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Can Dogs Eat Sugar? 7 Possible Harmful Side Effects

Dogs can eat sugar and not be harmed by it provided it is natural sugar and they have it in small amounts. They cannot digest processed sweeteners because the sugar content is too high and it leads to diabetes and obesity. 

It is common for dog foods and treats to include sugar. 

This makes the food taste better which helps dogs eat the food that has the nutrients they need.

Sugar makes the texture of the food softer and preserves it. Ideally, all sugar in dog food should be natural sugar.

Can Dogs Taste Sweet?

Dogs can taste sweet because they have the same taste classifications as humans. They can differentiate between sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. 

Sweetness for dogs is tasted at the rear end of the tongue. This is why it seems like dogs gulp down sweet things. In human beings, the top of the tongue is where sweetness is tasted. 

Do Dogs Like Sugar?

Dogs like sugar more than other domestic animals like cats. They can taste sweetness because of furaneol, a chemical that is often infused in sweet fruits and tomatoes. Sweet flavors are enjoyed by dogs but they still prefer meat flavors to anything else.

Can Dogs Taste Sweet

Sweet Foods Dogs Like

Dogs can take a liking to human sweet foods if they are exposed to them.

This goes for many foods:

  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Apples

Is Sugar Safe For Dogs?

Natural sugars are safe for dogs. It is only artificial sweeteners that are not safe for dogs. They can cause their blood sugar levels to drop drastically causing kidney failure.

Dog food uses natural sources of sugar like sucrose and beet or cane molasses. The sugar makes the food more appetizing to dogs but not addictive.[1]

Is Sugar Safe For Dogs

Safe Sugar For Dogs

  • Fructose: This is natural sugar from vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes.
  • Honey: Raw, unfiltered honey is good for dogs.
  • Stevia[2]: This is the only artificial sweetener that is safe for dogs to consume but it must be used in small amounts.
  • Erythritol: This sugar alcohol is relatively safe[3] for dogs.
  • Sucralose: Also known as “Splenda,” this artificial sugar is not toxic for dogs although large amounts can upset their stomach.
  • Monk fruit: This is 150-200 times sweeter than normal sugar but it has no calories making it a healthy alternative for both dogs and humans

Bad Sugar For Dogs

  • Granulated Sugar: Any form of granulated sugar, pure or mixed in something else like a cookie, is not good for dogs.
  • Xylitol[4]: This artificial sweetener can result in a rapid decrease in blood levels in dogs.
  • Methylxanthine: This substance appears as theobromide in chocolate, it is toxic to dogs and is why they should not eat chocolate.[5]
  • Saccharin: Mainly found in soft drinks, dressings, and canned foods labeled “light,” it is not toxic to dogs but is not recommended.
  • Aspartame: This is 200 times sweeter than normal sugar so it is used in smaller amounts but it is still bad for dogs.

What Does Sugar Do To Dogs?

Sugar gives dogs energy. This energy does not need to come from sugar. Instead, dogs can be given carbohydrates. Carbs form glucose which is sugar in the blood.

Side Effects For Dogs Eating Sugar

Sugar can have short-term as well as long-term disadvantages for dogs. It can cause the following health issues:

1. Hypoglycemia

Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause the blood sugar levels in a dog to drop drastically, potentially threatening their life. Hypoglycemia may also lead to liver failure.

2. Inflammation in the whole body

Sugar increases the secretion of insulin in the body. Increased insulin in the body can change a dog’s muscle tone. This change can result in inflammation in the dog’s fat tissues leading to chronic pain and lethargy.

3. Issues with digestion

Sugar can upset your dog’s stomach by messing with its microbiome. All animals rely on the bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut to digest the food ingested. Excessive consumption of sugar can upset this system and result in bloody diarrhea or vomiting.

4. Cavities

Too much sugar can make your dog’s teeth rot. When sugar enters the mouth it is met by bacteria. This combination results in acid which causes the loss of minerals and enamel on the teeth.

5. Obesity

Sugar contains a lot of calories, even healthy sugar that comes from healthy carbohydrates. Excessive calories make your dog gain weight which puts undue pressure on their joints. This can result in arthritis which further inhibits their movement, causing them to gain even more weight. 

Obesity can also lead to heart problems, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

6. Diabetes

Excessive sugar can lead to your dog’s pancreas not releasing the insulin needed to counteract their blood sugar levels. This will make your dog a Type II diabetic.

7. Decreased Life Span

Sugar-induced diseases in your dog can shorten their life or make their quality of life poor.

How Much Sugar Can A Dog Have?

Dogs must have small amounts of natural sugars. The sugar they consume should be limited to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. This is roughly 50 grams of sugar.

There are various sugar options for dogs

1. Raw Honey

Honey is not harmful to dogs in any way if it is raw and unfiltered. It gives them benefits such as increased energy, soothing irritated throats, healing wounds, and neutralizing gastrointestinal imbalances.

Vitamins and minerals Benefit
Vitamins A, C, and E These are antioxidants that reduce cell damage in your dog’s body, boosting their immune system and reducing inflammation.
B-complex vitamins These support your dog’s brain function, energy levels, and metabolism.
Vitamins D and E These vitamins regulate the immune system, support bone health, and provide blood clotting properties.
Fat-soluble minerals Minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and copper support the production of red blood cells and collagen as well as muscle development and the growth of ligaments and tendons.
Honey jar and honeycomb, vintage wooden kitchen table background

2. Cane Sugar

Dogs can eat unrefined cane sugar as an energy source. You can give your dog 2-3 sugar cane stalks. Make sure they are light green and free of mold or other fungi.

Sugar cane does not have many vitamins or minerals but it is still a safe source of nutrition.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Sugar Cane?

Unrefined Cane Sugar Amount (one teaspoon)
Calories 16
Fiber 0 grams
Protein 0 grams
Sodium 0 milligrams
Fat 0 grams
Cholesterol 0 grams
Carbohydrates 4 grams
Cane Sugar

3. Sweet Potatoes And Yams

Sweet potatoes are similar to yams and are a healthy source of sugar for your dog. They can be found in most dog food and treats and are available in grain-free kibbles for dogs with allergies. 

Sweet potatoes are also rich in dietary fiber and relieve dogs from constipation. They must never be fed to a dog uncooked because that will cause them stomach aches.

Sweet potatoes boast various vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and minerals Benefit
Vitamin C is An antioxidant that supports the immune system. It also slows down cognitive degeneration in older dogs.
Vitamin A It becomes beta-carotene which promotes good eyesight. It also supports cell function and reproduction.
Vitamin B6 Supporting glucose generation, this vitamin can help dogs with diabetes by balancing their blood sugar levels.
Calcium helps to make bones and teeth strong and supports heart and muscle health. It strengthens the nervous system.
Potassium supports a dog’s kidneys and digestive system.
Iron Supports red blood cell and hemoglobin formation which takes oxygen to all parts of the body to create energy.
Yam for dogs

What To Do If Your Dog Is Eating Too Much Sugar?

You must decrease the amount of sugar that your dog is eating whatever age or breed they are. You will know your dog has had too much sugar if they start vomiting or stop moving. In this case, you must contact your vet immediately.

If your dog is consuming a lot of sugar in their daily diet it leads to addiction and them not wanting to eat the food that is good for them. You must monitor their blood sugar levels and try to stabilize them by adding the following things to their diet and routine.

Protein

This should be the main source of energy for dogs. To decrease their sugar dependence you can give your dog low-fat proteins like cooked chicken, trimmed beef, and turkey. 

Exercise

This will decrease your dog’s insulin resistance and lower their blood sugar levels.

Antioxidants

While you lower your dog’s blood sugar, you can also boost their immune system. You can feed your dog foods with antioxidants or give them multivitamins to improve their cell function. This will inadvertently help them metabolize their blood sugar.

Conclusion

Sugar is not completely bad for dogs but they must have it in moderation. It can give your dog an energy lift but you want to keep this controlled. Too much energy can lead to disruptive hyperactivity and aggression in your dog. 

If you want to treat your dog with something sweet, give them fruit or cooked sweet vegetables.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.