Can I Give My Dog Candy?
In a country where we can get pretty much any type of food within ten minutes, we can afford to be picky. Since we can afford to be picky, many of us have developed our own unique tastes, and very few foods fall into the ‘universally loved and eaten’ category. There are those who love and those who hate foods like tomatoes, string cheese, custard filled donuts, and even bananas. But everyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, or subculture, loves candy. Almost every American finds an excuse to eat candy throughout the year. We fit candy into our winter holidays, our summer birthday parties, and of course, during our favorite fall and spring holidays. After all, what is Halloween without candy?
While most of us limit our candy consumption, many of us use it as a treat we can easily fit into our otherwise healthy diets on a regular basis. But can we do this for our furry friends, too? Can dogs have candy?
The answer: no, you should not give your dog candy. It’s true that your dog may seem able to handle just about anything they can fit in their mouth, but this doesn’t mean that you SHOULD give them anything they can swallow. Many types of candy pose an immediate threat to your dogs’ health because they are poisonous or because they pose a choking hazard. Even candies that are not technically poisonous may harm your dog’s health in the long run. While a small amount of red licorice or a couple gummy bears likely will not hurt your dog, it certainly will not help them, either. If you want to give your dog something to munch on while you enjoy your trick-or-treat spoils, slice a carrot or an apple.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Dog Candy
Candy is, in the most optimistic frame of mind, nothing but empty calories. Most candy consists of refined sugar, several corn-based sweeteners, plus a handful of artificial colors and flavors. There is no nutritional value whatsoever—most candy has very little, if any, protein, and contains nothing in the way of micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals required to maintain optimal health. In addition, candy usually does not contain any fiber whatsoever. Candy packs a huge caloric punch without any of the fiber or nutrition required to keep your dog full for any period of time.
All those empty calories don’t just go through your dog, either. Since candy does nothing to satisfy your dog’s hunger or nutritional needs, they may be more compelled to overeat later. If you give your precious poodle candy on a regular basis, those extra calories add up. Dogs who eat sweet treats a little too often are likely to pack on the pounds, and may even wind up overweight or obese. The sight of your portly pit bull waddling down the stairs may warm your heart, but canine obesity is anything but cute.
Obese dogs are not happy dogs. Canines who are stuck lugging around extra weight often suffer from aching joints, limited mobility, labored breathing, fatigue, and an inability to exercise properly. If this condition is not rectified quickly, your obese dog is more likely to develop serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis. Obesity can dock several years off your dog’s lifespan, too.
Things to Keep in Mind
Even if your dog maintains their weight, all that sugar can be problematic. Dogs who eat too much sugar may become addicted to it—just like people—and will be more likely to refuse their dog food and beg for your desserts instead. Foods with refined sugar, such as candy, can also contribute to dental problems. Since dogs don’t go to the dentist regularly, untreated cavities or gingivitis can become serious health problems. Untreated oral infections can leak toxic waste into the blood, which circulates through the body and affects other organs.
Though a single piece of most candies will not hurt your dog, there are some types of candy that should be avoided at all costs. The first is, of course, chocolate, which is extremely poisonous to both dogs and cats. Also on the list of poisonous candies is anything containing the sweetener xylitol, which can cause liver failure. Do not give your dog any candies that are labeled ‘sugar-free,’ because they may be sweetened with xylitol. If you think your dog has eaten this sweetener, take them to the vet’s office. To avoid choking, also avoid giving your dog wrapped candies and small, hard candies that can become lodged in their throat. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that comes individually wrapped, like peppermints.
In conclusion, we should all endeavor to avoid feeding our dogs candy. Many types of candy pose a choking or poisoning hazard. Even ‘safe’ candies, which will not result in poisoning, are full of sugar and empty calories that can put your dog at risk of obesity, diabetes, and poor dental health. If your dog has a sweet tooth, give them some fresh fruit instead.