Dogs tend to have the biggest sweet tooth, mainly brought about by their indulgence in human foods. This makes them huge fans of anything that contains sugar; the more sugar, the better. Out of concern for your pet, you might want to check whether whatever you have in your cupboard is safe for them.
Most of us have agave syrup or agave nectar in our homes. It is branded as a natural sweetener that doesn’t have much sugar. But is this really true? Does this make it better for your canine friend than sugar? Let’s see.
What is Agave Syrup/ Nectar?
Those looking to eat healthier and those following strict diets prefer using agave syrup instead of sugar. Agave syrup comes from the agave tree, native to warm climates, such as Mexico and the southern states of the US. The nectar comes from the root of the agave tree, and marketers claim it is a healthier sugar alternative.
Although the nectar or syrup comes directly from the tree, so does sugar, which doesn’t make it any healthier. It is also worth noting that the syrup we buy at the store is highly processed and contains a lot of chemicals.
The highly-refined agave syrup is mainly just pure fructose. Thus, there is no big difference between agave and regular sugar, so you should avoid feeding your dog both.
Does Agave Syrup have Nutrients?
Marketers and manufacturers argue that agave syrup is healthier because of the nutrients found in the plant. However, a quick look at the ingredients list will tell you the truth. The manufacturing process strips away most of the nutrients from the syrup, leaving it without enough nutrients to make a difference.
A 100g serving of agave syrup has around 68 grams of sugar; this means the syrup contains 68% sugar. The other 22% is water; the nutrients make up only 10% of the concoction. This amount is minimal and doesn’t have that big of an impact when used.
Not to completely knock it down, agave syrup does contain some amounts of dietary fibers and numerous vitamins. For example, it contains 13mg of choline and folate or B9, essential nutrients that promote your dog’s overall health.
However, considering that most of the syrup is made of sugar, the nutrients available do not justify any risk you put your dog in by giving them agave syrup. The syrup also contains fructose, a complex sugar that is not safe for use by people or dogs with diabetes.
Fructose is difficult to digest and process and puts your pup at risk of liver damage. It is much safer for dogs with diabetes to stick to regular sugar instead of using agave syrup.
Another downside of agave syrup is its calorie count is higher than sugar. A 100g serving of syrup has 310 calories which is quite high for humans and dogs alike. Agave syrup is not safe for overweight dogs or those with diabetes and puts regular dogs at risk of gaining weight when consumed regularly.
What of Corn or Maple Syrup?
Golden syrup, more commonly known as corn syrup, is a popular sweetener in most dishes. However, corn syrup is not safer than agave as it contains 76% sugar. It does contain fewer calories than agave syrup, but the sugar content eclipses this factor. It also contains only trace amounts of minerals and has no vitamins.
Maple syrup contains less sugar and calories than agave and corn syrup. What’s more, it is a great source of vitamin B2, or riboflavin, necessary for cellular respiration. B2 is also an excellent agent used in iron absorption. A deficiency of this vitamin can result in skin rashes, stomatitis, and anemia.
The downside with maple syrup is that it is mostly made up of fructose, which isn’t safe for your dog. It also contains a few essential minerals, like manganese, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
Maple syrup is the safest option and has more nutritional benefits than corn or agave syrup.
Can Dogs Eat Sugar Instead?
Because most of the agave syrup is sugar, you might ask if you can give your dog sugar instead. Vets recommend not giving your dog sugar if you can avoid it. Of course, dogs’ bodies need carbs for energy production, but you should try finding other carbs sources.
Although you want to limit the amount of sugar your pup eats, you should not cut them off from sugar completely. You can give them something sweet once in a while, such as some dog-friendly cookies. To be on the safer side, look for natural sugars, such as sugars from fruits, to help them maintain their energy levels.
Risks of Dogs Eating Sugar
In controlled amounts, sugar is not the enemy. You can let your pup indulge their sweet tooth with some sweet treats every now and then, but avoid making it an everyday thing.
Sugar in large amounts has the same risks to dogs as it does to us. For example, overeating sugar can mean endless potty trips by your pooch. The sugar destroys the good bacteria in the gut, which causes poor food digestion. This makes your dog’s system unable to retain most of the water they drink and expel it through diarrhea. The sugar also causes stomach upsets; it can take a while before your dog can enjoy regular food.
Additionally, sugar causes cavities as it feeds bad bacteria in the mouth. As the bacteria eat, it produces acid that erodes the enamel of your dog’s teeth. Unlike you, your dog doesn’t brush their teeth every day and cannot get rid of harmful bacteria. Consequently, it can lead to tooth decay and bleeding gums.
Have you ever seen your dog overstimulated and running around once they eat a sugary treat? This is because sugar gives them energy which makes them hyperactive. Your dog will have more energy than usual and might need more exercise and playtime than they usually get before they settle down. If you already have trouble keeping up with their movements, dealing with a hyperactive dog will be even worse.
Healthy Alternatives to Agave Syrup and Sugar
Although agave syrup is considered a healthy alternative to sugar, we know it is not. In fact, it shares some of the risks and dangers of sugar.
Not to despair; there are products proven to be safer for your pooch. They include:
When buying honey for your dog or for home use, you should ensure you get raw honey. It is not processed and is a far better choice than the honey you find in the grocery store. The honey you see in stores is overprocessed and pasteurized. The pasteurization process eliminates most of the nutrients and antioxidants in honey.
Although it is a lesser-known sweetener, Stevia is safe for dog consumption. It is made from the stevia plant, specifically the leaves. It is sweeter than sugar, and you don’t need much of it.
White Stevia is the most common option, and although it is okay, you should try looking for Green Stevia instead. This variety is less processed and is rich in minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It also contains Vitamin C, which aids in the development of your beloved canine’s teeth and bones.
The powder is derived from the Carob tree and contains the sweetness present in the beans. Carob powder is regarded as chocolate for dogs not just because it is made from beans but also because it tastes like chocolate.
Carob powder is a safer alternative to coffee for multiple reasons, one of them being it does not contain caffeine. The powder is also a good source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins A, B, and D. Its sweetness level is lower than that of chocolate, but you can use it to make ‘chocolate’ treats for your pup.
Although dogs can have agave syrup, it is not the best sweetener for your dog. The syrup is made up of mostly sugar and has a high-calorie count. The nutrients available are insufficient to compensate for the syrup’s detrimental side.
Your dog is better off with raw honey, maple syrup, carob powder, or Stevia as sweeteners. They are not likely going to notice the difference.