No! Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat Caramel. Here’s Why.

Written by Kristin Hitchcock
Published: February 2, 2023
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Caramel may seem like a pretty benign (and tasty) food. However, it isn’t something you should give to your dog. Not only is caramel full of sugar, but it can also lead to potential health complications.

Luckily, though, caramel isn’t toxic. Therefore, if your dog snatches some off your plate, they likely aren’t going to develop immediate health issues that require veterinary attention. Caramel isn’t the worst thing you can feed your dog, but it isn’t something we recommend as a usual snack.

Caramel can sometimes cause an upset stomach, as dogs aren’t used to eating so much sugar. If eaten for extended periods, pancreatitis, obesity, and diabetes can occur. Dogs can also develop dental disease, as caramel is very sticky.

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You should avoid feeding your dog all types of caramel, including anything that includes caramel in its ingredient list. Caramel popcorn, pudding, rice cakes, and ice cream should all be avoided.

Reasons to Avoid Caramel

There are many different reasons your dog shouldn’t eat caramel. While it isn’t toxic, it can lead to some health issues now and later.

1. Sugar

Caramel is exceptionally high in sugar. While dogs can digest and consume a bit of sugar, caramel contains far more sugar than dogs need.

If your dog consumes too much sugar, it will spike blood sugar. This can cause hyperactivity and similar problems. Luckily, most dogs can regulate their blood sugar, so you’ll only have to deal with a hyper canine for up to an hour. However, some dogs have more difficulty regulating their blood sugar. Dogs with diabetes fall into this category.

Smaller dogs also find it harder to regulate their blood sugar due to their smaller size. However, the potential problem with smaller dogs is that their body will react too dramatically to high amounts of caramel, causing their blood sugar to lower too quickly. In extreme cases, this can lead to seizures and coma.

Sugar can also lead to obesity when eaten over time. Even a tiny amount of sugar can add a lot of calories to your canine’s diet, leading to weight gain. Obesity can cause many health issues, just like in humans.

For all these reasons, high amounts of sugar should be avoided. Caramel is made up of mostly sugar, putting it in the pass category.

2. Stomach Problems

Most dogs are not used to consuming lots of sugar. Therefore, it isn’t odd for dogs to experience stomach upset after eating caramel. Dogs just aren’t used to eating it.

Dogs may act lethargic if their stomachs are upset. Similarly, vomiting and diarrhea can occur. Luckily, these usually pass after only a few hours, and shouldn’t be cause for serious concern. Veterinary care isn’t typically required.

However, some dogs may be more sensitive to these issues than others. Smaller puppies and dogs with underlying health problems may be more prone to dehydration, which often comes with stomach issues. You may want to call your vet if your dog fits in this category.

While most dogs don’t have significant complications from stomach problems, it is better to be safe than sorry if your dog is already sick.

3. Dental Problems

Caramel is very sugary and sticky. These two characteristics combine to make caramel very good at causing dental issues. When your dog eats caramel, some of it will get stuck in their teeth. Dogs don’t have hands, toothpicks, or floss, so getting it off can be more complex and take longer.

Many dogs already have dental issues. As you’d imagine, these issues can get expensive to fix. Dogs won’t just sit still while vets mess around in their mouths. Therefore, anesthesia is usually needed. Throw in a few complicated dental issues, and it may cost you thousands of dollars.

Plus, dental problems can be excruciating and severe. Infections are common and may quickly move into the bloodstream, causing sepsis and even death.

4. Choking

Caramel tends to stay together in one sticky ball. Humans often know that chewing caramel thoroughly is essential. However, dogs don’t know this, and we can’t exactly explain it to them. Therefore, it isn’t odd for dogs to attempt to scarf down caramel and end up with a large ball stuck in their throat.

Choking can be severe, especially when you’re talking about caramel. Dogs aren’t made to eat caramel, and they don’t chew like humans do, increasing their chances of choking.

You can do little to keep a dog from choking when eating caramel. Small amounts are less likely to lead to choking, though we don’t recommend giving your dog caramel purposefully.

5. Other Ingredients

Often, foods don’t just contain caramel; other ingredients are added. Many of these added ingredients are toxic to dogs, including chocolate. If your dog eats caramel, they are probably eating other things they also shouldn’t be eating. It isn’t just the caramel that is the issue — it’s everything that is included with the caramel.

Most people know chocolate is toxic to dogs. Luckily, most types of chocolate in our homes aren’t that specific type of chocolate. Pure cocoa is what’s toxic to dogs, and most cocoa in our homes has added sugar and milk. In the end, this waters down the toxicity. However, baker’s chocolate is highly toxic, as it is concentrated. Chocolate is something that most dogs shouldn’t mess around with.

There are other potentially toxic ingredients often added to caramel and caramel products. Artificial sweeteners of many sorts are toxic to dogs. Xylitol is one of the most toxic sweeteners, causing seizures, coma, and death when given to dogs in tiny amounts. It causes your dog’s body to believe it has eaten sugar, leading to insulin release. However, because the dog hasn’t eaten sugar, this insulin lowers their blood sugar to dangerously low levels.

Tree nuts are also toxic to dogs. Peanuts are not in this category, as peanut butter is an everyday treat for dogs. However, most other standard nuts fall into the tree nut category, causing toxicity in dogs.

Caramel isn’t toxic but is often added to toxic foods.


What Should I Do if My Dog Eats Caramel?

You should call your vet if your dog is in an at-risk category. This includes young dogs and those with underlying health issues, especially related to your dog’s blood sugar. If not, you should ensure that your dog only ate caramel. As we’ve stated, caramel isn’t toxic but is often added to toxic foods.

Dogs that only eat caramel and aren’t at risk for complications don’t require veterinary care in most cases. Caramel isn’t toxic, and the most it usually does is cause stomach upset. Of course, you should prevent your canine from eating more caramel in the future. Consumption of caramel over time can lead to health problems.

With all that in mind, keep an eye on your dog for strange behaviors. If stomach problems last for over six hours or your dog appears dehydrated, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Dogs with neurological issues, like seizures or lethargy, should see a vet. These are signs that your dog’s blood sugar is too low.

When in doubt, it is always better to call your vet. Not all dogs with underlying health issues will need support after eating caramel. However, your vet knows your dog’s history better than anyone. Therefore, they can provide specialized advice.

Is Caramel Toxic to Dogs?

Caramel isn’t blatantly toxic to dogs. It won’t lead to any toxicity, which would require veterinary attention. However, it isn’t healthy. The high sugar content can sometimes lead to adverse effects, like blood sugar issues. However, this is a side effect and not due to toxicity.

Caramel is often included next to toxic ingredients, though. Chocolate, artificial sweeteners, and tree nuts can cause toxicity and require veterinary care. Often, if your dog snatches a candy bar, it isn’t the caramel you should be worried about.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, don’t feed your dog caramel. Caramel isn’t toxic, so it won’t lead to instant, deadly consequences. However, the high amount of sugar isn’t healthy for our dogs. It can also cause stomach upset, dental problems, and hyperactivity. Luckily, these issues are usually minor and short-lived.

Some dogs may be extra sensitive to caramel, though. Dogs with diabetes cannot regulate blood sugar, especially after consuming an extra-sugary snack. Therefore, they may require veterinary care.

We don’t recommend giving your dog caramel at any point. However, if your dog sneaks a bite, it probably won’t cause any complications. We do recommend ensuring that they only ate caramel. Caramel is often found alongside toxic ingredients, like chocolate and tree nuts.

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