosis after your dog has eaten something that may contain Xylitol, call your vet right away.
While being safe about which peanut butter you choose for your dog is always a good idea, don't let the negative deter you from sharing this sweet treat. As with the foods you consume yourself, check the label on your pet's food and treats as well. And remember, the next time you give Rover some of that creamy goodness, make sure to grab a photo or video of him going nuts with it.