Can Dogs Eat Reese’s Pieces?

Photo by Jeff on Flickr

They’re colorful, they make an intriguing crunchy noise and you don’t seem to be able to stop popping them into your mouth – no doubt your dog will come begging for some Reese’s pieces, too. 

Why should he miss all the fun? Are Reese’s pieces dangerous to dogs? That depends on how many candies he gets and how often.

 A few pieces definitely won’t harm the dog, but you shouldn’t make it a habit of sharing your bag of candy with your furry companion, as, in the long run, they can cause serious problems. 

In this article we’ll look at the dangers lurking in that bag of sweet treats and in other Reese’s products.

What are the ingredients in Reese’s pieces?

Reese’s pieces are marketed as a delicious peanut butter bite in a crunchy candy shell. The number one question most pet parents ask is whether there’s any chocolate in this product. The good news is that, no, 

Reese’s pieces do not contain chocolate. The bad news is they are full of sugar and fat and, in large quantities, they are both dangerous for dogs.

One piece of candy has 0.41g of sugar, 0.18g of fat and 4 calories. If you put it like that, it’s in no way dangerous for a dog no matter the size. The problem with these treats is that you can never have just one.

 Let’s have a look at the main ingredients in Reese’ s pieces.

Sugar

Let’s examine the sugar content for one regular serving, defined by the manufacturer, Hershey’s, as 38 pieces.

One serving (for human consumption) packs around 150 calories.The sugar content is also very high, representing 31% RDV.

 Palm Kernel Oil / Soybean Oil

Reese’s pieces are made with palm kernel oil and soybean oil. Palm kernel oil is said to be rich in antioxidants, but it also contains saturated fats.

The 6g of saturated fat in a regular serving represent 30% of the recommended daily value (RDV) for the average person. For a small to midsize dog, that would represent something like 100% of the daily fat intake.

Peanuts

According to the label, the candies are made with partially defatted peanuts. Peanuts are good for dogs as they are a valuable source of protein and antioxidants. They shouldn’t cause any problem unless, of course, your dog has a peanut allergy.

Corn syrup

This is a cheap sweetener which makes it quite popular in the food industry. Most probably, the candies contain High Fructose Corn Syrup and fructose is one of the worst kinds of sugar.

What are the dangers of dogs eating too much sugar?

Dogs shouldn’t consume sugary treats of any kind. That means no candy and no ice cream. Whatever sugar they need for energy, they get it from the carbohydrates in their diet.

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to:

Obesity

Sugar is one of the most calorific foods. 100g of sugar provides 387 calories. That’s bad for all dogs, but especially so for pets who are prone to obesity and don’t get enough physical exercise.

Cavities

The bacteria normally living in a dog’s mouth use the sugar in candies to make acids, and these acids destroy teeth enamel causing cavities.

Upset stomach

When a dog has too many sweets, the most common side-effect you’ll notice is diarrhea. Maybe some vomiting, too.

Diabetes

Over time, too much sugar in a dog’s diet can lead to metabolic changes. Excess sugar forces the body to produce too much insulin and this might cause a dog to develop Type 2 diabetes.

What are the dangers of dogs eating too much fat?

A dog’s diet should contain 10 – 15% fat. High-fat diets, however, can cause serious problems:

Pancreatitis 

This condition is caused by a rapid intake of fat and it can be life-threatening if left untreated. Excess fat leads to inflammation of the pancreas, and the main symptoms you’ll notice are vomiting, fever, abdominal pain and lethargy. You should take the dog to the vet right away if you suspect pancreatitis.

Heart disease

A diet rich in fats leads to hypertension and atherosclerosis, which can cause various heart problems, including heart failure.

Can a dog eat Reese’s peanut butter cups?

Reese’s peanut butter cups are among Hershey’s best selling products. They contain pretty much the same ingredients as the colorful pieces, with one very important addition, chocolate, which means your dog shouldn’t have any peanut butter cups.

Milk chocolate is the least poisonous type of chocolate for dogs, but still dangerous. If a dog consumes more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight, there’s a risk he might get chocolate poisoning, which can be lethal.

To put it in simpler terms, if a medium-sized dog has a 1.4 oz bar of milk chocolate, it will cause him no harm, but if he has three bars then you should call the vet.

Now, a small serving of Reese’s peanut butter cups is exactly 1.4 oz, and most of that is peanut butter, which means very little chocolate so your dog will be perfectly fine.

The only problems are with small dogs devouring your whole stash of peanut butter cups.

Just to be on the safe side, here are the main symptoms of chocolate poisoning.

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

Can a dog eat Reese’s puffs?

Reese’s crunchers are a combination of peanut butter and rice puffs, covered in delicious milk chocolate. A typical 1.8 oz serving packs 260 calories, which is quite a lot for a dog.

If you look at the label, it has some good ingredients that provide small amounts of iron, calcium and vitamin D, but they’re simply not worth it since one serving has 22g of sugars and 7g of saturated fat.

There’s also the chocolate problem, but again one serving won’t poison a dog. What you should worry about are the sugar and fat content.

My dog ate a Reese’s cup wrapper, help!

When a dog gets his paws on some yummy Reese’s peanut butter cups, he won’t bother taking the wrappers off and most pet owners are horrified to discover that. Is a wrapper dangerous to the dog? Probably not.

A paper-based wrapper will pe partly if not completely dissolved by the dog’s stomach acids and will pass without causing any problems.

A paper wrapper could be dangerous is it somehow gets stuck in the dog’s throat. This is a problem especially for small breeds, but chances are your dog will have no trouble swallowing the peanut butter cup with or without a wrapper.

Aluminum wrappers, as those found in chocolate bars, are way more dangerous. The dog’s stomach cannot digest that and a balled-up wrapper might cause an intestinal blockage.

The same could happen if a dog eats the bag in which Reese’s pieces or puffs come in.

If your dog did ingest the bag, you should keep him under observation to see if he exhibits intestinal obstruction symptoms, such as:

  •  Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Low  appetite
  • Tenderness in the abdominal area
  • Bloating
  • Straining to poop
  • Lethargy

The balled-up wrapper might cause internal damage. To prevent that, you should give your dog a slice of bread to cushion the edges. Also, if the dog appears to be constipated, try to add some plain pumpkin to his regular diet to get things moving.

In any case, should the dog appear unwell, forget about home remedies and head straight to the vet. Intestinal obstruction can be pretty serious and, in some cases, the dog might need surgery.

Is peanut butter safe for dogs?

Peanut butter is OK for dogs as long as it doesn’t contain xylitol, and that’s a big problem as many popular brands now use it.

Xylitol is a very popular sweetener because it is marketed as less dangerous for teeth than sugar. Also, it is safe for people with diabetes. However, it is not safe for dogs. On the contrary, it is more dangerous than chocolate.  For instance, as little as 1.37g of xylitol can cause a rapid drop in the dog’s blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia. This can cause disorientation and seizures in a 30-pound dog.

Reese’s products do not list xylitol among the ingredients and why would they need another sweetener since they already have loads of sugar?

In rare cases, peanut butter can cause an allergic reaction in dogs. It is estimated that around 10% of dogs suffer from various food allergies.

The most common allergens for dogs are wheat, eggs, various types of meats or fish. Also, some dogs may be allergic to soy, and there is soy in Reese’s pieces, for instance.

A dog experiencing an allergic reaction might scratch himself furiously, lick his paws or have gastrointestinal problems, like chronic diarrhea or gas.

Closing thoughts

If the dog steals a few of your precious Reese’s pieces, he won’t have any problem at all. Likewise, if he eats some puffs or a peanut butter cup, he’ll be fine. However, you shouldn’t share your treats with him because he’ll learn to appreciate the taste and will resort to begging or stealing to get more. Sugar is addictive, after all.

Long term, regular consumption of any such products can pose serious health risks as they have a high sugar and fat content.

If you want to eat your Reese’s pieces in peace, give your dog a few banana or apple slices so he’ll have something healthy to munch on.