Can Dogs Eat Butter Safely? What About A WHOLE Stick?

A dog with butter on its nose.

If you’ve ever been the victim of watching your dog eat something you’re not sure he can have, you know it can be terrifying. But what’s the deal when it comes to butter? Is butter okay to give your pooch or is it best to avoid it like you would ham bones? This is a fair question that every pet owner has probably asked at some point.

We should start with the good news about butter: it’s not a life-threatening situation if your dog happens to get into some butter. However, this isn’t to say butter isn’t somewhat dangerous. Accidents do happen and that’s the only time you want your dog to have any butter. Giving butter to your dog on a regular basis will cause health problems in both the short and long term.

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Butter: A Nutritional Guide

Butter is a staple in the kitchen of homes around the world. There are a plethora of items that contain this simple ingredient such as bread and butter pudding, butter cake, butter cookies, butter pecan, and butter pie. Butter is made from the fat and protein components of cream or milk and contains up to 80% butterfat. This works by churning the cream or milk for an extended period of time; it historically took many days to make butter. This is no longer the case. In the modern era, methods are used to employ pasteurization in an attempt to remove pathogenic bacteria and microbes.

Salt is also added as both a seasoning and preservative. When it comes to calories, butter ranks highly in terms of high-fat content. Butter boasts a whopping 99% fat and 1% protein. To put this in real-world terms: A 100-gram serving of butter, there will be nearly 50 grams of fat.  This aspect of butter is traditionally declared unhealthy even for humans when consumed in large quantities. So what do you think this means for your dog?

Well, if you’re looking for the health benefits of feeding your dog butter, you won’t find it here. Since butter has such a high-fat content, it does no good for your dog. If there is a silver lining, however, there are some butter that has been found to be higher in vitamin A and vitamin B12. These are typically natural cultured kinds of butter and you can find the same benefits in regular dog food.

A slab of butter next to a knife.

In large amounts, butter may cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) when eaten by dogs.

The Problem With Butter

There are many problems you can encounter with feeding your dog butter. This may be a given but the high-fat content should send out red flags. This makes it an easy contributor to weight gain and obesity. By itself, butter won’t cause harm to your dog. It generally will only cause diarrhea for a couple of days. It’s the properties of butter that make it dangerous in large amounts. For example, not only does butter have a high-fat content but it is equally high in lactose. Given that the majority of dogs are lactose intolerant, and butter is a dairy product, this poses a threat. 

Your Dog and Lactose

If your dog succumbs to vomiting and diarrhea, this is the best-case scenario and will go away in a few days when his digestive system returns to normal. This is just the result of your dog being lactose intolerant. Your dog being lactose intolerant means that their digestive system can’t break down lactose through the use of an enzyme called lactase. This doesn’t mean your dog is abnormal–he’s perfectly normal–he’s just lactose intolerant.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach cramps.

Your dog will simply pass the unwanted butter in the form of loose stools. As stated, this is the best-case scenario that requires no medical attention. However, say your dog is to react differently, a few more major concerns may arise. They are as follows:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis

Dogs and Pancreatitis

It’s no secret that pancreatitis accounts for many deaths when it comes to dogs. As a dog owner, this is the last thing you want. Pancreatitis is the result of inflammation in the pancreas. Though this sounds simple, it can actually be quite complicated. For those of you who aren’t vets, the sole purpose of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes and insulin. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas fails to do its job. 

This can be the result of many factors. Like a human who has never smoked but somehow develops lung cancer, your dog can get equally as unlucky. However, most cases of pancreatitis are the result of your dog having too many fatty foods in his diet over a long period of time.  However, it doesn’t take too much fat in your dog’s diet over the course of many years to trigger such a disease. Consuming a load of fat in one outing can have the same effect–such as eating a whole stick of butter.

The good news is that in some cases pancreatitis can be resolved in a couple of days. This is provided that your dog receives proper veterinary care immediately.  On the flip side, your dog’s condition may worsen. This is especially true if your dog already suffers from obesity.

Obesity in your dog puts him at an even greater risk of coming down with acute pancreatitis. Between acute and chronic pancreatitis, acute comes on suddenly. It can result in sudden death if not treated immediately. The pancreatitis will usually trigger vomiting in your dog–specifically vomit that is foamy and white. Additionally, your dog may experience fever and abdominal pain. Other than pancreatitis, another problem you may encounter is gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis Explained

In technical terms, gastroenteritis is inflammation in the stomach and small intestines. Both parts sound inconvenient for your dog.  In simple terms, gastroenteritis usually occurs when a foreign substance enters your dog’s digestive system. It’s inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This can be an infection from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and medications.

It can also be the result of your dog consuming something new in large quantities. In this case, a stick of butter.  The signs of gastroenteritis can vary, but they usually include vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog happens to vomit, it will probably be a yellowish, foamy blob. You may also notice your dog gagging or dry heaving after eating.

Diarrhea, on the other hand, will be in high volume. Your dog may have several episodes of diarrhea per day. Your pooch will also be more tender around his stomach when being picked up. Additionally, your dog will become lethargic and may run a low-grade fever. He will add to this by having a loss of appetite. 

If it does come to this, how is gastroenteritis diagnosed? This specific condition is diagnosed by exclusion. All this means is that all, more serious causes will be ruled out before your vet lands on gastroenteritis.  All of these medical terms can be horrifying for a dog lover. No one wants to see their furry friend be anything but happy and playful. This is why you need to know what to do in a your-dog-just-ate-butter scenario. 

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Butter

If your dog ever has more than his fair share of butter, the first thing you should do is try your best not to panic. This is much easier said than done but also imperative. Next, you should identify what kind of butter your dog got into. Was it regular butter or cocoa butter? 

In this situation, you should hope that it’s regular butter. This won’t be toxic to your dog and he will more than likely be fine. This becomes a different story if your dog got into some butter that is processed and contains additives. This is where xylitol comes into play.

A jar of xylitol on a table.

You MUST never let your dog eat xylitol.

The Dangers of Xylitol

To make this simple, xylitol is found in chocolate. Every dog owner knows the cardinal rule of owning a dog: never give your dog chocolate. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is extremely toxic to your canine. This is the point at which your dog getting into butter goes from not good to lethal. The smallest amount of xylitol puts your dog in a life-threatening situation. 

What About Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is yet another item that isn’t toxic to dogs by itself. However, it’s the properties of such an item that put your dog at risk.  Cocoa butter contains a chemical compound known as theobromine. As with xylitol, theobromine can also be found in chocolate. 

Primarily, theobromine is known to affect the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, and have a diuretic effect. There are many signs that come with theobromine poisoning. They include:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Heart attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Haematemesis
  • Polydipsia

This is no joking matter. The lethal dose of theobromine is reported to be about 100 mg/kg of body weight in dogs. This is the point at which you should contact the Pet Poison Helpline

Your Dog and Peanut Butter

If you’re reading this because your dog ate peanut butter, you can take a deep breath and relax. Peanut butter is safe for consumption and can even be a healthy treat for your dog. Unlike other types of butter, peanut butter contains essential vitamins and proteins. But don’t start feeding your dog loads of peanut butter just yet.  While butter, in general, should be avoided, peanut butter should only be given to your dog as an occasional treat. It should in no way make its way into your dog’s daily diet.

Despite its vitamins and proteins, peanut butter can also come with the same dangers as regular butter. For example, peanut butter can contain a large amount of salt, sugar, and other additives your canine shouldn’t indulge in. Some brands can even contain the notorious xylitol. The next step is often the most overlooked while in panic mode but it is equally as important. You should check to see if the butter was wrapped or unwrapped.

Wrapped Versus Unwrapped

The importance of whether or not the butter your dog consumed was wrapped ultimately depends on the size of your dog. While a small amount of butter won’t normally cause your dog problems, the wrapper can. Let’s say you have a large dog, you shouldn’t worry because you’re in the clear. Butter is quite greasy so it should pass through your dog’s digestive system with ease. The problem with the wrapper is that it can be a potential choking hazard. This is especially true for smaller breeds of dogs.

When monitoring your dog, you should watch to see if he is panicking or gasping for air. These are both signs that he may be choking.  These are the steps you should take immediately after learning your dog has consumed any type of butter, however, you’re not finished yet. There are also steps you need to take over the course of the next 24 hours to a couple of days.

The Aftermath

The following steps should only be taken after you have ruled out the possibility of a life-threatening situation. This is when you know your dog is going to be fine but should still be monitored. These steps will not only help your dog but when help you as well.

Avoid Food for the Rest of the Night

Your dog may not want to eat if he is feeling sick anyway but you still shouldn’t try to feed him. The reason for this is because your dog’s digestive system is already working at a full 110% after consuming butter. If you choose to feed him, and he accepts your offer by eating, it will become worse for him. Putting an even greater load on your dog’s stomach will enhance his abdominal pain and diarrhea.  This is why it’s best to avoid feeding your dog for the rest of the night. 

Don’t Let Your Dog Roam Around the House

Next, you should try your best to keep your dog in an enclosed space. This will also be more convenient for you. In the aftermath of consuming butter, your dog will be in no shortage of supplying loose stools. If you allow your dog to roam freely, you may find more than a few surprises around the house. 

Tips For Curing Diarrhea

Diarrhea that comes with your dog consuming butter isn’t fun for either of you. Fortunately, there are tips you can try to alleviate this. There are a few foods that will help soothe your dog’s stomach. Try feeding him items such as sweet potatoes, bananas, pumpkin, yogurt, and oatmeal. 

Your Dog And Butter: Wrapped Up

As dog owners, few things can be more terrifying than learning your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t. This is usually followed by a panic, pacing around the house, and a pulling out of the hair. It’s the easiest thing to do and that’s why everyone does it, however, you should try to the best of your ability to maintain your composure. This is because the next 24 hours could be crucial. Fortunately, a tablespoon of butter probably won’t harm your dog and he’ll be good to go soon. It’s when he indulges in a whole stick that things become worrisome.

Hearing medical terms that are hard to spell like pancreatitis and gastroenteritis doesn’t calm you down in any capacity. In these types of situations, however, you can never be too safe. Sometimes the best thing you can do is immediately call the vet. Time is so crucial so you may not want to wait another minute.  The health of your dog is important to you and you don’t want one little mishap to ruin a thing. Ensuring the safety of your dog is your top priority. Follow these steps, monitor your dog, and he’ll be good as new in no time.

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.