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Most dog owners know that chocolate is right up there with poison when it comes to things your dog shouldn’t eat. They may wonder, though, how far that prohibition goes: is it all candy products? If your dog has gotten into some caramel, you might be freaking out a little.
Dogs can eat caramel and it’s technically okay for them to do so, as it won’t kill them in minutes. But a dog who eats caramel regularly will have several health issues, including obesity and dental problems. If your dog has already eaten caramel, don’t worry, as it won’t die immediately.
While chocolate can easily kill a dog, caramel and chocolate are different foods, and the health issues related to dogs eating caramel can build up over time and lead to long-term and eventually fatal conditions and maladies. Let’s get started.
Nearly every dog owner knows that chocolate is a big no-no. Dogs can literally die from it, as its contents disrupt your pup’s systems severely enough that organs can shut down, among other problems. But some people apply this same thought to caramel.
However, chocolate and caramel are not the same thing and are only similar in that they are sweet and brown. The dog-harming compounds present in chocolate do not occur in caramel but that doesn’t mean it’s time to break out the sweets for Rex.
Let’s think pragmatically about this.
If you’ve ever seen a kid on a sugar high, you know it can be problematic in many ways. The kid bounces off the walls, mom and dad silently wonder what on earth they were thinking when they thought having a baby was a good idea, and the kid crashes hard, turning into a super grouch until he passes out cold.
A dog who eats caramel (or any non-lethal sweet treat) will go through the same thing.
If your dog is one of those tiny, fit-in-your-purse dogs, that’s one thing. But if you’ve got a German shepherd suddenly wired to the gills on sugar and tearing through your house, you’re looking at property damage and possible injury to your dog.
A 50-lb (22.68-kg) kid on a sugar high can’t inflict quite as much damage as a 50-lb (22.68-kg) dog on the same rush.
Beyond the inconvenience of an amped-up Rottweiler careening through your home, there are health problems your dog may face as a result of eating caramel, especially on a long-term basis. Some can become quite serious over time.
Here are the possible health issues of dogs caused by eating caramel:
- Obesity: Humans are pretty good at being fat, but dogs are not. Their bodies do not deal well with obesity, so they should avoid sugary foods that cause it.
- Dental issues: Dogs use their mouths for a lot of stuff other than eating. If yours starts losing her teeth, they’re going to have problems, such as cavities, and may need root canals sometimes.
- Diabetes: Eating caramel won’t kill your dog, but it might lead to diabetes, which can kill them. At best, diabetes can significantly lower your dog’s quality of life. Do you think it’s tough to get your dog to take a pill? How do you think insulin shots will go?
We care about our pets, and we want them to be healthy and happy. That’s why you’re even reading this in the first place– you’re concerned about your dog. Avoiding sugary foods like caramel should be a priority for you and your dog.
Also, keep in mind what caramel is: it’s raw sugar with small amounts of butter and cream added. Raw sugar isn’t good for anyone in large quantities, no matter how delicious, and a large dose for a dog is much smaller than a large dose for a person.
Dog owners know that dogs will eat just about anything, and they’ll do so quickly enough that more often than not, dog owners are less able to say, “No!” than they are, “Oh no!” as in, “I can’t believe Princess just ate that!”
Most dogs’ indiscriminate, starving-person method of eating means that if your dog gets into a bag of caramel, they are unlikely to eat just one piece. Like us, dogs like sweets even though they shouldn’t eat them.
Most people think that caramel is delicious, and your dog does not have the mental capacity to say, “I’ve had enough, thank you.” So your dog ends up with a sugar overdose because Chewie didn’t just eat one caramel–he ate 26 caramels.
In addition to the sugar high and subsequent crash, your dog will likely deal with digestive problems that result in vomiting or diarrhea.
Judging from what we already know, you will need to consider a few things– quantity, your dog’s size, any medical distress, and where your veterinarian is.
Here are the things you should know and do if your dog ate caramel:
- How much is a pile of caramel? If your dogs ate three or four pieces of caramel before you caught them, there is probably little to worry about. Keep an eye on them for a bit to be sure, but this is likely not an amount to lose sleep about. If it’s thirty or forty pieces, though, you might be in for some trouble.
- How big is your dog? Back to the three or four pieces– if your dog is a 90-lb (40.82-kg) Rhodesian Ridgeback, their system may not even notice the extra sugar. But a tiny Chihuahua’s system will be much more easily disturbed.
- Is your dog in trouble? If your caramel-infused pooch is bouncing off the walls, that’s annoying (and again, potentially an injury risk), but that may be all it is. But if the dog is vomiting more than once or twice, it might be in trouble. The same goes for diarrhea.
- Do we need to go to the vet? No matter the issue– eating caramel or favoring one leg that’s obviously hurting– if you are concerned for your dog’s health, by all means, go to the vet’s office. But if you are worried about caramel intake and are unable to reach the vet, inducing vomiting may be called for.
Inducing vomiting should be done by a vet, but if you are unable to reach one, keep the following in mind:
- Veterinarian Dr. Justine Lee recommends hydrogen peroxide at a dose of .5 to 1 ml (0.02 to 0.03 oz) per pound of the animal’s weight. If your dog is twenty pounds (9.07 kg), don’t give them more than 10 ml (0.34 oz) of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
- Dr. Lee does not recommend inducing vomiting in many cases at all. If your dog is already vomiting, you’re not going to help by making her throw up some more.
- Inducing vomiting is not the solution for any bad thing your dog ate. Chemicals or irregularly shaped objects can cause more damage coming back up, so this isn’t something you should undertake without a vet’s supervision, if at all possible.
Your dog should not have sweets, at least not what most humans consider sweets. No chocolate bars, obviously, hard candy is out, and a chocolate-covered cherry is a double-whammy.
But your dog can have peanut butter (and will adore you for offering it), anything pumpkin-flavored will send your dog over the moon, and even oatmeal cookies are good, provided they don’t have raisins. Raisins were grapes, and grapes are very dangerous for dogs.
A lot of fruits are okay for your dog, and most vegetables, too. Green beans aren’t what anyone would consider sweet, but dogs can’t seem to get enough of them.
In general, you want to give your dog a treat, but not sweets.
While caramel isn’t chocolate, many people often equate them. Since most dog owners know that eating chocolate can be a death sentence for their pups, they may freak out upon discovering the remnants of devoured caramel.
Again, caramel won’t poison your dog, but you must be aware that some caramel candies may have chocolate in them.
Also, caramel may be the coating of some human treat, and whatever the coating is on can be bad for your pet. Cherries, for example, contain cyanide (really!), which can cause your dog’s red blood cells to stop working, so caramel-covered cherries could be a real problem.
The problem with chocolate is the chemicals in it that dogs don’t process well. Researchers at McGill University in Canada explain that the main compound in chocolate that causes health crises in dogs is theobromine, which is one of a group of chemicals called methylxanthines.
While humans have few issues with methylxanthines in general, in dogs, they act as stimulants and take quite a long time to leave the dog’s system. This means that the dog’s systems are stimulated for long periods of time.
An increased heart rate is a dangerous result of chocolate consumption in dogs, which can result in possible seizures and death.
The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, so lighter chocolates like milk chocolate will be less dangerous, but still an issue. If your pooch gets into some dark chocolate, though, you may very quickly have a serious problem on your hands.
Again, while chocolate and caramel are not the same– caramel contains no theobromine or any other methylxanthines– chocolate and caramel are often paired. You’ll need to know exactly what kind of caramel treat your dog got into to know what to do next.
If your dog has been eating caramel and has become obese or developed diabetes, you must take action. Obesity can be very serious for your pup and must not be ignored, as it can lead to arthritis, hip problems, and issues with various ligaments that allow your dog to play like dogs usually do.
If your dog is obese, the simplest solution is the one that works for people. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in, which goes for dogs, people, cats, rabbits, and zebras.
Getting some exercise is crucial to burning those calories, as is a schedule or routine. Resist the urge to fill your dog’s bowl, leave it, and let them nibble on it throughout the day. If food is available, a dog will eat it, so your overweight dog needs to have less access.
Once diabetes has set in from too many sugary foods, treatment is a must. You’ll notice specific symptoms of the disease fairly easily, such as:
- Sudden weight loss
- Excess drinking
- Excess urination
- General weakness
- Seizures are possible
Bloodwork will confirm a diagnosis, and once diabetes has set in, you and your dog are in for daily insulin injections from now on, which can get costly, as you may need products like these Advocate Pettest Safety Lancets Pricker, UltiCare Glucose Test Strips, and Brandzig Pet Insulin Syringes.
You can get these on Amazon.com, but you still have to buy the insulin, too.
Insulin injections will not ever be fun, but they are necessary if your dog is to survive. While managed diabetes is unlikely to be fatal, if left unchecked, it can (and probably will) kill your pet.
While humans can live by “All things in moderation,” we are not dogs. Left to their own devices, dogs will eat just about anything and lots of it. If your dog has eaten caramel, before you panic, determine exactly what they ate and how much of it. A small amount will likely have no adverse effects.
While caramel is not poisonous to dogs like chocolate, it is still not something they should have. Your pet’s body did not evolve to be able to deal well with sugar, and long-term consumption of those can lead to serious health issues, including death.
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- PetMD: Diabetes in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, Cost and Life Expectancy
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