Is Butter Harmful to Dogs? The Downside of Long Term Use

What would we do without butter? Can you imagine a world where butter doesn’t exist? I know I can’t be the only butter lover on this blog! But just because butter is a fantastic part of your world doesn’t mean it should be part of your dog’s world.

Small amounts of butter here and there isn’t necessarily harmful to your dog. It’s not toxic like chocolate and grapes, but it’s also not great for your dog’s digestive system. Just because a dog can eat something doesn’t mean they should.

When asked whether or not butter is harmful to dogs, our answer is no. But we immediately follow up with this:

“Don’t intentionally feed your dog butter, but don’t freak out if they eat a slice of bread that had butter on it.”

Today we will go into detail on why we don’t recommend feeding your dog butter. After that, we will talk about what to expect if your dog accidentally ate a bunch of butter in one sitting.

Why is Butter Not Recommended For Dogs?

This dog is suffering from eating too much butter

You might be wondering why butter isn’t recommended for dogs, even though it’s technically not harmful to them. There are four primary reasons why you should avoid feeding your dog butter.

Dairy Product

The first reason is the primary reason dogs should avoid butter…it’s dairy product. For those that don’t know much about a dog’s digestive system, they don’t handle dairy products well. Any time your dog eats a significant amount of dairy, acute digestive issues will follow. Trust us when we say it’s unpleasant for everyone in the room!

To make matters worse, a lot of dogs are lactose intolerant, which means the digestive issues won’t be quite as “acute.” We will talk more about this shortly.

Too Much Salt

Although salt is an essential part of a dog’s diet, too much of it can cause problems. Unfortunately, most butter is high in salt. No more than 0.5% of a dog’s diet should include sodium. For a 33 pound dog, this equals about 100mg sodium.

Unsalted butter only contains about 14mg of sodium in the entire stick. Salted butter is an entirely different story. Just one serving of salted butter contains 90mg sodium. Considering there are about 30 servings in a stick of butter, that means that the average stick of salted butter contains 2,700mg of sodium…a bit higher than the recommended 100mg per day!

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Too Much Fat

In addition to being way too high in sodium, butter is also extremely high in fat. In fact, that’s all butter is. It doesn’t contain carbs or protein…just pure fat.

The average dog should not eat more than half their body weight in grams of fat, and that’s on the higher end. This means a 50-pound dog shouldn’t eat more than 25 grams of fat per day.

Butter has 12 grams of fat per serving. Remember, most sticks of butter have around 30 servings. This means one stick of butter contains 420 grams of fat. So unless your dog weighs 840 pounds (said sarcastically), one stick of butter contains WAY too much fat. Digestion the next few days is not going to be fun.

High in Calories

The final reason we don’t recommend butter for dogs is that it’s high in calories. Remember, butter is pure fat, and out of all the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat), butter is the most calorie-dense (9 calories per gram).

14 grams of butter contains 100 calories. Keep in mind 14 grams of butter is NOT a lot of butter, it’s 1/30th of a stick. So if you only feed your dog one tiny serving of butter per day, they’ll still be eating an additional 100 calories.

An addition of 100 calories a few times per month is not a big deal, but when it happens every day, that’s 3,000 extra calories per month. This will lead to excessive weight gain over the coming months.

Some Dogs Are Lactose Intolerant

this dog is lactose intollerant so they wouldn't handle butter well

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned how it’s no big deal if your dog eats a slice of bread that had some butter on it. However, dogs that are lactose intolerant should avoid butter like the plague. Trust us, you’ll suffer too!

But how can you tell if your dog is lactose intolerant? Here are five signs to look for:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Loss of Appetite

Yup, these are the same signs as humans. If your dog recently ate dairy and showed any of those signs (especially diarrhea and gas), your dog is probably lactose intolerant, which means even small amounts of butter should be avoided.

What if My Dog Ate a Whole Stick of Butter?

Here's what will happen if your dog eats a whole stick of butter

This happens to the best of us. We turn our backs for one second only to find out our dog got into something they shouldn’t have.

…but what if that “something” is a whole stick of butter?

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Assuming this was just a one-time thing and doesn’t happen on a daily or weekly basis, there likely won’t be any long term issues.

Here are the steps to take if your dog recently ate a whole stick of butter.

First: Check to make sure they didn’t eat the wrapping. There’s a small chance the wrapping could cause an intestinal blockage. If they did eat the wrapping, give your vet a call. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Second: Prepare yourself. Unless your dog has the world’s strongest stomach, they’re going to have some digestive issues. Even if they aren’t lactose intolerant, the amount of fat will either cause constipation or diarrhea, both of which cause flatulence. This could make for an unpleasant evening for you. Let’s just say you don’t want to invite your date over that night!

Third: There’s a chance of Pancreatitis. The pancreas becomes irritated when dogs have too much fat in one sitting. This can lead to Pancreatitis. If your dog is in pain and also has a fever, they may have Pancreatitis. The odds of this are low if it was just a one-time occurrence. But if you notice these signs, give your vet a call. Explain to them that your dog just ate a whole stick of butter, and now they have a fever and seem to be in pain.

Don’t stress out about Pancreatitis. The odds of a dog getting it from eating a stick of butter one time are slim. Just keep an eye on them for the next 24-48 hours.

Long Term Use of Butter Can Cause High Cholesterol

Dogs already have higher cholesterol than humans, Long term use of fatty foods can raise cholesterol to dangerous levels.

Be mindful of what human foods you’re feeding your dog. If you’re feeding them food daily that has butter on it, you might be raising their cholesterol to dangerous levels. It’s ok to give your dog human food every once in a while as a treat, but don’t turn it into a daily habit…especially foods that are high in fat.

What About Margarine?

it's not good for a dog to eat margarine. It's just as high in fat as butter

Even though margarine is advertised as a healthy alternative to butter, it’s not! Although margarine is dairy-free, it has just as much fat as butter. To make matters worse, it’s full of chemicals and preservatives

No, don’t ever give dog margarine. Even though it’s not dairy, they’re just as high in fat and full of chemicals and preservatives. The good news is the fact that the chemicals and preservatives aren’t toxic to your dog, but they aren’t good for your dog’s health either.

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The same rule that applies to butter applies to margarine. Every once in awhile is ok. Ingesting a little bit by accident isn’t a big deal. But ingesting a lot in one sitting will likely cause gastrointestinal issues.

What Can I Feed My Dog Other Than Butter?

We use butter to add flavor to our foods. If you want to add some flavor to your dog’s diet, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to butter.

One thing just about all dogs love is when you pour gravy over their food. You don’t want to get into the habit of doing this every day because it will add a lot of calories, but if you’re going to give your dog a treat, pouring gravy over their food is an excellent choice.

It has a thick consistency and fantastic flavor. Your dog will devour it in no time!

Article Summary - Is Butter Harmful to Dogs?

A small amount of butter every once in a while is not harmful to dogs. However, consuming a lot of butter in a short amount of time will cause gastrointestinal issues. This is especially true if your dog is lactose intolerant.

If your dog has recently consumed a large amount of butter, first check to make sure they didn’t eat the wrapper, then prepare yourself for an unpleasant evening thanks to the digestive issues that are about to follow!

Remember, long term use of butter (or even margarine) can result in pancreatic issues. Don’t get in the habit of feeding your dog butter on a consistent basis.

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