Can Dogs Eat Sugar? Is Sugar Good or Bad for Dogs?

Sweet, irresistible, and versatile- sugar is the spice of life. It is in almost everything we eat, from tasty muffins to cookies, ice cream, candy, fruits, and vegetables. Are you thinking of sneaking a slice of cake to your dog? Should you share sweet treats with your dog?

As much as we find sugary treats irresistible, you might need to resist those begging puppy eyes. Keep reading to find out why tossing Chewy a sugary treat is a bad idea and what the exceptions are.

Is Sugar Safe for your Dog?

Yes, depending on the type of sugar but moderation is crucial. Several forms of sugar are available, and while some are safe for your dog, others are toxic. But even with the “good” types, you should only feed your pup in moderation.

Let’s look at the various types of sugar and whether they are safe or not for Chewy.

Granulated sugar

It is the go-to sugar used in food and beverages. You will find granulated sugar or white sugar in pastries, desserts, marinades, salad dressings, drinks, and cocktails. Typical forms of granulated sugar include raw, brown, and liquid versions, and they can all be used to achieve a similar purpose.

Dogs should consume a limited quantity of granulated sugar. Most dog foods, including dog treats and snacks, contain varying sugar levels. Although granulated sugar is not toxic to pups, giving too much can cause various health issues.

Moderation is crucial because although granulated sugar is not harmful, it’s rarely served in raw form. Most of the treats with granulated sugar feature other ingredients that can harm your pet and cause life-threatening effects.

Artificial Sweeteners

Many responsible dog parents are aware of the harmful effects of feeding their pups sugar, so they opt for “sugar-free” treats to provide that sweet taste. Unfortunately, sugar-free treats are classified together with chocolate in terms of toxicity. This is because they contain xylitol which has a life-threatening effect on your pup.

Xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream triggering a rapid secretion of insulin into the blood to control the high sugar levels.

The sharp increase in insulin causes a drop in blood sugar levels. Your pup becomes hypoglycemic, leading to palpitations, liver failure, blurred vision, seizures, and even death if not treated right away. So you’re better off not feeding your dog any treats with xylitol.

Apart from xylitol, you’ll see other artificial sweeteners on food labels like erythritol, aspartame, and stevia. Others include sucralose, saccharine, and monk fruit sweetener. These sweeteners are not toxic to your pup, but over-consumption can cause gastrointestinal upset. Only erythritol is safe for dogs.

Fructose

Also known as “fruit sugar”, fructose is the reason why fruits (dates, apples, prunes, pears, figs), some vegetables ( mushrooms, bell peppers, asparagus), and grains taste sweet. Fruit sugar is 1.8 times sweeter than table sugar and is naturally found in sugar beets, honey, and sugarcane.

Your pup uses fructose to provide muscle fuel and build stamina. Although fructose is an essential carbohydrate for dogs, some fruits and plant-based sources like grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts are toxic to pups. Furthermore, high fructose corn syrup is terrible for your dog’s health.

Can Dogs have Sugar Water?

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Yes. Puppies of all breeds are susceptible to low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. But small and toy dog breeds such as Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers are at a higher risk.

Pups below three months old are at risk of suffering from juvenile hypoglycemia because their system cannot regulate blood sugar levels. The risk also increases in puppies with stress, intestinal parasites, and malnutrition. To mitigate this risk, water with sugar is often given to young puppies to prevent low blood sugar.

This is only short-term life-saving treatment, as they will still need veterinary care. Sugar water for small pups can be made using corn syrup, white table sugar, or honey. Alternatively, you can use Karo syrup or Nutri-Cal for puppies.

Mix 3 tablespoons of sugar (one of the recommended options) with one tablespoon of water. Apply the liquid under your puppy’s tongue or dab the water directly on their tongue using an eyedropper. If your pup is still unresponsive, rub the sugar liquid on their gums and then contact your vet.

Why Does Dog Food Contain Sugar?

Every kibble has that one ingredient that manufacturers cannot do without – carbohydrates. It is easily accessible, a cheap filler, and has a longer shelf life. Dogs get their sugar by metabolizing carbohydrates in their food. Also, sugar occurs naturally in most fruits and vegetables used in pet food like spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins.

Moderate sugar levels play an essential role in your dog’s nutrition, like glucose is an energy source for the body’s cells, while lactose is vital for early development. Sugar in minimal quantities also provides texture and palatability and enhances the appearance of pet food. It smoothes over the bitter taste of ingredients your pup might otherwise avoid, like preservatives, chemicals, fillers, and other additives.

Although dietary sugar in pet food has been linked to obesity, the main risk factor is excessive caloric intake. Dry dog food can contain up to 60% carbohydrates. 56% of hounds in the United States are overweight; this is according to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention.

According to the AAFCO, dogs don’t have any minimum daily carbohydrate requirement. Although carbs can be beneficial, your dog can do without them. Pups can get most of their energy and nutrients from protein, fat, vegetables, and fruits.

What Happens if my Dog Overeats Sugar?

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Too much sugar consumption is harmful to your dog’s health. Sugar in granulated form or fructose can cause mild illness or severe complications for your dog. Here’s how sugar can affect your hound’s health.

  • Tummy upset: When your pup ingests too much sugar, whether processed or naturally derived from fruits, they are likely to suffer from stomach upset due to an imbalance in the good bacteria. Symptoms include abdominal pain, gas, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Weight gain: Sugary treats and snacks plus many carbs can cause weight gain and obesity in canines, especially senior dogs. Too many extra pounds are not suitable for your dog’s health and well-being. Obese dogs are highly at risk of having other illnesses such as diabetes, joint pain, and heart disease.

Related: Best Senior Dog Food Reviews – 2022

  • Diabetes: 1 in every 300 dogs is at risk of contracting diabetes before age 9, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. If left untreated, diabetes can cause cataracts, ketoacidosis, and kidney disease in dogs.
  • Joint pain: Too much added sugar contributes to muscle and joint inflammation which can cause joint and mobility issues, including arthritis in your dog. Sugar releases pro-inflammatory substances into your pup’s system leading to inflammation of the joints.
  • Dental issues: A worrying effect of feeding your dog more sugar than they need is dental disease. Sugar is food for the bacteria in your mouth, which produce acids that erode the enamel causing dental issues such as cavities, tartar, and plaque buildup. To maintain your pup’s oral health, keep their carbohydrate intake minimal, brush their teeth and schedule a professional cleaning at least once per year.
  • Sugar toxicity: Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause toxicity in dogs leading to hypoglycemia, liver failure, muscle spasms, seizures, internal bleeding, and death. Dog owners should carefully check all “sweet” products for xylitol, including toothpaste and pastries.

Safe Alternatives

If you want to indulge your Fido’s sweet tooth without risking its health, these sugar alternatives are your go-to options and offer nutritional benefits.

  1. Honey – Don’t go feeding your dog any honey. Opt for Manuka honey. It has medical grade, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Honey is also a good remedy if your canine companion is prone to allergies.
  2. Maple syrup – This natural sweetener comes from the tree sap and has a high mineral content, including manganese and zinc. Maple syrup is also leaner in calories than honey and supports the immune system and prevents inflammation.
  3. Blackstrap molasses – It contains essential nutrients such as potassium, iron, manganese, calcium, selenium, and vitamin B6.
  4. Fruit – Dog-safe fruits like apples, prunes, bananas, and pears contain fruit sugar or fructose plus other essential nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.

Wrapping up

A tiny amount of sugar will not harm your Fido. Sugar can give your dog a quick energy boost but binging will cause serious health consequences. If you want to treat your pup to a sweet snack stick, give them dog-safe fruits like apples and bananas and vet-approved treats. Avoid toxic fruits for your furry friend, such as raisins, grapes, plums, and figs.

Sweet treats containing xylitol should also be avoided since they can cause sugar poisoning in your dog. If your dog happens to eat too much sugar or treats with xylitol, call your vet right away for guidance.

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