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Sugar In Dog Food

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Sugars are present in dog food as part of carbohydrates, alongside protein and fat.
  • Sugars are used as an energy source, a natural preservative, and to improve taste, texture, and appearance of dog food.
  • Carbohydrates maintain pregnant dogs' weight and glucose levels required during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Small amounts of sugar do not cause obesity, but excessive consumption can lead to harmful effects such as hyperactivity, tooth decay, and diabetes.
  • It is important to feed dogs sugar in moderation and to check the ingredients and carbohydrate levels in dog food.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Tuesday 18 October 2022
Last updated on
Friday 23 June 2023
Sugars In Dog Food
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If you wonder why dogs love their snacks, you can say that they are tasty because of the sugars in dog food. Nevertheless, while these sweet things are present in your furry friend’s meal, you can also think, can dogs eat sucrose and other sugars? Grab your paper today because this article will help you note necessary information about this!

Why Is There Sugar In Dog Foods?

When it comes to healthy dog food, carbohydrates are a crucial macronutrient that pet owners should be aware of. Carbohydrates come in three forms: fiber, starch, and sugars. While fiber doesn’t break down into glucose, starch, and sugars do. Common types of sugars include maltose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, and fructose, which can be found in various fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, peas, apples, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

Manufacturers can also produce sugars from sources like corn, sugar cane, wheat, or sugar beets, which are used to create sweeteners like caramel, syrup, and granulated sugar. Along with these sweet ingredients, balanced dog foods also contain carbohydrates from other sources like cereals, potatoes, and leguminous plants.

It’s important to note that while sugars are present in dog food, manufacturers add them in controlled amounts as they can be harmful in excess. However, sugars do serve a purpose in dog food, providing an energy source that dogs can easily convert into usable energy through digestion. Additionally, a small percentage of simple sugars can enhance the palatability of dog food by improving its color and taste, making it more appealing to dogs.

In summary, while sugars are present in dog food, they are added in controlled amounts for specific purposes and are not inherently harmful. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the different types of carbohydrates in their dog’s food and to ensure that their dog’s diet is balanced and appropriate for their individual needs.

Benefits of Sugars in Dog Foods

Sucrose for dogs allows canines to gain health benefits and increased appetite. They do not cause much harm to your furry friends, unlike what most people think of sweet foods.

The following are the benefits of these ingredients to give you an idea of what dogs can get from sugars in dog foods.

Energy Source

Glucose is the shortest and most highly digestible energy source in a dog’s body. Once a canine requires energy for daily activity, it will burn sugar in its blood, and its liver will convert glycogen into glucose. Then, it will release into the bloodstream to keep the levels steady.

Nevertheless, the body will start burning fats for energy once these glucose levels get used up. Since it is necessary to fill the dog’s glucose storage, your furry friend will require carbohydrate consumption from dog foods or treats. Once you provide your dog with a carbohydrate-rich meal, it can break down long chains of glucose to have a continuous glucose refill for its body cells.

Natural Preservative

Dog food manufacturers also use sugar as a natural preservative for dog foods, like how people use the same ingredient to preserve the color, flavor, and texture of different human foods. For instance, sugars can serve as a humectant to help slow or prevent bacteria, yeast, and mold growth on dog treats.

Furthermore, honey, corn syrup, or brown sugar in dog food also substitutes granulated sugars without reducing the total carbohydrate and calorie content. These ingredients are more advisable than artificial preservatives because the latter can produce unhealthy consequences or health risks to dogs that consume them.

Improve Appearance

Sugars also improve dog food’s appearance, especially in terms of colors and volume. In some products, sugars allow dog treats to become either fluffy, soft, or tall. 

Aside from that, the sugar can also break down upon heating to produce colors and desirable flavors. For instance, those dog meals with caramel flavors use heating sugars to create a golden brown color. This process usually happens whenever the protein reacts as they break down in the cooking process, which you can also call the Maillard reaction.

Improve Taste and Texture

To test dogs’ preferences, Anton Beynen conducted a study on sugars in dog foods, where he gave canines access to dry food with a pan of distilled water and one with sweetened water containing 10% sucrose. In the results, the researcher found that dogs chose the sweetened water over the plain distilled one. 

Also, the dogs ate more sucrose-supplemented dog food than unsupplemented one. Therefore, Beynen concluded that dog meals mixed with sucrose or sugar content increase palatability or taste. Dogs will also prefer them more than those dog foods without sugar because of the enhanced flavors. 

Enhance Pregnant and Lactating Dog’s Health

Giving your dog adequate carbohydrates and sugars is necessary, especially when pregnant and lactating. That is because they will likely require high glucose levels during their last trimester. 

Since carbohydrates also maintain your pregnant dog’s weight, feeding it sugar-free dog food will cause it to lose weight. Consequently, it can become dangerous because it can lead to reduced birth weight and lower survival rates for newborn puppies. Also, it can lessen the amounts of lactose in the mother dog’s milk.

When providing carbohydrates, the recommended amount is 20% of the energy in the diet. Note that dry diets can have lower carbohydrate levels, so it is best to check the table of ingredients before purchasing a product.

Can Sucrose Cause Obesity?

Unlike what others have believed, sugars do not cause harm to dogs when fed moderately and in small amounts. They also do not lead to obesity because excessive calorie intake is the one that induces such extreme weight gain. On the other hand, sugars can serve necessary functions for a dog’s health.

Loftus and Wakshlag‘s research on canine and feline obesity explained that people’s conception that carbohydrates hinder weight loss is incorrect. Instead, the researchers stated that carbohydrate sources do not cause obesity and only provide the same energy as proteins.

This idea is similar to Gizzarelli et al.‘s research on the different carbohydrate sources in dogs’ diets. The researchers explained there was no significant difference in weight and body conditions of dogs’ diets despite consuming carbs. These sources can enhance metabolism and improve liver function with energy nutrients like protein and fat.

Also, Lyu et al.‘s study between high-fat and high-starch diets on dogs tested ten healthy adult beagles. They grouped these canines into two groups: the first one had horse fats while the other had pregelatinized corn starch. They wanted to know if the increase in glucose and decrease in alanine levels affect dogs’ weight and nutrition.

In the results, all dogs stayed healthy, and the diets did not affect their energy and food intake. Moreover, there are no significant diet and period effects. Since it also did not affect absolute and relative body fat mass, the researchers concluded that sugars could not cause obesity.

Harmful Effects of Sugar on Dogs

Despite having several health benefits, excessive sugar consumption can cause harmful effects. For instance, too much sugar can lead to hyperactivity, tooth decay, diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

Dogs can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates at one time. So, when they consume more than what their body energy needs, these carbohydrates will turn into body fats. In some cases, sugars can also aggravate existing ear infections, allergies, and skin problems.

Moreover, artificial sugars like xylitol can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure. Hence, if you want to keep your dog away from such unwanted consequences, you can feed it dog food without sugar or opt for a sugar-free diet for dogs.

If not, you can give it not more than 2% of starch or 30% or fewer carbohydrates. You can also prevent chocolates, grapes, raisins, candies, and gums. In these cases, checking the ingredients included in dog food can help avoid the consumption of such contents.

Contrary to what most people conceive, sugars in dog food do not necessarily cause obesity and health issues, especially when taken in moderation or in small amounts. It provides different functions that assist metabolism, energy, digestion, pregnancy, and increases appetite. Nonetheless, sugar intake must be with careful decisions to prevent excessive consumption.

One comment on “Sugar In Dog Food”

  1. Pedigree

    Now I can Closely monitor my dog’s sugar intake. Thanks for the information

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