What are the side effects of a dog eating sugar?

Photo by Glenn Han on Unsplash

 If you’re feeling guilty to be eating ice cream in front of your dog, well, don’t.

Dogs don’t need sugary treats of any kind.

You don’t either, but that’s a completely different story.

Passing a cookie to your begging pet won’t cause any real problem to your dog, if that’s what you’re wondering.

Not in the short term. What you should be worried about is what happens long term. Regular sugar consumption can affect your pet’s overall health in many different ways.

Here are the main problems caused by too much sugar.

Is sugar toxic for dogs?

Short answer: No. In itself and ingested in small quantities, like a cookie or two, sugar is not a real threat to your dog’s health.

The problem is that the occasional treat can lead to a sugar addiction, what you’d call your dog developing a sweet tooth.

Just like humans, dogs use glucose for energy and, indeed, sugar is basically glucose. However, your pet gets the glucose he needs from the carbohydrates in his food.

He does not need refined sugar which is basically empty calories, that offer no real benefits, except the momentary taste buds feast.

Five side effects of a dog eating sugar?

Feeding your dog granulated sugar or sweets made with it can cause various short and long term problems, some of them quite serious.

 Diarrhea

When your dog eats sugar, one of the most common problems is diarrhea. That’s because sugar interferes with the good bacteria in the animal’s gut, causing an upset stomach. The dog won’t learn his lesson from this messy episode, so it is your job to be firm and refuse to give him other sweets.

Cavities

OK, maybe your dog loves sugar, but so do the bacteria in his mouth. Bacteria use sugar to produce the acids that damage the teeth, which leads to cavities. This is what happens to us, too and you brush your teeth regularly. Do you brush your dog’s teeth twice a day? Probably not. Cavities can cause your dog a lot of pain and you will hurt a lot, too, if you’ll have to take your pet to a dentist. Just check out the prices if you want to know what sort of pain we’re talking about.

Hyperactivity

Yes, your dog can get a sugar high and become quite agitated after a sugary treat. Don’t ever make the mistake of giving your dog some sweets to make him feel better when you have to leave home. Your home will look completely different when you get back and not in a good way, as the dog needs to release the extra energy somehow.

Obesity

When the body gets too much sugar, it will end up storing it, which leads to excess weight and obesity. Did you know that one in four dogs is obese? Being overweight causes heart disease, difficulty breathing and joint problems. Keep in mind that some breeds like labrador retrievers, basset hounds and terriers are prone to obesity anyway, so giving them sugary treats can only make a bad situation worse.

Diabetes

Regular sugar consumption can lead to metabolic changes and diabetes. When your pet’s body cannot produce enough insulin to correctly process glucose, your dog will become lethargic. There’s enough sugar in the system only it’s not used to give him energy. On the other hand, high blood sugar damages the dog’s internal organs, especially the liver and the kidneys.

How much sugar can dogs have a day?

After reading about what sugar addiction can do to your pet, you understand why you should refrain from splitting your cookies with your best four-legged friend.

If your pet is the persistent beggar kind, as many of them are, it’s best to trick him with alternative treats.

Fresh fruit is an excellent source of fructose which is a natural sugar and far healthier, not to mention all the vitamins or fiber in fruit. 

An useful trick is to always have a bowl of fruit at the ready and offer your dog apple or banana slices instead of cookies.

Yes, your pet will know the difference, but will be grateful to get a few berries if you put up a show and make it seem like it’s something truly great and he’s lucky to get some. Just keep in mind grapes and raisins are toxic for dogs.

Anything else goes, so feel free to give your dog small bites of a healthy snack.

 Is brown sugar safer than white sugar?

Many health-conscious people use brown sugar instead of white one, but the health benefits are minimal, while the dangers are pretty much the same.

In other words, brown sugar is not a better alternative for your dog (or for you, really). And the same goes for raw sugar.

The main difference between brown and white sugar is that the first has a higher molasses content, which gives it its distinctive color.

It also contains more minerals, like magnesium, potassium and calcium, but your pet can find those in his regular food.

Oh, and yes, brown sugar has less calories, but again the difference is quite small. A teaspoon of white sugar has 16.3 calories, while the same amount of brown sugar has 15 calories.

Both types of sugar are produced in much the same way. White sugar is refined to remove molasses.

On the other hand, the brown sugar you buy at the store is produced by adding molasses back into the white sugar crystals.

Raw sugar isn’t much better. The difference is that the sugarcane juice is boiled only once to make raw sugar. For refined sugars it is boiled several times to remove molasses.

At the end of the day, fruit is still better.

Are sweeteners safer than sugar?

If you’re wondering about giving your dog sugar-free treats, the answer is definitely NO! Most sugar-free sweets contain xylitol which is toxic for dogs, even in small quantities.

This artificial sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, triggering liver and kidney failure.

Be aware that it’s not just diet candy that contains xylitol, as you can find it in many other products, including some types of peanut butter, yogurts or toothpaste.

Always read the label carefully before offering human foods to your dog.

Xylitol poisoning is a serious health threat so you need to look out for signs like lethargy, vomiting, lack of coordination or seizures. Call the vet immediately! 

Other types of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin are not toxic the way xylitol is.

They won’t cause a medical emergency, but there are serious concerns they are not safe for human consumption, at least long term, so it’s best to keep your dog away from them, too.

Is honey a more healthy option for dogs than sugar?

Honey is, indeed, better for dogs as it contains natural sugars, as well as some vitamins and minerals.

It’s not toxic in any way, but, of course, you should not overdo it as it can still cause weight problems.

Cookies made with honey are generally safe for your pet, but, be careful.

Dogs don’t care about recipes and they’ll start salivating any time they see cookies, no matter what they are made with.

Honey can safely be used to treat a dog with a sore throat as well as some forms of seasonal allergies. If your dog has diabetes, make sure to talk to the vet before giving him honey.

Is there any sugar in best selling dog biscuits or dental chews?

You bet! The reason manufacturers add sugar in various forms to their products is to make them more palatable and to make your dog refuse other types of food which do not taste as good.

One Italian study revealed that most dog treats contain glucose, fructose or sucrose. Dog biscuits came on top as far as the added sugar content is concerned, with dental chews slightly better.

A responsible dog owner needs to read the label carefully, all of it, not just the first few ingredients. Producers always mention healthy stuff first and hide the unsafe ones among fancy-sounding ingredients.

A dog needs a chew every now and then, but keep in mind that many of the commercially available treats can make your dog obese if consumed regularly.

If your dog has diabetes check out this list of products that are quite unhealthy as they have too much added sugars.

Key Takeaway

Dogs aren’t born with a sweet tooth.

They develop one if their owners share their desserts with them. One cookie can’t hurt a dog, right?

Well, no, only it’s never just one cookie and before you know it your dog will jump on your sofa asking for his share of ice cream.

Too much sugar can cause an upset stomach, dental problems and, long term, it can make your dog overweight, with all the health issues that entails.

If you want to give your dog a sweet treat, give him a piece of fruit or a little honey. Always keep in mind that diet cookies can be very dangerous to your dog if they contain xylitol, which is toxic!