Sandwiches, toast, cakes, and pastries – so much of what we eat and enjoy would be that bit less wonderful without butter.
It’s been a big part of society’s dining habits for generations, and a beloved ingredient and component in plenty of sweet treats too.
Yet nowadays, some of our family members are furry and four-legged, and we want to be able to share what we enjoy with them – but don’t know if we ought to. Can dogs eat butter? Let’s find out.
Is butter good for dogs?
Unfortunately, as much as your pet might show signs of enjoying it, butter simply is not good for dogs.
While it isn’t as immediately dangerous to your pet’s health as some other human foods can be, such as chocolate, grapes or avocado, butter can nevertheless cause some complications that are best avoided.
However, the fact that butter isn’t toxic to dogs means that you have no reason to panic if your dog happens to eat something with butter on it or in it, like a slice of toast stolen off your breakfast table, or a dropped scrap of a cupcake.
Having said that, being in the habit of giving buttery food to your dog is not advised, for many reasons.
Firstly, the fact that butter is a dairy product, and thereby not ideal for dogs to eat. Secondly, butter often has higher salt content than we realize, and dogs don’t take well to salt.
And finally, there are oils in butter that simply don’t agree with how your pooch digests his or her food.
Many of these complications and nasty realities will only come into play if, say, your dog happens to get hold of a whole knob of butter, or has begun gnawing it out of a plastic tub full of butter that they have found.
There is nothing nutritious that dogs can gain for butter, and it’s likely that any canine eating it is only doing so for its interesting texture and flavor, rather than an instinctive need to absorb any nutrients found within it.
Dangers of butter for dogs
Butter comes with a range of complications that make it highly inadvisable to feed to dogs, but nonetheless safe to do in the broadest sense if it happens to be very infrequently or as a random act of kindness – say, handing over the end scrap of a slice of toast to your pet to finish.
For one thing, butter is somewhat fatty, and even in small doses of certain foods, dogs have a much harder time processing fats than their human masters.
Unfortunately, this is just as true of larger and more robust dogs as it is small dogs, puppies, and elderly pooches.
Weight gain in dogs can be a real problem, especially nowadays, when our beloved animals have more access to our less than healthy snacks and meals than ever before.
Weight gain in dogs does more than bulk them up with flab and slow them down – dogs who are overweight get lethargic and sometimes even show some signs of depression because they can’t play and run around as much as they’re used to.
Overweight dogs are also, naturally, at a heightened risk of diabetes and other weight-related complications – and sadly, it can shorten his or her overall lifespan too. It’s very important to keep our pets well-fed but also trim and full of vitality.
We have also touched on the dairy content of butter, but it bears repeating just how badly it can affect our pets.
Some dogs are outright lactose intolerant – it affects canines just as prevalently as it would affect human beings. Yet even if your dog is not diagnosed as such, lactose and dairy can be very bad for them.
This is because dogs become far less capable of digesting and process lactose and dairy products once they grow beyond the puppy stage of their life.
Naturally, as infants, it’s important that their systems are able to take nutrition from milk because they’d be drinking it in the litter.
But as dogs grow up, that appreciation for milk and all related products drops away fast.
As a result, dogs suffer digestive comfort when they eat dairy products, and butter ranks among that.
It causes them some very troubling tummy upset indeed – not just stomach ache and gut ache, but lots of internal gurgling and churning as their digestive system tries to sort through all the creamy strangeness it’s suddenly encountered.
In severe cases, dogs will throw up after eating a lot of dairy, and a lot of butter. Alternatively, it could create problems at the other end of the equation – not just gas and bloating, but also outright diarrhea.
In especially nasty cases, these symptoms can last a few days as your dog’s internal systems try and rebalance themselves out.
How much butter can a dog eat daily?
While a dog could hypothetically nibble a small blob of butter from a teaspoon daily, it’s not healthy to do so, and there’s quite simply no reason to be feeding butter to your dog regularly – let alone daily.
If your dog has been, for instance, a breakfast companion for many years, and you’ve got into the habit of giving him or her your buttery toast crusts, this isn’t necessarily harmful.
However, for the sake of your dog’s long term health, consider instead of giving your pet a plainer piece of bread, or their own breakfast to eat alongside you altogether.
Don’t feel that you have to outright avoid giving your dog anything with butter in or spread upon, as things aren’t as extreme as that.
Unlike onions or garlic, butter isn’t immediately toxic or dangerous to dogs – it just doesn’t do them any good as a regular component of their diets.
Of course, dogs begging for scraps at the table can always prove difficult to ignore, especially when they act just too cute to resist.
However, just remember that your dog has all the nutrition he or she needs in his or her own specially formulated food.
Furthermore, if you’re looking to introduce him or her to new flavors, there are lots of other far healthier options to try.
What to do if your dog eats butter
No matter how loving and gently guiding the master, and no matter how well behaved the pet usually is, dogs who see the opportunity to treat themselves often just can’t resist, even if they know what tastes good isn’t always that great for their health.
In that way, perhaps humans and dogs aren’t so different after all.
Nonetheless, as dog owners, we have a responsibility to help our dogs eat healthily, and to stick to what we offer them.
Because of this, you might be alarmed and deeply worried if you one day walk into the kitchen and find that your dog has somehow swiped a whole stick of butter and is going to town in consuming it.
The first course of action in this scenario is to make sure that, in his or her haste, your dog is not eating any of the wrapping for that butter.
This can cause choking, internal blockages and all kinds of other complications, and may well bring about the need to visit the vet.
However, if your dog is eating butter and there are no risks of choking, this becomes more an issue of disciplining him or her in the initial instance.
While complications to your dog’s health are surely likely to come about from this, they aren’t of any supreme risk to your dog’s long term wellbeing unless he or she is already diagnosed as lactose intolerant.
Again, seek the help of a vet if this is the case.
Otherwise, just be prepared to comfort your dog through a day or two of an upset tummy and a lesson well learned.
If your dog vomits the butter back up, he or she has accidentally done a lot of the hard work already, despite having made a mess to do so.
Otherwise, brace yourself to be a doggy doctor for a while, providing lots of dry nutritious food and fresh water.
Expect burping, gas, lots of toilet breaks and some huffy lounging around with a belly ache from your dog.
Make sure your dog doesn’t repeat this performance and identify if he or she is getting into things he or she shouldn’t to help stop this in the future.
Small bits of butter that happen to go your dog’s way as a matter of course or consequence brings nothing much to fear – but there’s no nutritional value in butter that ought to make it a regular part of your dog’s diet.
In fact, the salt content, dairy content and overall fattiness of butter make it something far wiser to avoid giving your dog altogether – it’ll cause weight gain in the long term, and indigestion more immediately.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.