sugar in dog food

Sugar in Dog Food: A Not-So-Sweet Ingredient

Sugar. Everyone is talking about it.

How much sugar does the average American consume on a daily basis? Answer: 22 teaspoons. How much sugar does the average American dog consume on a daily basis? You would be surprised.

And while many people are talking about sugar for humans, there’s far less emphasis on the dangers of sugar in dog food. 

Over the past few years, more and more sugar has been finding its way into mainstream pet food and treats. In fact, the number one selling dog treat in America is Milk Bone Dog Biscuits. Milk Bone makes a chewy version of their original hard biscuit (also filled with crap) and check out the product ingredients: 

  • beef
  • chicken
  • soy grits
  • sugar
  • cornstarch
  • salt
  • propylene glycol
  • lactic acid… the list goes on.

Here is another best selling treat: Purina’s Beggin’ Strips. I cringe at the thought of my pug, Francis, eating their nasty goodness. However, I know she would knock me over for one. Hmm, I wonder why? Sugar.

Here is a list of Beggin Strips’s completely toxic and sugar laden treats:

  • ground wheat
  • corn gluten meal
  • wheat flour
  • water
  • ground yellow corn
  • sugar
  • glycerin
  • soybean meal
  • hydrogenated corn syrup…


And it really is no good for our pups.

I refrain from getting on my soap box about the plethora of other nasty ingredients in the above treats, so I will just point out the two forms of sugar that keep dogs beggin’ for more: sugar and corn syrup…

My last example is Beneful, just one example of the many sugar-laden dog foods on the market today. This food is also a top seller and marketed to small dogs. I myself can’t find any benefits to feeding this frankenfood, but you be the judge. 


“Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, animal digest, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), dried peas, dried carrots, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, Red 40, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Vitamin A supplement, Blue 2, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, brewers dried yeast, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.”

Beneful is full of what I would call “blood sugar busters” and substances that turn to sugar in your dog’s blood stream. 

So what is so wrong about feeding your dog sugar? Plenty.

The Danger of Sugar in Dog Food

In 1957, Dr. William Coda Martin asked the question: What makes a substance food and what makes a substance poison? Dr. Martin defined refined white sugar and its derivatives as poison.

He states: “Sugar consists of pure, refined carbohydrates. The body cannot utilize this refined starch and carbohydrate unless the depleted proteins, vitamins and minerals are present. Sugar is worse than nothing because it drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination makes upon one’s entire system.”

Just imagine what adding sugar to dog treats and dog foods is doing to our precious pets. Dogs are becoming addicted to foods and treats like Beggin’ Strips and Beneful. The end result is sickness and obesity.

DVM Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) states “When you have popular treats such as Snausages that list sugars as three of the first four ingredients, you know there’s a problem.”

The APOP estimates that 45% of US dogs and 58% of cats are too fat. Just how many dogs and cats are we talking about? Try 89 million! You may notice this sounds a bit parallel to the American epidemic of human obesity. What do our furry friends and their humans have in common? Processed foods.

Sugar in Processed Foods

Processed foods are made with hydrogenated oils, cheap ingredients, refined flours, and you guessed it, sugar. Sugar has one sole purpose in refined foods – to sweeten. Most refined foods have little to offer nutritionally because they are depleted of fiber, minerals, high quality proteins, healthy fats, and live enzymes.

A couple of years ago I worked with a dog named Oscar. He was prone to seizures, lethargy, skin allergies, and yeast infections. The only food substances Oscar consumed were four cups of Beneful and two or three Beggin’ Strips per day. In essence, Oscar was being depleted of any nutrition he was able to extract from his “science” diet and his cells were literally starving. Oscar’s parents didn’t know any better and trusted the dog food companies. They didn’t realize that Oscar’s diet was the root cause of all of his health problems.

As we went over the ingredients on the packaging one by one, they became enlightened and frankly, quite upset. We weaned Oscar off his diet of chemicals and he literally went through a period of withdrawal from the amount of sugar, corn syrup, and artificial ingredients in what he was eating. 

Oscar’s intake of refined sugars were depleting his body of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and minerals it needed to metabolize the sugars he was consuming on a daily basis. This cycle of sickness placed a huge burden on Oscar’s organs, bones, skin, and teeth. After about six months on a holistic, sugar-free diet, Oscar was seizure free, looking great, and full of energy.

Is Any Sugar in Dog Food Safe?

Is there a safe amount of sugar in dog food? The answer is NO.

Refined sugar in any form is not meant to be in a dog’s diet and this includes refined honey and molasses. Not only does sugar encourage hyperactivity and never ending hunger, it plays a huge role in diabetes, cancer, obesity, and auto immune disease. 

Sugar cane, the plant that white sugar is refined from, is a healthy snack. When you refine the sugar cane into white sugar crystals and syrups, it turns sugar cane into a substance depleted of it’s life force, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals resulting in a toxic white mess.

I refer to any chemically-laden dog food or treat as “doggie crack” Researchers have proven that our brains light up from sugar the same way they do from drugs like cocaine. So the next time you see any dog food or treats with any kind of sugar or sugar derivative like syrups, dextrose, sucrose or fructose, just say no.

Written by

Rita has been working one-on-one with dogs and owners for almost 20 years. She is the founder and formulator at Farm Dog Naturals. Rita's practice involves the use of food energetics, western herbs, phytoembryonic therapy (plant bud medicine), spagyrics, essential oils, flower/crystal/mineral essences and energy work. She has done apprenticeships with elder herbalists, taken key seminars with herbalists and healers that have helped her further her knowledge. She attended the Hawthorn School of Medicine with herbalist Sean Croke, worked with Carol Trasatto, taught community herbalism classes and continue her education as much as time allows out of clinic. Rita regularly speaks on canine herbalism and teaches classes to promote holistic canine herbalism. I work specifically with dogs of all types and the humans that love them.