Can Dogs Eat Candy?
What You Should Know About Dogs and Sweets
Is candy bad for dogs? What happens if a dog eats sugar?
If you have a pup who’s interested in sweet treats, these thoughts may be on your mind, and you’re right to be cautious and ask questions before feeding something new to your pooch.
Below we break down why sweets aren’t recommended for dogs, and what you can give them instead.
Can a Dog Eat Sugar?
Sugar isn’t toxic to dogs. However, it’s not very good for them.
Like humans, dogs have taste buds for sweets. That’s probably because dogs are omnivorous, which means they eat a combination of meats and plant materials.
That being said, the carbohydrates that dogs would naturally eat in the wild consisted of fibers (such as grazing on grass or consuming the stomach contents of their plant-eating prey) and the sugars found in certain fruits.
Table sugar and modern sweeteners, on the other hand, are not natural to dogs. Ingestion of granulated sugar may cause stomach upset and an imbalance of the bacteria that live in the gut.
If your furry friend eats sugar, you might see vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and discomfort. Symptoms can range from mild tummy upset to serious illness requiring hospitalization, depending how sensitive your pup is and what they ate.
Plus, in the long-term, sugar consumption can cause weight gain, diabetes, tooth problems, and other health issues.
Which Sweets Are Toxic to Dogs?
Even though sugar itself isn’t toxic to dogs — many other sweets and candy ingredients are very toxic! This includes:
- Xylitol and other artificial sweeteners: Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gums and mints but may also be present in other sweets and drinks, and even in some kinds of peanut butter and toothpastes. This sweetener causes stomach upset, liver damage, hypogylcemia (abnormally low blood sugar levels), and even seizures, liver failure, and death in dogs.
- Chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to pets — and dark chocolate is even more dangerous (the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is). Chocolate toxicity (also known as theobromine poisoning since theobromine is the chemical toxic to dogs) can cause stomach upset, muscle tremors, seizures, and arrhythmias (heart rate abnormalities). If severe, it can even cause death.
- Raisins and grapes: These fruits and their dried counterparts can cause kidney failure in pets. So don’t leave the oatmeal raisin cookies out where your pup can reach them.
- Caffeine: Just like us, dogs may be enticed by the sweet, creamy smell of a latte or curious about that bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans, but caffeine is toxic to pets, causing the same types of symptoms and dangers as chocolate ingestion.
It’s also important to think about candy wrappers, since sometimes dogs swallow candy with the wrappers and all. In large amounts, those non-digestible materials could get stuck in their stomach or intestines and cause a blockage, which may require surgery.
SEE ALSO: What Foods Should My Dog *Never* Eat?
How to Keep Your Pup Safe
Dogs are curious critters, and many dogs “eat before they look.” If they find an exciting morsel of food, they’ll eat it as quickly as they can — probably too fast for you to take it away. So, preventing your dog from eating candy or sweets in the first place is crucial.
But, if your pup does get ahold of something they shouldn’t have (and sometimes accidents do happen even if you’re very careful), it’s important to know what to do, and to act quickly.
Here are some tips for dogs and candy.
- Keep sweets out of your dog’s reach. Thanks to their sensitive noses, dogs can easily find candy and sweets by smell. Don’t assume your pup won’t discover your stash of Halloween candy or the freshly baked Christmas cookies on the counter. Be sure that any sweets are locked away or high enough that a motivated dog can’t jump to them. And, be extra careful with the toxic sweets mentioned above.
- Secure your trash can. Make sure it’s not possible for your pup to go “dumpster diving” if they smell something sweet in the trash.
- Make sure everyone in the home knows the rules. Explain to children why dogs can’t have candy or sweets, and discuss healthier treat options they can give to their favorite pup instead.
- If your dog ate candy or another sweet, especially something you know to be toxic, call your vet right away. Let them know exactly what your dog ate and how much of it, if you can. Bringing the wrapper or packaging to your vet visit can help. If you can’t reach your vet right away, call an emergency veterinary practice, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line. Don’t wait for your dog to show symptoms—seek help right away!
When Can Dogs Eat Sweets Safely?
Giving your dog a tasty treat is a fun way to bond with them. Fortunately, there are some ways to incorporate sweets into your treat sharing, but it’s important to only feed them dog-safe treats. Skip the chocolate, hard candies, ice cream, and other human foods and treats, which are bad for dogs. Instead, opt for one of the below fun treats.
- Fruits like blueberries, watermelon, or apple slices. These can be fed as is, or frozen into a “pup-sicle” (there are fun recipes online for this). If you’re not sure which fruits are safe for pets or how much to give as part of a balanced diet, ask your vet. Avoid pits and peels. And never to use grapes or raisins—they can cause kidney failure.
- Bake a dog-friendly cake just for your pup. Don’t create one of the sugar-loaded cakes designed for humans. Instead, search for a dog-safe cake recipe with no added sugars. Some stores even sell kits for baking a dog-friendly birthday cake or cupcake.
- Pick up a special gourmet dog treat from a local pet boutique.
All of these options allow your dog to safely enjoy their own sweet treat, but be sure to only treat them occasionally. Overfeeding them could cause obesity, pancreatitis, nervous system disorders, and other health issues.
This is perfect for including your furry family member in the fun on holidays and special occasions — or just for letting them know how much you care.