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You are sitting around the house at Christmas and one of the kids wants to give the beloved family dog a candy cane. Should you let them?
Or maybe you come home from Christmas shopping to find that your dog has stolen a bunch of candy canes from the bag. Should you be worried?
Basically, dogs should not be eating candy canes for a variety of reasons. But how worried you should be if they do manage to get their paws on one depends on the type of candy canes and just how many of them they have consumed.
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Read on to learn everything you need to know about dogs and candy canes, and why this Christmas treat is best avoided.
We’ll also recommend some doggy Christmas treat alternatives, so your dog can safely overindulge with the rest of the family during the holiday season.
When it comes to food, it is never a good idea to feed your pup human cuisine. They are always better off with options designed specially for them and balanced for their diet.
Can Dogs Eat Candy Canes
The short answer to this question is no, dogs should not be eating candy canes. And there are a variety of reasons for this.
Candy Canes May Contain Dangerous Ingredients
Some varieties of candy canes contain an ingredient called xylitol, which is a sugar substitute. This ingredient is perfectly safe for humans to eat, but even small amounts can be toxic to dogs.
Xylitol causes their blood sugar to drop severely, which can result in severe seizures strong enough to kill in some circumstances. If they do survive the seizure, their liver can still be so badly damaged that they might suffer complete liver failure.
It doesn’t take much xylitol for your dog to suffer these catastrophic consequences. Just 0.1 grams of xylitol per 2.2 pounds of body weight is enough to cause your dog’s blood pressure to plummet within a few minutes of consumption.
If your dog eats enough xylitol to cause them harm, there will be immediate and obvious symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, weakness, staggering, and collapse.
To counteract the blood sugar drop, the best thing you can do is rub corn syrup or maple syrup into their gums – but don’t let them eat the syrup as it can make the problem worse. It is then a matter of getting them to the vet as quickly as possible (which is not always simple at Christmastime).
In order to avoid this horrific outcome, if you have a dog at home, look for candy canes that do not contain xylitol. This is not simple, as it is not always clearly listed among the ingredients. As a rule, anything that is labeled as sugar-free, natural sweeteners, or no added sugar may contain xylitol.
But just because your candy canes are xylitol-free, doesn’t mean that you should be feeding them to your dog.
Candy Canes Are High In Sugar
Candy canes have quite a lot of sugar in them, which is why we know as humans that we need to eat them in moderation.
It is great for us as we can suck on a single candy cane for hours, but your dog is likely to munch it down.
Since your dog is much smaller than you, they can tolerate much less sugar in their diet.
A big sugar hit all at once can seriously upset their stomachs, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea, which isn’t pleasant for either of you.
A big dose can similarly cause a blood sugar spike that leaves your dog feeling weak and lethargic – though this is nowhere near as dangerous as the kind of spike they can experience with xylitol.
Plus, in the long term, too much sugar can cause weight gain, diabetes, and ruin their teeth.
So, it is basically never a good idea to feed your dog any treats that are loaded in sugar.
Candy Canes Can Be A Sharp Choking Hazard
How many times have you sucked on a candy cane until the end became a delightful sharp point? Fun, right? Not necessarily good for your pup.
Candy canes are a lot like chicken bones. As your dog munches down on them, they can fragment into sharp pieces, which are just as dangerous as that pointy candy cane that you created with your tongue.
If your dog then swallows those pieces, it can do serious damage to their esophagus and intestines.
Signs that this might have happened to your dog include a hacking cough, bloated belly, and difficulty defecating. These symptoms may see you taking another emergency holiday trip to the vet.
Candy Canes Come In Plastic Packaging
The above are all good reasons not to give your dog candy canes and to give you cause for concern if they do manage to break into the bag.
Another worry is that candy canes usually come individually wrapped in plastic. Your dog is probably not going to do a great job of removing the plastic before eating, so this toxic and indigestible packaging can make its way into their stomach.
The result of this might be vomiting and diarrhea as your dog tries to expel the foreign object. They may also suffer from constipation and a lack of appetite as it blocks their digestive pathways. A general feeling of lethargy can also be a sign that they have eaten some plastic.
So, as well as refraining from giving your dog candy canes, it is best to keep them well out of reach to avoid unpleasant accidents.
Alternative Christmas Dog Treats For Dogs
But, just because your dog can’t eat candy canes doesn’t mean they have to miss out on festive-themed treats. These days, there are lots of Christmas-themed treats available just for dogs, which they will love and which are completely safe to eat.
Here are some of our favorites, all of which are available from Chewy.
- Turkey and cranberry flavored treats, 14 calories per treat
These delicious doggy treats feel festive as each comes in the shape of a small Christmas tree. They even mix festive flavors, turkey and cranberry, in a treat that dogs find delicious and is 100 percent safe for them to eat.
Made in the USA, they are made with real turkey as the first ingredient, combined with all-natural ingredients. The treats are even reinforced with additional vitamins and minerals so your dog gets both a flavor boost and a health boost.
These treats are relatively low in calories as far as treats go, though they should still be fed to your dog in moderation.
- Peanut butter flavored treats with chicken fat, 14 calories per treat
Old Mother Hubbard does a festive version of the popular peanut butter flavored dog treats. They are baked into snowflake, stocking, Christmas tree, and star designs to match the season.
Made with all-natural ingredients, each biscuit has a strong peanut butter taste and smell, mixed with chicken fat, which might sound disgusting to us humans, but dogs love it.
Each snack contains just 14 cals, which means that they won’t make too much of a dent in your dog’s daily calorie limit. But, as always, feed in moderation.
- Peanut butter flavored treats, 91 calories per treat
This is another great peanut butter flavored biscuit option for dogs, this time from Claudia’s Canine Bakery.
Each treat is shaped like a bone or a star, some in festive colors, and others with cute reindeer faces (which you will probably want to save for last).
While dogs love these cookies, they are pretty calorific, like many of the best foods. Each biscuit contains a whopping 91 cal, so make sure they don’t get their hands on the box behind your back.
- Maple glazed ham flavored treats, vegetarian, 24 calories per treat
This is another great dog snack that plays on festive flavors; this time maple glazed ham. The bites are shaped as biscuits rather than festive shapes, but your dog won’t know the difference as they are gobbling them down.
These biscuits are actually high in fiber and don’t contain any nasties that might inhibit your dog’s digestion. This makes them a great treat for dogs that have sensitive stomachs or allergies.
With just 24 calories per treat, your dog will be able to eat quite a few of these over the course of Christmas day without spoiling their diet.
If you prefer a non-edible way to treat your dog, check out our list of the 10 best Christmas presents for dogs.
Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Peppermint Candy?
No, it is not safe to feed your dog peppermint candy, especially in the form of candy canes. Many human sweets contain xylitol as an alternative to sugar. While this is fine for humans, it is toxic to dogs, and even a small amount can cause seizures and liver failure.
While it is possible to find peppermint candy that does not contain this ingredient, hard candies are also generally a choking habit for dogs, and they also have a much lower sugar tolerance than humans.
You can learn more about dogs and peppermint candy here.
How Much Candy Can Kill A Dog?
If candy contains xylitol as a sugar substitute, it doesn’t take much to potentially kill your dog. Just 0.1 grams of xylitol per 2.2 pounds of dog is enough to cause severe seizures. It only takes 0.5 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight to cause liver failure.
Sadly, it is difficult to know exactly how much xylitol is in most candy as it is not specifically listed on the packaging. This is why it is never a good idea to feed your dog human candy.
Can A Candy Cane Kill A Dog?
Candy canes are extremely dangerous for dogs for a number of reasons, any of which could be potentially fatal.
Firstly, many varieties of candy canes contain the sugar substitute xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. It only takes a small amount to cause severe seizures or liver failure.
Candy canes are also a choking hazard for dogs and can even damage the esophagus and intestines if they break into sharp pieces. They are about as dangerous for dogs as chicken bones.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Candy?
How worried you should be if your dog ate candy depends on how much they ate. If they got their hands on a small piece of candy cane, for example, you can probably rest easy as it is not a choking hazard and probably doesn’t contain enough xylitol to cause any real damage.
However, if they got their hands on a candy cane, you have greater reason for concern. Candy canes are bigger, and therefore, tend to contain more xylitol. They are a choking hazard and they also come individually wrapped, so your pup may also have swallowed the packaging.
Look out for symptoms of an issue such as sudden vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy or muscle rigidity, rapid breathing, or seizures. If they display any of these symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately.
If you suspect the problem is a drop in blood sugar levels as a result of xylitol consumption, you can rub corn syrup or maple syrup into their gums to temporarily counteract the measure as you take them to the vet. But do not let them consume the syrup, as that can just make the problem worse.
Is It OK To Give Dog Sweets?
No, it is never a good idea to give dogs sweets. The first reason is that many human sweets contain xylitol. This is a sugar alternative that is harmless to humans but is toxic to dogs. Even a small amount can cause severe seizures or liver failure.
Secondly, dogs have a lower sugar tolerance than humans. Feeding them excess sugar can cause vomiting and diarrhea in the short term and issues such as obesity, diabetes, and cavities in the long term.
We know that sugar is generally pretty bad for humans; it is even worse for dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Cake?
While dogs should never eat chocolate cake, as it is toxic to them, most other cakes don’t contain life-threatening ingredients for dogs.
Nevertheless, it is not a good idea to be in the habit of giving your dog cake. Excessive sugar can be dangerous for them, and cake tends to contain a lot of sugar. In the short term, it can seriously upset their stomachs. In the long term, it can cause issues such as obesity and diabetes and can seriously damage their teeth.
If you start to feed your dog sweet things from the human table, they are going to get a taste for it. When you sit down to eat and they look up at you with those big eyes, it can be hard to say no. Before you know it, you have a dog that is consuming much more sugar than is healthy for them.
While candy canes might be a household favorite at Christmas time, it is strongly advisable to keep these delicious treats out of the reach of hungry dogs. These sweet treats can be very dangerous for them.
Many types of candy canes contain an ingredient called xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Even in small quantities, it can cause severe seizures and liver failure.
Candy canes are also a choking hazard similar to chicken bones, and dogs tend to gobble them down wrapping and all, which is not good for their intestines.
Plus, you should never be treating your pup with sugar. We all know that excessive sugar is not great for humans, and dogs have an even lower tolerance. In the immediate, a sugar high can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In the long term, it can seriously compromise your dog’s health through issues such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth problems.
So, basically, it is never a good idea to give your dog candy canes. Instead, invest in some dog-specific festive treats, so your pup can join in on the fun in a way that is safe and healthy for them.
Have you ever dealt with a dog that has eaten a candy cane?
Share your experience and advice with the community in the comments section below.
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