Can Dogs Eat Caramel (and Caramel Popcorn)?

Can Dogs Eat Caramel? What about caramel popcorn? Photo of a dog eating and staring at caramel

From fries to scraps to dessert, dogs are always begging for our food. If you’re considering giving him a piece of caramel, you might want to take a look at its potential risks and drawbacks for your dog.

Technically, dogs can eat caramel since it’s not a toxic food. However, raw sugar, a key part of caramel, can lead to many health conditions and problems short-term, such as dental issues and sugar overdoses. It can also influence your dog’s health long-term; diabetes, addiction, and even obesity can impact his well-being and his whole life. When it comes to your dog and a sweet treat, you’ll want to understand its ingredients, its risks, and what to do if your dog has some caramel!

Will caramel hurt my dog?

There are, terrifyingly, quite a few “normal” human foods that can be toxic to dogs: chocolate, onion, and garlic, to name a few. It’s reassuring to learn that caramel isn’t on that list. That being said, it can still cause serious harm to your dog. Some of the main concerns include:

  • Diabetes
  • Dental issues
  • Addiction
  • Sugar overdoses
  • Obesity

Diabetes

Yup, dog diabetes is a thing! Diabetes forms when dogs’ bodies become unable to process sugar in the blood, and it often requires medication. Since dogs are much smaller than us, and not able to digest sugar the same way that we do, normally, diabetes can set in faster and with less sugar than humans.

Dental issues

As you likely already know, eating a lot of sugar is going to lead to dental problems. Your dog is no exception, and that’s assuming that you’re used to helping brush his teeth regularly (which most pet parents are not). From pain to extraction, to dental disease, and even a special diet, it can all add up.

Addiction

One of the most dangerous parts of eating raw sugar for dogs is that it is highly addictive. Think of your child when they eat caramel. That sugar rush is literally addictive and they crave more and more of it. Now, picture your dog with the same addiction — except they don’t understand that it’s addictive and you don’t have the same ability to reason or explain it to them as you would with a mini human. Instead, he wants more and you can’t give it to him and he doesn’t understand why. Tugs on the heartstrings a bit, right?

If you want to avoid accidentally turning your sweet dog into a drug addict (yes, seriously), you’ll want to be very careful about sugar! 

Sugar overdoses

Addiction is one thing, but too much sugar can actually cause some dogs to overdose. Most of this relates to the ratio between the amount of caramel (which is basically just cubed sugar) and the dog size. A sugar overdose can need immediate vet attention, so this is a serious symptom to watch out for (more on that in a bit).

Obesity

Just like in humans, too much sugar will create weight gain and eventually obesity. Many dogs are predisposed to obesity, too, so having caramel regularly can be enough to tip the scales (literally). While there are many factors to a healthy diet, avoiding sugary human treats is certainly something to keep in mind!

Can caramel kill dogs?

Caramel can kill dogs, yes. In most cases, it’s a long-term issue. For example, obesity, diabetes, and general malnutrition. In some cases, such as sugar overdose, it can be faster. The bottom line is that caramel can kill dogs even if it’s not as immediately life-threatening as chocolate or xylitol.

What happens if a dog eats caramel?

The most likely case is that they’re going to have a bad case of the zoomies. Think of it as zooming around, playing frantically, and then immediately crashing in a total sugar coma. Sound familiar? Yup, that’s precisely what happens when your toddler gets a hold of a candy stash! 

If you were to compare the two, you’d find that a sugar high (and crash) is worse in dogs than it is in toddlers, too. It causes more harm and it can be a lot harder for your dog to understand, too.

What to do if my dog ate caramel

If your dog grabs a piece of your caramel, or you think he may have grabbed it off the table when you weren’t looking, don’t panic. Again, it’s not a toxic food. You’ll want to carefully monitor him for the symptoms that show he’s dealing with a sugar rush. The good news is that sugar rush symptoms are usually pretty easy to spot! The top ones can be:

  • Restlessness and hyperactivity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Lethargy and catatonic sleeping
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

If your dog has had excessive sugar, he’ll be racing around the house, frantically playing with gusto you may never have seen before, and simply will not be able to settle. He’d hypothetically run on a treadmill for miles and miles without even blinking, he’s got so much energy. 

He may also come across as being anxious and unsettled, too, double as moodiness or irritable, which can sometimes happen in older dogs. Always keep a close eye on your dog during the zoomie stage, as he’s high on sugar and may play/exercise so much that he can hurt himself. 

Once the sugar wears off, he’ll crash. He’ll often zonk out right in the middle of a play session and take a serious, hard nap. This is normal, but you’ll still want to keep an eye on him to make sure that he’s okay!

Most of the time, he’ll also have some diarrhea and potentially some vomiting. This is especially likely if he’s eaten a good amount of it (and/or is a particularly small dog). This should clear up in a few hours, but, of course, keep an eye on it and make sure he has plenty of access to water.

Potential dangerous signs of a sugar overdose

A sugar overdose is possible, too. This often relates more to the size of the dog and/or the amount of caramel he’s eaten. The symptoms of this can be a little tricky to separate from the “normal” symptoms, but here they are:

  • Actual catatonic behavior
  • Extreme vomiting and diarrhea
  • Something just seems “off”

If your dog actually seems to have gone catatonic (ie: he’s gone into a “sugar coma” that you can’t wake him from), this is a sign that he should really get to a vet to see what’s going on. At the very least, give your vet a call and see what they say!

If your dog has the runs in the bathroom sense, or he’s vomiting to the point where he can’t keep his supper down, this is also cause for concern as it means that he’s essentially overdosed on sugar and his body is fighting hard to get it out.

As far as something seeming “off”, this is more of an additional sign that often pairs with one of the above. Even if he’s fine, you may get a sense that something just doesn’t seem right with your dog. If that’s the case, you should get him checked out just to make sure!  

Can I give my dog caramel popcorn?

Carmel in its pure form is technically worse than caramel syrup that is poured over popcorn. However, caramel popcorn is not a good idea for your dog, either. Typically, the caramel used over popcorn has other sugar additives and seasonings that could potentially be even more dangerous for your dog, there also tends to be more of it over popcorn than would be in a tiny square that you give him.

What can I give to my dog as a treat?

We get it. You love your dog and you want to spoil him as much as possible by giving him a treat every once in a while. The thing is, the world is working with you! There are plenty of dog-friendly treats out there that you can consider. 

Some of them include homemade treats such as designer bakery treats made specifically for dogs (yum). Others include actual human foods that are considered healthy for your dog and they’ll still enjoy eating (they don’t know what a vegetable is, after all). You can find a comprehensive list of dog-friendly human food to get you started in filling your fridge.

Lastly, just because your dog is begging doesn’t mean that you need to give him a bite of your caramel! Sure, he’s got that face and he’s so cute, but dogs beg for food because they’re biological scavengers, deliberately looking for food every moment of the day. Even if they just ate supper and are stuffed, they’d still beg. Say it with me, guys: a begging dog is not a hungry dog!

As delicious as caramel is to us, avoiding giving it to your dog as much as possible, from the zoomies to a sugar overdose, it’s never worth it, and it can have serious negative impacts on your dog’s overall health!

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