Humans love a reward or the comfort of candy, whether it’s gummies, chocolate, ice cream, or any of the endless choices available. It’s tempting to offer your begging dog a piece while you both watch your favorite TV show, or maybe they got their nose into the candy cupboard, or they snatched an opportunity outside when they noticed rogue pieces of candy on the sidewalk. In any case, it is not safe or healthy for your dog to eat candy, and it can give your pup some very problematic health issues.
Is Candy Bad for My Dog?
Yes, it is! It isn’t exactly good for humans either, but for dogs, candy is potentially toxic, depending on the ingredients it contains.
While sugar itself isn’t toxic to dogs, it can cause health problems for them, some of which can be life-threatening. It is the added threat of substances in the candy which are toxic to dogs and cause medical issues. Examples of such substances include nuts, raisins, nutmeg, xylitol, caffeine, and other artificial sweeteners.
The wrappers are also a further concern, as these can cause an internal blockage. Some candy types are available as sugar-free or are low in sugar, but in these instances, the sugar has been replaced with xylitol or other artificial sweeteners, which are toxic to dogs and should also be avoided.
Cases of illness and poisoning are seen in higher numbers during seasonal holiday times; for example, at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Extra care and vigilance should be taken to keep all candy away from your dog and out of reach during these times, but also at all times in general.
Risks of Dogs Eating Candy
The following health complications and conditions can arise from your dog eating any of the kinds of candy available:
Can Dogs Eat Sugar?
Sugar isn’t toxic but isn’t good for them either. Dogs, like humans, have taste buds, only fewer of them. Dogs have around 1,700 taste buds on their tongue, and humans have around 9,000. However, some dogs do seem to have a preference for sweets.
If sugar is eaten in large amounts and/or consistently eaten, it causes many health issues, as noted above. After being consumed, the sugar is moved and excreted in the stomach by a process called osmosis, meaning some cells or areas will have a higher sugar solution after consumption than others. Water from the surrounding cells and tissues will, in response to the imbalance, move across into the sugar-concentrated cells/area to essentially dilute the high sugar concentration in those cells.
This natural process occurs in order to equalize any balance and differences in cell and tissue concentrations to maintain normal health. In large amounts of sugar consumption, this potentially results in electrolyte imbalances and health problems, or gastrointestinal upset.
What Sweets Are Toxic to Dogs?
Please note this list is not exhaustive, but common types of toxic sweets include the following candies listed below. If your dog has eaten any candy at all and is showing any of the signs listed, contact your veterinarian right away.
The toxic element of chocolate is a chemical known as theobromine, and the darker the chocolate is, the higher the concentration of theobromine. This means dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.
If your dog has eaten chocolate, you can check out the risk level of toxicity on this chocolate meter, but you should also call your veterinarian immediately for advice and any needed treatment.
Whether the caffeine was found and consumed via candy or your dog has helped themselves to a delicious latte, espresso, or the coffee granule container, caffeine amounts of 140 mg/kg (63mg/lb) and over, if consumed, can be toxic and harmful to dogs.
These are usually noticed or seen 1–2 hours after ingestion:
Raisins (and grapes) are popular snacks to hand out to children, and raisins are a particular favorite in cookies, but unfortunately, they are toxic to dogs. Some dogs can suffer a more complicated reaction whereby any number of raisins eaten causes toxicity.
4. Xylitol and Artificial Sweeteners
This ingredient is very common in chewing gum, low-sugar, or no-sugar sweets and mints but is also found in many other snacks and drinks.
What Sweet Treats Can I Give My Dog?
Any form of candy or sugary treat needs to be avoided. Those kept in the house for human consumption need to be kept out of reach, not on display or on worktops, and in lockable containers or cupboards. Instead, try one of the options below while remembering that any treats given should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet and calorie requirements.
Dogs on weight reduction programs or prescription diets shouldn’t be offered these at all unless your veterinarian advises otherwise.
- Dog-safe fruits and vegetables. Natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables work in a different way in the body compared to processed or unnatural sugar, making some of these products safe, healthy, and good options for dogs. Try bananas, for example.
- Make your own dog-safe treats and bakery goods from a recipe designed for dogs. Many can be found online or via veterinary nutritionists and pet companies.
- Peanut butter, but only if your dog doesn’t have an allergy to it and it is free from xylitol.
- Pet stores, boutiques, and online pet retailers stock many dog-safe sweet treats such as cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, cookies, and popcorn.
Candy and dogs do not go together! Although a little bit of sugar might not cause major problems, the risk is there and is high, particularly if your dog is eating candy regularly, finds a bag of candy they like, or it contains a toxic substance. The best way is to avoid it in the first place and use one of the many alternatives on offer.
In the scenarios where candy is eaten by accident—as we know how they like to rummage and are always able to spot a leftover treat on the sidewalk or in the park—phone your veterinarian for advice right away, especially if your dog is exhibiting any signs that are not normal for them.