It is only natural for us to want to spoil our dogs with homemade treats at times.
You might be aware that plain or white sugar might not be the healthiest form of sweetener for your dog.
In recent years, there has been some buzz about the use of agave syrup as a replacement for sugar.
But is it safe for your dog to have agave syrup?
Although it is safe for dogs to have agave syrup it isn’t the best food item for your dog. It might seem to be more of a natural sweetener but it has a high fructose content. There are other healthier alternatives for your dog.
In this article, we’ll cover the benefits and potential risks, as well as discuss alternative sweeteners you can consider for your dog.
What Is Agave Syrup?
Agave syrup is a commercially produced sweetener that is made mainly from the blue and salmiana agave plants.
The agave plants grow in the dry regions of Mexico.
When the agave plant is harvested, the leaves are cut off and the sap is extracted from the core.
This sap is then heated and processed to form agave syrup which has a similar texture and color as maple syrup.
Nutritional Value Of Agave Syrup
Here’s the nutritional value for 100g of agave syrup:
Agave syrup contains minimal amounts of vitamins C and B, along with minerals like potassium, calcium, and selenium.
The presence of these nutrients is so limited that they are not likely to offer significant benefits.
We don’t eat ice cream for the calcium in the milk used.
Can Dogs Have Agave Syrup?
Your dog can have agave syrup as it isn’t considered toxic or poisonous to dogs.
However, agave syrup is a sweetener which means that it contains a high level of sugar.
Agave syrup has to be strictly moderated when giving it to your dog.
Too much sweet food in your dog’s diet can cause many health problems which I will be covering below.
Does Agave Syrup Offer Any Health Benefits?
Agave syrup does offer some health benefits but it seems to be very limited in nature.
There are some studies conducted on the benefits but are still preliminary in nature.
May Promote Healthy Gut Biome
Your dog’s stomach or gut is more than just a digestion factory.
It features a rich and intricate array of microorganisms that not only help with digestion but also bolster the immune system and metabolic functions in your dog.
A study found that agave syrup could have a positive prebiotic effect on the gut flora by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria1.
Agave syrup was also found to be more effective in promoting the generation of short-chain fatty acids compared to the other tested sweeteners.
However, this study was conducted outside of a living organism so we can’t be very sure that agave syrup can have the same positive effect on an actual dog.
If you are looking to increase the health of your dog’s gut flora, you can invest in pet-grade probiotics or make your own fermented veggies for your dog.
You can also feed your dog some Yakult every now and then if you have it at home.
May Help With Weight Management
We all know eating too much of anything sweet isn’t good for health.
A study has shown some positive effects that agave syrup can have on weight management.
The study compared agave nectar or syrup against sucrose (simple sugar) on weight gain, body fat and blood glucose levels in mice2.
After 34 days, mice that were fed agave nectar were found to have gained about 49% less weight, had 46% smaller fat pads, and had 30% lower blood glucose.
Agave syrup can have better weight gain and glucose control than simple white sugar.
This can be better for dogs that are overweight or have diabetes.
But more studies need to be done on dogs to confirm these findings and establish agave syrup’s safety and efficacy as a sweetener for dogs.
Potential Risks Of Agave Syrup
Before you start feeling that agave syrup is the next best thing after sliced bread, that might not be the case.
Agave syrup is a sweetener that has a very high concentration of fructose.
Fructose is known as a monosaccharide or single sugar and is mostly found in fruits.
Agave syrup is 80% fructose and 20% glucose. This classifies it as ‘healthy sugar’ due to it having a low glycemic index (GI) of 17.
A food item with a low GI is said to be better as it causes fewer spikes in the glucose level.
Spikes in glucose levels can lead to easier weight gain and sugar crashes. This can happen if you feed your dog carbs like tapioca which is high GI.
But the high fructose level in agave nectar can have many health implications for your dog.
Glucose is metabolized by all cells but fructose is only used for energy by the liver.
A study done on mice has shown that a high-fructose diet can have long-term damage to the liver3.
The mice were fed a diet that is high in fructose and after 3 weeks, these mice were found to have high liver fat, increased rate of liver cell death and higher cholesterol.
More than 50% of dogs in the United States alone are overweight or obese.
That is a staggering number given how many dogs are kept as pets.
The main reason for this epidemic is a poor diet or one that is filled with too much sugar.
Giving your dog too much agave syrup can lead to unnecessary weight gain which can lead to health issues such as:
- Joint pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Besides making your dog fat, too much agave syrup can cause dental problems in the long run.
Sugary foods promote the growth of bacteria and plaque on your dog’s teeth and gum.
If you don’t brush or clean your dog’s mouth regularly, it can lead to dental diseases such as:
Is Agave Poisonous?
The agave syrup which your dog can eat isn’t poisonous. But the agave plant itself is known to be toxic to dogs.
The leaves of the agave plant contain oxalate crystals.
These needle-like crystals can severely irritate a sensitive person or pet’s mouth and throat, potentially leading to swelling and difficulty breathing.
The agave plant leaves also contain saponins which can also cause mild irritation to severe swelling.
If the sharp spines or sap comes into contact with your dog’s skin, it can cause oozing blisters.
Immediate medical attention is necessary to resolve any symptoms of agave poisoning if your dog has ingested any part of the plant.
How To Give Agave Syrup To My Dog Safely?
Agave syrup is about one and a half times as sweet as sugar so a little goes a long way.
If you wish to use it as a sweetener for your dog’s treat or give it as a treat, keep the amount used to a minimum.
You can achieve the same sweetness as your normal table sugar by using a lot less agave syrup.
But agave syrup is still as sweet as high fructose corn syrup so it is very calorie dense.
If possible, get organic agave syrup instead of those that are heavily processed.
What Are Healthier Alternatives For My Dog?
It is understandable if dog owners wish to abstain from this fructose-rich sweetener.
The good news is that there are many healthier options available such as:
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Coconut oil
- Low calorie fruits
You still need to feed the above alternatives in moderation to your dog as they are still high in sugar.
Personally, I alternate between raw honey and low-calorie fruits like berries and watermelon.
I will just add them directly to his food.
It might seem gross but your dog doesn’t require its meal to be plated by a Michelin chef.
Do Dogs Need Sugar?
The straight-up answer is no.
Your dog can have a perfectly great diet without any sugar and just protein since it’s a carnivore by nature.
But as a dog owner myself, I love spoiling my doggie with the occasional sweet treats and seeing how ferocious his tail wagging can get when he smells honey.
Many dogs have a sweet tooth as they are able to taste sweetness, unlike cats. Hence it is easy for it to turn into a sugar addict.
Is Agave Syrup The Same As Honey?
Agave syrup is sometimes marketed and sold as ‘Agave Nectar’ which gives the misconception to it being similar to honey.
But they are not the same.
Even though both are derived from plant sources, agave syrup has more fracture than glucose while honey has an equal ratio.
Honey contains various antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can provide health benefits when consumed in moderation.