Can Dogs Eat Butter or Not? What Science Says

Knife spreading butter on toast
© New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Written by Amber LaRock

Published: September 12, 2022

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Butter is a dairy product found in most homes around the world. This popular spread can be used in a variety of dishes and snacks, so our dogs are bound to come in contact with it at some point. Whether your pup gets their paws on a stick of butter or you want to offer them a taste yourself, you may wonder if this is even safe. While butter itself is not toxic to dogs, it can lead to serious illness if a dog eats too much of it.

To help you better understand the many risks of butter consumption in dogs, let’s discuss everything you need to know below! Ranging from how much they can eat to what happens when they eat a large amount, let’s dive into the details.

Do Dogs Like Butter?

Dogs can have varying taste interests just like we can, but most dogs will love the taste of butter. Whether it’s a scoop of butter alone or a layer of butter on toast, many dogs will jump at the chance to eat it. Dogs tend to gravitate toward foods that are salty and high in fat, as they don’t often have access to foods with these qualities. Some dogs love the taste so much that they will eat until there is nothing left, which is what makes this such a dangerous food item for dogs to have access to.

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Is Butter Toxic To Dogs?

Butter itself is not toxic to dogs, but it does not mean it is safe for them to eat. There are no poisonous ingredients within butter that will cause your dog immediate harm, but eating too much of it can still cause some serious health complications. Butter is packed with a large amount of both salt and fat, both of which are not known to be friendly to a dog’s stomach and digestive tract. Though butter is not listed as a toxic human food for dogs, it is still not a good idea to give your dog any of it.

Reasons Why Dogs Should Not Eat Butter

To make sure you understand the reasons why you should always keep any sticks of butter away from your pup, let’s discuss the details of why this tasty spread can be so dangerous to dogs. It may not be toxic or poisonous in itself, but it can still threaten a dog’s health.

Butter Is High In Calories

Most butter spreads are about 100 calories per tablespoon. Though this may not seem like much to you and I, this is a large amount when discussing the daily caloric intake for most dogs. For example, the average 40 pound dog should take in about 400 calories from their diet each day. The majority of these calories should come from high-quality dog food. The amount of treats they consume should only make up 10% of their daily caloric intake, meaning only about 40-50 calories should come from the treats they eat each day. Most dogs treats are about 5-10 calories each, so this puts into perspective just how much higher in calories a serving of butter is in comparison.

If you are looking for a human food that is low in calories and safe for our dogs to eat as a treat, check out our guide on the healthiest dog-safe vegetables here!

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Butter Has A High Fat Content

In addition to being high in calories, most forms of butter have a high saturated fat content as well. While our dogs do benefit from healthy fats such as omega fatty acids, butter does not fall into this category. Our canine friends will struggle to digest any food items that are high in saturated fat, increasing the risks of a complications known as pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a dangerous health threat that often develops when a dog eats a large amount of fatty human foods. This leads to subsequent inflammation of the dog’s pancreas, which then disturbs their normal digestive process. Their pancreas will begin to leak digestive fluids into the surrounding abdomen, which essentially begins to digest the pancreas itself and the surrounding organs. This is not only extremely painful for the dog affected, but it can cause permanent organ damage as well. If this condition is not treated quickly, it can be fatal for some furry friends.

Many Dogs Cannot Tolerate Dairy

You will not find many dog foods or treats that contain any form of dairy, and this is because most dogs are intolerant to dairy. Due to dairy being so challenging for dogs to digest properly, this will often cause them to experience an upset stomach when they eat it. If your dog accidentally consumes a large amount of food with dairy in it, they will often develop symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Dairy does not offer your dog any health benefits, so it’s best to just avoid it completely.

Can Dogs Eat A Small Amount Of Butter?

As we discussed above, butter is not toxic or poisonous to dogs. This means that eating a tiny amount of butter may not cause your dog any harm, but there still is a risk of developing an upset stomach. Butter can be challenging for some dogs to digest, so even a small amount of butter can cause diarrhea and vomiting for some furry friends. Because of this risk, we do not recommend offering your dog any amount of butter.

Can Dogs Eat Food That Contains Butter?

Butter is a staple ingredient used in so many recipes. Butter can be found in everything from baked goods to being glazed on top of vegetables, so your dog will likely beg for a snack that contains butter at some point. While again, the butter in this food is not toxic to your dog, it is still best to pass on offering your dog a bite. Any food items that contain butter are unlikely to offer your dog any nutritional benefit, so there are much better human food snacks to give them.

Can Dogs Eat Low-Fat Butter?

Fat is one of the main concerns when discussing the dangers of butter consumption in dogs, so is low-fat butter safe for dogs to eat? While low fat butter may be less of a concern if your dog accidentally eats some, we still advise against giving it to them as a snack. Ultimately, low fat butter still contains some fat, calories, and salt, so it is still not an ideal snack option for our canine friends.

My Dog Ate A Large Amount Of Butter, What Should I Do?

When a dog is interested in eating a yummy snack, they will do just about anything to get their paws on it. Many dogs consume a large amount of butter that is left within reach, causing their owners to panic at the thought of any potential complications. So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation? The best option is to give your vet a call.

You will not have to worry about any toxic effects of your dog eating a large amount of butter, but there is a high likelihood that they will develop significant GI upset in the 12-48 hours that follows. Dogs that eat a large serving of butter are known to experience vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, and even severe abdominal pain.

By giving your vet a call and asking them what they suggest for your dog’s situation, you can go over the best options in preventing the upset stomach that may follow. If you happened to catch your dog in the act of eating the butter, your vet may be able to induce vomiting and decrease the amount of butter that makes it past their stomach.

If your dog is going to develop any complications from eating butter, you will typically begin to see signs of an upset stomach within 12-48 hours. No matter what their symptoms are or how ill they appear, we always suggest having them seen by a vet at this point.

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My Dog Ate Butter and Is Sick, What Now?

If your dog has recently eaten butter and they are now experiencing an upset stomach, we always suggest having them seen by your veterinarian. The high fat content in butter puts your dog at risk of developing a complication known as pancreatitis, and this requires immediate treatment to offer them the best chance at a full recovery. The most common signs of pancreatitis are GI symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, so it is impossible to rule out by yourself at home.

Final Thoughts

Butter may not have a toxic effect on our canine friends, but it can still make them very sick if they eat a large amount of it. Butter does not have any nutritional benefits to offer our beloved pups, so we suggest resisting the urge to offer them a taste of this delicious spread.

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About the Author

Amber LaRock is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics surrounding pet health and behavior. Amber is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with 12 years of experience in the field, and she holds a degree in veterinary technology that she earned in 2015. A resident of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amber enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and taking care of her two cats.

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