Can I Give My Dog Butter?
There are only a few foods that can deliciously make their way into (or onto) almost everything we eat in a day, but one of those foods is butter. Whether we’re smearing it on toast, mixing it into cookies and cupcakes, or even drizzling it onto our roasted vegetables, butter’s temptation is difficult to resist. We get that we need to limit our butter intake, but most people include it in their diet in some form or another. Even if you do not use it in your household, you probably consume butter when you go out to eat, when you buy packaged goods from the grocery store, or when you take a detour through your favorite drive thru.
Butter is inescapable. But is it safe for our dogs? Dogs eagerly gobble up just about any people food that we can throw at them, and since butter is present in just about everything, sooner or later, we as pet owners must make a decision: do we feed our dogs butter, or do we deprive them of a tasty treat? Can dogs have butter?
Like so many things in life, the answer to this question depends on the distinction between ‘should’ and ‘can’. Can your dog eat butter? Yes—feeding your dog butter will not result in any sort of immediate poisoning or kidney/liver damage. Should your dog eat butter? No—it has no redeeming qualities and is almost entirely made up of unhealthy fat. So, while it is safe to give your dog a little piece of a baked good containing butter, you should avoid giving your dog this decadent dairy product whenever possible. If you cook with butter and you plan to share with your dog, set aside a small unbuttered portion for them. Minimize your dog’s butter intake.
Are there any potential benefits to giving your dog butter? No. For the most part, butter is just a brick made of (delicious) fat and cholesterol. Though some proponents of high-fat diets claim that butter is a health food due to its Vitamin A and Vitamin D content, there is no evidence in favor of feeding butter to your pets (or to you, but that’s another argument). There is some Vitamin D and Vitamin A in butter, but there are far more efficient ways to give your dog these important vitamins. If you suspect that your dog has any sort of deficiency, talk to your veterinarian about supplements. Butter is not a supplement!
Though butter is not ‘poisonous’ to dogs, per se, the high fat and cholesterol content can result in severe health problems in the long run. Dogs do not need very much fat to maintain their health, and since butter is so high in fat, a relatively small amount can put them over their daily limit. In addition to increasing your dog’s chances of becoming obese—which can cause a whole host of health problems—eating too much fat puts your dog at risk of developing pancreatitis, or an inflamed pancreas. Symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, high fever, an irregular heartbeat, and severe abdominal pain, which often manifests as crying or growling in response to touch. If your dog’s abdomen is distended or sore to the touch, take them to the vet immediately.
Just like people, dogs can suffer from high cholesterol, too. Feeding your dog butter is a sure way to increase their cholesterol levels, which can become a chronic problem. Symptoms of high cholesterol in dogs vary, but can include vomiting and diarrhea, a distended or painful abdomen, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, and a clouded appearance in the eyes. High cholesterol can cause heart problems which can be fatal. Dogs who are already overweight or diabetic are at a far higher risk of developing high cholesterol, so if your dog already has metabolic problems, you should avoid feeding them butter at all costs.
Things to Keep in Mind
In the short term, butter may cause problems due to its lactose content. Once they are no longer drinking their mother’s milk, many dogs lose the ability to properly digest milk protein, or lactose. While your dog should not be eating enough butter to trigger lactose intolerance anyway, it is something to watch out for. If your dog eats something containing a substantial amount of butter and suffers from digestive problems, you may want to lay off the dairy.
Though butter is not poisonous to our canine companions, it would be wise to avoid giving it to them whenever possible. Butter offers only very minimal nutritional value, but packs a whole lot of fat and cholesterol, which can result in painful and even life-threatening illness. Be aware of the amount of butter in the people foods that you share with your dog, and if you want to give them a little bit of baked potato or grilled corn, leave their portion unbuttered. Their waistline and health will thank you!