- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
When it comes to feeding our pets, there’s no shortage of toppers, toy fillers, and spreadable treats available—and the market is only growing. But what kind of nutritional value do these dog-specific fillers have, and are they really worth the extra expense when you could pick up a jar of peanut butter at the grocery for a quarter of the cost?
We took a look at some popular dog peanut butters and filler products and consulted Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover and Chief Veterinarian at Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital, to find out if fillers made for dogs are worth it—and what you should really be putting on your dog’s lick mat or Kong.
What Are Dog Peanut Butters and Fillers?
The rise of lick mats and the popularity of fillable Kong toys has led to a corresponding rise in pricey “dog peanut butters,” spreads, and squeeze treats to use with them. But for many pet parents, it might also raise the question—why would you buy “dog peanut butter” when most pups are able to eat the cheaper human kind?
In short, what’s the advantage of a peanut butter or filler for dogs?
“For a pet-specific filler, the idea would likely be that the ingredients are more tailor made for a dog,” says Dr. Greenstein. Generally, problematic ingredients or higher amounts of sugars, oils, and salt—which are often found in human peanut butters and fillers—are lessened, or entirely absent, from dog varieties.
The most problematic ingredient that appears in some human peanut butters is xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, and it can cause severe reactions in dogs. “Xylitol, even in very small amounts, can cause a life threatening drop in blood sugar and damage to the liver that can lead to liver failure. And it can potentially even be fatal,” says Dr. Greenstein.
It’s clear that xylitol is a hard no when it comes to dogs, but there are peanut butter options in the grocery store aisle that are xylitol-free—so should you opt for one of those in lieu of a dog-specific peanut butter?
“First of all, you need to be honest about what your dog’s digestive system is like. Some dogs do not do well straying very far from their usual diet,” says Dr. Greenstein. She notes that dogs with a history of sensitive stomach or pancreatitis especially may not tolerate high-fat fillers (e.g., peanut butters, coconut oils, etc.).
Pups with sturdier digestive systems can benefit from dog peanut butters and fillers because they’ll typically cut out some of the fat, sugar, and salt in human versions—but it still might be worth thinking twice before you go wild with the stuff.
Calories will be a consideration in both dog-specific and human peanut butters you feed your dog. “I find that owners consistently underestimate the number of added calories that fillers can introduce to their dog’s daily intake,” says Dr. Greenstein.
The takeaway? Whether you use xylitol-free human peanut butter or a slightly healthier dog-specific option, something so high in calories or fat probably shouldn’t be your everyday filler. But for the occasional high-value treat, it can be a fun reward.
What’s the Best Treat To Fill a Kong?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a commercial filler that keeps calories down, Kong’s Stuff’N Easy Treat is a good choice, while Dilly’s Poochie Butter will give you the most bang for your buck. Here’s the breakdown:
|Brand||Price / jar||Price / oz||Calories / tbsp||Crude fat||Reviews|
|Buddy Budder||$13.99||$0.87||~80 kcal||49.5%||4.5 stars|
|Nature’s Logic Canine Peanut Butter||$9.99||$0.83||~124 kcal||50.0%||4 stars|
|Dilly’s Poochie Butter||$12.49||$0.78||~80 kcal||47%||4.5 stars|
|Green Coast Pet Pawnut Butter||$14.99||$0.94||~47 kcal||49%||4 stars|
|Kong Stuff’N Easy Treat||$9.99||$1.24||~45 kcal||18.0%||4 stars|
- Buddy Budder: Buddy Budder comes in a variety of flavors and is a big hit with a lot of pups. Though a tablespoon packs quite a few calories, you can feel good about the ingredients, since Buddy Budders are made in the USA and stick to whole foods—they use no hydrogenated oils, additives, or preservatives. Reviewers caution that the lack of stabilizers can make this peanut butter a little runny at room temperature; it’s worth storing in the fridge for easier spreading.
- Nature’s Logic Canine Peanut Butter: Made with just three ingredients (peanuts, chia seeds, and coconut oil), a jar of Nature’s Logic goes a long way. Coconut oil makes for an especially runny (though tasty) product, so this is best suited to the fridge or even the freezer. Its simple, natural ingredients make it a favorite among pet parents, especially those who enjoy baking for their pup.
- Dilly’s Poochie Butter: Also made in the USA, this dog peanut butter is made with five ingredients: dry roasted peanuts, parsley, turmeric, ginger, and flax seed. It has no added sugar (and only two grams total) and zero sodium, making it a cut above most human peanut butter.
- Green Coast Pet Pawnut Butter: All you’ll find in this jar is US-grown peanuts and flaxseed. Potential hack? One reviewer recommended storing the jar upside down to avoid the oily mess!
- Kong Stuff’N Easy Treat: Kong has several recipes to choose from that are designed to fill Kongs and other dog toys, including peanut butter, bacon and cheese, pepperoni, and liver. It’s calorically the most affordable for your pooch—but some of its flavors do contain oils, salts, preservatives, or artificial flavors. One thing is for sure, though: dogs and their parents seem to love it! Nearly 70% of Chewy reviewers gave it 5 stars, citing pup enthusiasm and the mess-free nozzle. If you have a pup with a finicky palate, this might be the place to start.
What Can You Fill a Kong with That Isn’t Peanut Butter?
If dog peanut butters and fillers are too expensive wallet-wise, calorie-wise, or digestion-wise for your pup, there are safe and tasty alternatives.
“When people use fillers, it’s surprisingly often the reason that their dogs are overweight and they don’t even realize it,” says Dr. Greenstein. Fillers that are nutritious while being lower in calories and fat are a good alternative and may work better for some dogs with allergies or sensitive tummies.
Dr. Greenstein recommends unsweetened canned pumpkin, unsweetened applesauce, a little bit of banana or sweet potato, or baby food that is free of garlic and onion powder (and any other ingredients dogs can’t eat).
Check out these simple filler alternatives:
- Nummy Tum-Tum Organic Pumpkin: Available in a 12-pack, this unsweetened canned pumpkin is marketed for pets in a BPA free liner, but humans can enjoy it, too. All you’ll find in this can is USDA organic pumpkin.
- Gerber Veggie Starter Kit Purees: Baby food, as long as it’s free of spices and additives and is derived from dog-safe whole foods, can be a nutritious filler or treat. This veggie pack is made from simple ingredients derived from vegetables that are dog-safe.
- 365 Unsweetened Applesauce: A great staple topper and filler, this applesauce is just that: certified organic apples. No added nothing!
Are Dog Peanut Butters and Kong Fillers Worth It?
The bottom line is that dog-specific peanut butters and fillers are a better option than human equivalents because they contain fewer sugars, salts, and oils, which makes them healthier for your pup. In short, it’s not just a marketing scam; there’s a real reason to pay extra for something that’s made for dogs.
That said, even fillers made for dogs aren’t necessarily a healthy choice, because even when the ingredients are only great whole foods, they’re still likely to be high in fat and calorie dense. It’s better to think of them as a nice sometimes treat than an everyday snack.
For your everyday fare, you might be better off with pumpkin, sweet potato, unsweetened applesauce, or even baby food—all of which will be both cheaper and healthier.