Sweeteners in Dog Food: What to Look For

Share Button

imageTwo weeks ago we wrote about the use of preservatives in dog food and hopefully, we were able to shed some light on preservative alternatives.  This week, we will discuss the use of sweeteners in dog food.


A canine’s taste systems are very similar to humans and dog’s do indeed have a taste for sweets!   That said, in our opinion, there is really no reason to add sugar or sweetening to dog food, certainly not to food that makes up a majority of a dog’s daily diet.  Historically, added sweeteners have been used more prevalently in cheaper, lower quality dog foods, no doubt to mask the fact that the food isn’t very good in taste (or nutrition).


Sweeteners are generally either high in calorie/low in nutrition (e.g. sugar) or, in the case of artificial sweeteners, well…artificial.  Some argue that dogs can develop an addiction to sweets which can lead to health problems like diabetes as well as a more difficult transition when owners want to upgrade their pets to a better quality (and less sweet) food.   The bottom line is that your dog doesn’t actually need added sweeteners in their food so why give it to them?


sweetenersJust like in human diets, there are plenty of ways to provide added sweetness and also provide some nutritional benefit.  Fruits, and some vegetables can provide natural sweetness along with anti-oxidants and other health benefits.


Healthful Sweeteners

When it comes to sweet ingredients in a dog food, we look for fruits like cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and apples, and less refined sugar products such as molasses or honey.   Vegetables like carrots, peas, and tomatoes can provide added sweetness (and phtyo-nutrients) as well.


Empty Calories or Worse

The following ingredients are of dubious value (other than adding sweetness) and offer little or no nutritional value: sugar, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose, sorbitol, and ammoniated glycyrrhizin.


Good Bad
Cherries/Berries Sugar, caramel, cane
Apple Corn syrup
Carrots Sucrose, fructose
Peas Sorbitol
Honey /Molasses Propylene Glycol



The bottom line is that you can serve your dog healthy and tasty meals without added sugars or artificial sweeteners.  Don’t waste the calories (or the chemicals) and choose foods with fruits and veggies instead.


Further  food for thought?  This post has me wondering how prevalent are the use of the lower quality sweeteners in commercially available dog food.    For next week’s post, we will dive into our data and report what we find.  Come back next week for the results.

We’re joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol’s Notes:

Share Button


  1. This is a great post – true for dogs, true for humans!
    BoingyDog recently posted…The Value of Calm Leadership In A Dog OwnerMy Profile

  2. Great post!
    ps I’ve nominated you for an award: http://themisadventuresofmisaki.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/the-explorer-dog-award/
    Misaki recently posted…The Explorer Dog AwardMy Profile

  3. This is why I read the labels on dog food and treats and try to buy limited ingredient foodables.
    Kat recently posted…OregonMy Profile

  4. Never really thought of sweeteners in dog food as they don’t need it but never thought of the good point of food companys adding it to there low grade foods to get the taste of the food better. URGH that food is just junk. Yes better to feed a high grade food and give a little fruit or veggie snack if you wish.
    joann stancer recently posted…Tuesday’s TailsMy Profile

  5. Thanks so much for this, especially the list at the end. I try to stay away from things I can’t pronounce and when I’m at the store, I just bring out the phone when I want to know. There are plenty of sites out there that list what is okay for our dogs so it’s a quick search + I double check too.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Saving Cody | A True Story of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in DogsMy Profile

  6. Wow! Never ever thought about dog food being sweetened! They definitely don’t need sugar or sweeteners in their food. I know all the baking we do uses veggies, fruits, or honey to add some sweetness but that would be it. We look forward to seeing your findings next week.
    emma recently posted…Going Galactic with Gramma | GBGV | Monday MischiefMy Profile

  7. I, too, see no reason why we shouldn’t provide our dogs with the best quality food since we (well, some of us) do it for ourselves! When I switched over to clean eating, so did the Cairns, Mr. Gatsby and Hattie Mae. They seem to really enjoy it, too!
    Jill C. recently posted…I’ve Got A Big Stick.My Profile

    • It’s amazing how many people don’t think that way and just blindly feed commercial foods. Hoping to educate them 🙂
      mkob recently posted…Sweeteners in Dog Food: What to Look ForMy Profile

  8. We use honey for sweet or molasses for a bittersweet flavor. I know Kirby can taste sweetness but he actually prefers tart flavors or savory flavors. He also likes the twang of yogurt. Did not know some dog foods actually add sugar which is probably because we are so choosy and stick to the natural commercial foods with little added.

  9. Great post!!! I love the healthy alternatives. My kids definitely have a sweet tooth. Just yesterday, my June stole a cookie from me! She can be quite the stealthy thief so she keeps me busy! Have a happy Tuesday 🙂
    Laura recently posted…Four Paws with a Cause: The NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) WalkMy Profile

  10. I love the items in your Good column as treats! Healthy can be tasty! Who needs those Bad stuffs?!
    Champ recently posted…Our Favorite Hot DogsMy Profile

  11. It stands to reason that refined sugar or artificial sweeteners are no better for the dogs than they are for us. The dogs love to lick our ice cream bowls though, so we know they love sugar too! We try to give them some fruits or treats with fruit in them. They certainly don’t seem to mind when treats aren’t that sweet though. I made some homemade treats this last weekend, and tried them myself, but they weren’t sweet enough for me! The dogs loved them though!
    Jan K recently posted…Living & Learning – SeniorsMy Profile

    • Yes, most dogs like sweet tastes. We wrote a piece on dogs taste buds many months ago which you can read here: http://slimdoggy.com/what-dogs-taste/

      Still, there is no reason to laden the food with sugar and other empty calorie ingredients, nor artificial sweeteners which are chemicals.
      steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 8-21-13My Profile

  12. Our mom iz furry much watchful of what goez in our dog food – no grocery store dog food fer us. She also likez tue add veggiez an’berriez tue it. We like it a lot tue.
    Our mom NEEDZ tue read your post – much good info here.
    Shiloh’n Diva Shasta
    Team Beaglebratz recently posted…Tasty Tuesday with the BeaglebratzMy Profile

  13. Jasmine says: best sweetener is bacon!
    Jana Rade recently posted…The Weight Of Water And How It Helps DogsMy Profile

  14. Thanks for the information.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

  15. Feeding your dog (all pets really) good food is so important and it will help defray the costs of future health problems.

Comments are now closed on this post.