Can I Give My Dog Peanuts?
A favorite of surfers, hikers, athletes, and moms the world over, peanuts have become a mainstay in many people’s diets, particularly in the United States. Americans are not picky when it comes to peanuts. We love them roasted and salted, sprinkled atop hot fudge sundaes, ground into a spread and sandwiched between two thick slices of bread, paired with raisins, covered with chocolate, and even used as an ingredient for savory sauces poured over noodles. Though not as high in certain micronutrients as almonds or walnuts, peanuts are praised for their protein and healthy fats. Unless you’re one of the unlucky individuals suffering from a peanut allergy, peanuts are generally recognized as healthy.
So, since they are both delicious and nutritious, it only makes sense that we would wonder about sharing them with our beloved pets. After all, we’ve all heard stories of people giving spoonsful of peanut butter to their beagles, so why would whole peanuts be any different? Peanuts must be a healthier treat option than the bone-shaped, corn-based treats available on store shelves, right? Can dogs have peanuts?
The answer: yes, dogs can eat peanuts, but only in moderation. Unlike certain other nuts (such as cashews and macadamia nuts), peanuts, which are technically legumes, are not at all toxic to our canine companions. In addition, peanuts have some properties which may be healthy for dogs. However, as evidenced by their legendary affinity for peanut butter, many dogs have trouble controlling themselves. This means that, if you don’t monitor their portion sizes, it can be very easy for them to eat too many peanuts. Keep an eye on your dog and keep the nutty treats small and infrequent!
What are the benefits of feeding your dog peanuts? Peanuts are full of proteins and healthy fats, which the bodies of athletic dogs can use to build and maintain healthy muscles and connective tissue. In addition, peanuts contain a significant amount of Vitamin E—a vitamin of which some dogs may benefit from getting a boost. As with human health, Vitamin E is a key component of maintaining canine health.
Vitamin E, as an antioxidant, is essential in maintaining a strong, healthy immune system. Canine (and human) immunity can be compromised by excessive numbers of free radicals in the blood. Free radicals are responsible for the cell damage that can lead to a whole host of health problems, ranging from arthritis all the way to dementia and diabetes. Antioxidants like Vitamin E protect your dog’s health by destroying these dangerous, cell-damaging free radicals before they have a chance to damage body cells. It reduces your dog’s chances of suffering from chronic inflammation, which can contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms of many illnesses, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers. Antioxidants can be particularly helpful for dogs who are aging, athletic, or dealing with above average levels of stress.
But Vitamin E has other functions, too: it supports joint, skin, muscle, and connective tissue health. Dogs who eat extra Vitamin E may have shinier, softer, thicker coats and a lower incidence of dandruff, dry skin, and itchiness. Since this key vitamin does such a great job of protecting cells from damaging free radicals, it can also help maintain elasticity in muscles and connective tissues. More elastic tissues means a reduced risk of injury and muscle and joint stiffness. Some dogs suffering from arthritis may even experience improved mobility if they incorporate more Vitamin E into their diet, though peanuts alone probably are not enough to produce a dramatic effect.
Things to Keep in Mind
Alas, you can have too much of a good thing, and the same goes for peanuts. Though peanuts are nontoxic and contain a lot of health-boosting properties, they are also quite high in fat and calories. Since these delicious little calorie bombs are so small, it is very easy to overeat them without feeling full. Eating too much fat may cause pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. If your dog takes in more calories than they expend—even if those calories are in the form of healthy foods—they will gain weight and may become overweight or even obese. Though fat dogs may be adorable, they are also, unfortunately, at an increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses. If your dog needs to lose a few pounds, lay off the peanuts until they have thinned down a bit.
When feeding your dog peanuts, opt for unflavored, unsalted options, and keep portion sizes small. These nutritionally dense little legumes can be a fabulous, heart-healthy option when fed to your dog as a rare treat, but it’s easy to overdo it. A dog who has a one-time peanut binge usually won’t suffer from anything worse than upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea, but overeating peanuts in the long term can contribute to obesity and pancreatitis.