Can Dogs Eat Caramel?

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated: August 3, 2020

Three pieces of delicious caramel

Caramel might seem like a relatively harmless treat. But can dogs eat caramel? Or should you keep this sugary food away from your pup? Keep reading to find out.

Caramel is a sweet treat used in baking, as an ice cream topping, and as a candy. It’s not toxic to canines, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for them to eat.

As caramel is made from almost pure sugar, it should never be given to a dog. Sugar consumption is linked with obesity, diabetes, dental problems, and various other canine health issues.

Let’s take a closer look at this sugary food and why it shouldn’t be fed to your canine companion.

Is Caramel Bad for Dogs?

Caramel shouldn’t be given to dogs, but it isn’t toxic in the same way that grapes or onions are. So, if your pup manages to lick a small amount of caramel while it’s cooling on the work surface, you probably don’t need to panic.

However, caramel is effectively pure sugar, making it extremely unhealthy for dogs. It also doesn’t provide any nutritional benefits, meaning there’s no reason to ever feed it to your pet.

Caramel is also often combined with other foods that are dangerous or toxic to dogs, such as chocolate.

How is Caramel Made?

Caramel is made by slowly heating white sugar, sometimes alongside water and cream or milk, until it liquefies. It can vary in consistency, from a saucy texture to a chewier variety.

While caramel is similar to toffee and butterscotch, these are both made with brown sugar and often cooked at a higher temperature to form a brittle texture.

What Are The Health Effects of Dogs Eating Too Much Sugar?

We’ve established that dogs shouldn’t eat caramel. But what makes sugar such an unhealthy ingredient for your pup?

In small quantities, natural sugars obtained from dog-safe fruits and vegetables are fine for dogs to eat. These healthy food groups are typically packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutritional benefits. Even so, they should only be fed in small amounts, and keep in mind that many vegetables and fruits are toxic to dogs.

Refined sugar, like that found in caramel, is not packaged with fibre to slow down absorption into the dog’s body. It carries many potential health risks if regularly consumed by humans and dogs.

Some potential issues caused by the sugar in caramel include:

  • Dental problems. Cavities in dogs are less common than in humans. This is partly due to their teeth shape and types of bacteria in their mouth. But it’s also because dogs naturally eat diets with much less sugar. If you start to give your dog sugary caramel, this significantly increases the chance of tooth decay.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Dogs aren’t used to eating a lot of sugar. Suddenly introducing a high quantity, like that found in caramel, could lead to excess gas, diarrhea and stomach pain. If your dog snaffles a large amount, watch out for signs of stomach upset. Excessive diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and a vet should be consulted.
  • Obesity. In North America, it’s estimated that over 50% of the dog population is overweight, leading to health issues such as joint problems, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and many more. Overfeeding and poor quality diets often contribute to this problem. Regularly offering sugary caramel increases the chance of your dog becoming overweight, as this food contains lots of calories without providing nutritional benefit.

Note: Some dogs have a dairy intolerance or allergy. Caramel made with milk or cream could trigger this sensitivity, leading to an upset stomach or even an allergic reaction. If you notice stomach problems, respiratory issues, or other symptoms after your dog has eaten any food, contact your vet immediately.

What About Caramel Popcorn?

Plain popcorn isn’t toxic for dogs, and it’s even sometimes sold as a low-calorie treat. However, sugary, caramel-covered popcorn should never be fed as a regular treat.  

Steer clear of salty or buttered varieties too. Too much salt can lead to your dog becoming dehydrated, and it’s a particular issue if they have renal problems. The high-fat content in butter can also lead to weight gain and conditions like pancreatitis.  

Summary

Although caramel isn’t toxic for dogs, it’s not something that you should deliberately feed your dog. It’s almost pure sugar, and, if it’s fed regularly, could lead to dental problems, weight gain, and associated health problems.

About the Author

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.