Fairs, circuses, carnivals, and festivals: there’s one thing all of these events usually have in common. You can almost always find that sugary favorite, cotton candy, for sale. Kids, young and old, enjoy cotton candy. But what about pets? Can dogs eat cotton candy? Maybe we should ask if dogs should eat cotton candy because dogs don’t always eat things that are healthy for them. Keep reading and find out.
Cotton Candy Nutrition
In case you are wondering, cotton candy (also called cotton floss and fairy floss) is 100 percent sugar. It’s a spun sugar confection that resembles cotton. While there might be worse things you can eat for your health, cotton candy has to be considered a junk food.
The version of cotton candy we know today, spun on a machine, was invented in 1897 by a dentist (go ahead and laugh) and a confectioner. It was first widely available at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904.
Nutritional figures for cotton candy show that a portion size of the treat (28 grams) contains 110 calories. Ten percent of those grams are carbohydrates. All 28 grams are sugar. There is no fat, fiber, or protein. The sole ingredients are usually sugar and artificial flavors though some cotton candy is made with food dye. Cotton candy is typically considered to be a candy item.
Both humans and dogs have taste buds that appreciate sweets such as the sugar in cotton candy. Humans have more taste buds overall than dogs, including taste buds for sweets. But dogs are usually very happy to eat sweets such as cotton candy. That doesn’t mean that this kind of treat is good for dogs.
Sugar can provide energy but it can also give a sudden sugar rush to the bloodstream. This makes sugary foods such as cotton candy especially bad for diabetic dogs.
Sugar isn’t toxic to humans or to dogs but eating too much can lead to health problems. Eating too much sugar has been associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even dementia.
The sugar in cotton candy can also be bad for teeth and gum health.
For the bottom line, too much sugar is not good for your dog, especially refined sugar such as that used to make cotton candy.
Can You Give Your Dog Cotton Candy to Eat?
No, you should not give your dog cotton candy to eat. Not only is it almost entirely made of sugar but it can also contain artificial colors and flavors which are not good for your dog.
Some cotton candy is “sugar-free” but it’s made using artificial sugar such as xylitol (also known as “birch sugar”). Xylitol is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol, such as your dog might eat in cotton candy, can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as soon as 10 to 60 minutes after ingestion. This situation can be life-threatening. Dogs that ingest higher amounts of xylitol can also experience liver failure.
The signs of hypoglycemia from xylitol poisoning could include any or all of the following:
- Loss of coordination or difficulty walking or standing
- Weakness, sluggishness, or lethargy
If you observe any of these symptoms or suspect that your dog has consumed xylitol, in cotton candy or another food, contact your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline immediately.
Even if your dog eats cotton candy made from sugar without any xylitol, sugar can be very bad for any dog that is diabetic, overweight or obese, or which has underlying health problems.
Too much sugar can also affect the heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and other organs.
What If Your Dog Eats Some Cotton Candy?
Normally, if a dog eats a small amount of something it won’t do him much harm. This can be true of cotton candy if you are sure that it’s made with real sugar. However, if it contains xylitol it could be very harmful to your dog since it only takes a small amount of this sugar substitute to make your dog ill.
If your dog eats some cotton candy that you have brought home in a container from a store, check the label to read the ingredients right away. This should tell you whether or not the food contains xylitol. You can relax or call your veterinarian, as appropriate.
On the other hand, if you are walking on the beach and your dog races to eat some cotton candy that someone has dropped in the sand, you’re out of luck. You may not know where it came from or what it contains. In this case, take no chances. You should assume that the cotton candy could be made using xylitol. Take your dog to your veterinarian’s office and explain the situation. At the very least your vet can monitor your dog or do bloodwork to determine if your dog has consumed xylitol.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Cotton Candy?
It’s best not to give your dog cotton candy at all. Even if you have cotton candy made from real sugar, this sweet confection has no benefits for dogs and the sugar can be harmful.
In the worst cases, cotton candy with xylitol can be deadly. It’s best not to encourage your dog to expect any cotton candy from you or from others. Be sure to tell your family and friends that your dog (and other dogs) should not have cotton candy.
Dogs enjoy sweets but they aren’t necessarily good for dogs. Original cotton candy is almost entirely sugar which isn’t a healthy treat for dogs. Some cotton candy today is made using the sugar substitute xylitol which can be deadly to dogs. For these reasons, it’s best not to share cotton candy with your dog at all.