Everyone loves the occasional sweet treat, including your pet. Unfortunately, too much sugar can have a detrimental effect on your pet’s health and wellbeing. It’s not uncommon to find sugar added to a variety of treats, such as peanut butter and yogurt. Even fresh fruits contain natural sugars, such as apples, bananas, and blueberries. When enjoyed in moderation, foods containing sugar are usually not a big concern. However, human and pet foods containing high amounts of sugar should be avoided.
Importance of Good Nutrition
One of the best ways to improve the quality and longevity of your pet’s life is to provide a nutritional diet. Good nutrition starts with lots of water. Your pet must have access to a clean, sufficient source of water at all times. Puppies tend to need more water than adult dogs as they are more prone to dehydration.
Carbohydrates are another important component of your pet’s balanced diet. Many pet owners feed their pets dry foods which typically contain between 30 and 70 percent carbs. Sufficient carbohydrates play a key role in providing energy and helping your pet grow. However, too many carbs can have the opposite effect, causing your pet to accumulate body fat which can lead to obesity over time. When looking for the best carbs for your pet, stick with vegetables and rice which are also good sources of fiber.
In addition to carbs, your pet also requires fat in their diet. Also known as lipids, fats help boost your pet’s energy and can lead to healthy skin and coats. Fats should not come from sweets but rather from oils, meat, chicken, and fish. Some fats can also be found in certain plants.
The Health Effects of Sugar on Pets
As much as humans love eating sweets like cookies and ice cream, it’s best not to share these treats with our pets. Dogs do require some types of sugar to maintain a balanced diet, such as carbohydrates which are broken down into glucose or sugar by the body. However, some types of sugars, such as those found in sweets, can be harmful to pets. Excessive amounts of sugar can cause inflammation throughout the body and are not necessary for pets to maintain good health.
Here are some of the top reasons to avoid giving your pet too much sugar:
- Upset Stomach
Sugary treats can lead to an upset stomach with possible symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Animals rely on bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut to help them digest food. A large dose of sugar can upset the balance of these microorganisms.
- Tooth Decay
Just like people, dogs can suffer from tooth decay or cavities. Too much sugar is a common cause of tooth decay in both people and pets. When your pet consumes sugar, the bacteria in the mouth use it to produce acids which break down enamel and create a loss of minerals.
Some types of sweets can be toxic to dogs. Most people know that you should never feed your pet chocolate as it contains theobromine, a substance that is poisonous to pets. Some sweets also contain the artificial sweetener xylitol which can cause life-threatening blood sugar drops in pets.
Dogs that eat too many sweets can actually develop Type II diabetes. When an animal develops this condition, they are no longer able to process sugar due to the pancreas not producing sufficient insulin. Insulin is a type of hormone produced in the pancreas that helps regulate sugar in the blood.
- Weight Gain
Weight gain is a common side effect of consuming too much sugar. Refined sugars are often referred to as empty calories as they provide no real nutritional value but can cause pets to gain weight. Too much weight gain can put stress on the joints and lead to other problems, such as heart disease.
Healthy Treats for Your Pet
Need some ideas for healthy treats for your pet? There are plenty of commercial treats on the market targeted toward pets but it’s often better and easier to provide your pet with natural treats from your kitchen. Here are some safe and healthy snacks to feed your pet at home:
- Watermelon – A slice of watermelon can be a tasty and hydrating treat for your pet. Be sure to remove the rind and seeds before sharing them with your pet.
- Apples – Apples can be a healthy snack for both people and pets as they are full of nutrients. Always remove the seeds and core first.
- Green Beans – Many pets love the taste of cooked green beans and they are also full of fiber. When sharing with your pet, keep them plain and unseasoned.
- Carrots – Carrots are loaded with carotene and vitamins. Cut them up into bite-size pieces and let your pet enjoy them.
- Green Peas – Whether you prefer to prepare fresh or frozen, green peas can make a healthy treat. They are also the perfect size for training sessions.
- Bananas - Bananas contain many healthy nutrients but do have high sugar content. However, a slice of banana on occasion can be a sweet treat.
- Squash – Cooked squash is a healthy, natural treat for pets. Yellow squash, butternut squash, and zucchini are all great options.
- Blueberries – Blueberries are delicious and enjoyed by many pets. Their small size is also great for the occasional treat.
When trying out a new treat with your pet, it’s best to start with small portions to see how your pet’s GI tract responds. Steer clear of foods that are known to be toxic to pets, such as grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and leeks.