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.
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.
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. “Most dogs can be managed from home with a bland diet and plenty of water,” says vet Dr Linda Simon. “However, puppies or seniors with severe vomiting and diarrhea may require admission to the vet clinic for IV fluids.”
- 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 benefits. “Sadly, I am seeing more and more obese canine patients and it is quite clear how negatively this impacts quality of life,” adds Dr Linda Simon. “From trouble breathing and worsening arthritis to a reduced ability to exercise, these dogs generally have a worse quality of life than their peers.”
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.
Related Article: Can Dogs Eat Strawberry Ice Cream?
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.
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.