Can dogs or cats eat sugar?

6 October 2023
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.

Can dogs eat sugar?

It's not advisable to feed your dog sugar, as it can lead to adverse health effects. While a small amount might not cause immediate harm, sugar can contribute to various problems over time, including obesity, dental issues, and even diabetes.

Dogs don't require sugar to fulfil any dietary needs; they get their required energy from a well-balanced pet food diet. Offering them sugary treats, even in moderation, can disrupt this diet and lead to unwanted weight gain. And obesity can come with a whole host of health consequences, from joint problems to heart conditions.

Moreover, many dogs may have difficulty digesting sugary foods, which can result in gastrointestinal upset. And some artificial sweeteners — especially xylitol — are extremely toxic to dogs, and can cause life-threatening conditions.

It's always healthier to offer your pup store-bought dog treats, or even moderate amounts of dog-safe fruits, like blueberries. These can provide your dog with a healthy snack without the associated health risks of processed sugar.

Did your dog eat some funnel cake or cotton candy while you weren't looking? Watch for signs of illness such as lethargy, diarrhoea, or vomiting, and reach out to your veterinarian immediately. If your dog ever needs veterinary care due to eating any unsafe foods, dog insurance can help cover the cost of treatment.

Can cats eat sugar?

Feeding your cat sugar isn't wise, as it can lead to several health problems. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their diet should primarily consist of high-protein meats. Unlike dogs and humans, cats have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. Sugar, in particular, can be detrimental to their health.

Eating sugar can contribute to obesity in cats, which in turn can lead to other serious health conditions such as feline diabetes, liver problems, and joint issues. Moreover, sugary foods can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats, leading to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea.

And certain types of sugar substitutes, like xylitol, are highly toxic to cats (dogs, too).

Instead of sugary treats, consider offering your kitty some cat-safe treats or fresh meat, which are more in line with their dietary needs. There are countless cat-friendly treats available in pet stores that are specifically formulated to be safe and nutritious for felines.

If your cat somehow got into the sugar bowl, watch for signs of illness such as lethargy, diarrhoea, or vomiting, and reach out to your veterinarian immediately. If your cat ever needs veterinary care due to eating any unsafe foods, cat insurance can help cover the cost of treatment.

Information purposes only

The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for pet-specific advice from your veterinarian. Never disregard your vet’s recommendations, or delay in acting on them, based on something you have read on this site. Regardless of how a food is rated here, any food that you give your pet can pose potential health risks, including allergic reactions, choking, or other health conditions such as bloat. Always monitor your pet while they’re eating, and never introduce a new food into your pet’s diet without first consulting your veterinarian. 

Pet poison emergency protocol

If your pet is acting sick, call your regular veterinarian immediately. If your regular veterinarian is closed, call a nearby on-call veterinarian, animal urgent care, or veterinary emergency hospital. If your pet is not acting sick but you think they may have been exposed to a poison, call the Animal Poison Line (01202 50 9000).

Food safety statuses


Could be given almost daily without harm

Safe in moderation

Not toxic, but should not be given regularly


Toxic or simply too risky to give to your pet