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Can Dogs Eat Protein Bars? Are They Safe?

Are you wondering if your dog can eat protein bars? They're packed full of protein and nutrients for humans, but what about for pets? Find out what toxic ingredients your dog should avoid and tips for what to do should they get a hold of a bite.

Dr. Rebecca MacMillan

Last Updated: August 10, 2022 | 6 min read

Dog on hike trying to eat a granola bar

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Many people snack on protein bars these days, especially after a workout. They provide a quick energy boost as well as contain high levels of protein which helps to build and repair muscle mass.

As they come in single-wrapped bar form, it makes them a great option for when you are on the go and don’t have time for a proper meal.

With all these benefits, you might be wondering whether you can share them with your dog, after all, it can be hard to resist those big brown eyes. We explore protein bars in more detail and whether you can feed them to your furry friend or not.

What Is A Protein Bar?

Protein bars are a type of nutritional supplement produced by a variety of manufacturers. They are designed to be a quick source of fuel, and a protein boost for people on the go, helping them to recover from a workout. The ideal protein bar for serious gym bunnies should contain 20g of protein, be minimally processed, and be low in sugar.

However, these bars come in various flavors and may contain different ingredients like chocolate, nuts, oatmeal, and vanilla. As such, protein bars vary considerably. Some are packed full of sugar, making them seem more like treats than nutritional supplements, whereas others contain sugar alcohols (sweeteners that are lower in calories than regular sugar). Some may also contain artificial sweeteners, which can be a problem for furry friends.

Are Protein Bars Safe For Dogs?

Some protein bars are safe for dogs, but others are not. Protein bars come from a variety of different manufacturers and in many flavors. Unfortunately, some of these bars contain ingredients that are potentially toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, raisins, and an artificial sweetener called xylitol. So, you need to check the packet ingredients carefully before deciding whether your favorite protein bar is safe for Fido.

While some protein bars may be non-toxic for dogs, they are still unnecessary, and you shouldn’t be feeding them to your pet. Stick to his normal high-quality diet, and he should be getting all the nutrients he needs from there. If you really want to share a granola bar with your dog on a hike or out and about town, try these granola bites that are specifically for dogs.

Are Protein Bars Good For Dogs?

Protein bar unwrapped
Even if your brand of power bar doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients, the extra calories alone could cause problems and contribute to unwanted weight gain.

Not really. Protein bars are not designed for dogs to eat and could even contain ingredients that are harmful to your pet. The high levels of sugar in some bars are also not healthy for our pets and add nothing nutritionally.

While some protein bars are considered a healthy snack for people (if eaten in moderation), dogs can develop an upset stomach after eating them. Their digestive tract is not as adapted as ours to handle high volumes of sugar or sugar alcohols. The odd bite of a non-toxic protein bar is unlikely to do too much damage, but if he gets into a stash of them, then he could experience some unwanted vomiting and diarrhea.

Your dog should be getting the correct balance of protein and carbohydrates from his complete commercial diet. Giving him extras may cause an imbalance in nutrients as well as adding extra calories, so keep your protein bars for yourself.

When Are Protein Bars Bad For Dogs?

As mentioned previously, some protein bars can contain ingredients that are potentially harmful to dogs. It is important to check the ingredients list to see if yours contain any of the following –

Xylitol

Xylitol (pronounced zai-luh-tol) is an artificial sweetener used in many everyday items such as sugar-free gum and candy, sugar-free peanut butter, diabetic snacks, and some medications. It may, therefore, be found in some low-sugar protein bars too.

It is safe for humans, but in dogs, xylitol causes their pancreas to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream. This creates a sharp drop in their blood sugar levels. If these sugar levels become too low, then your dog could suffer from hypoglycemia, a condition that can cause harmful side effects. Irreversible liver failure can also be seen in some cases and is potentially fatal.

Dogs with xylitol poisoning show symptoms such as weakness, vomiting, tremoring, pale gums, increased heart rate, and seizures. Treatment is usually aimed at correcting the dog’s sugar levels and your pet may need to stay in the hospital for fluids and possibly anti-seizure medications. Contact your vet right away if your dog has eaten a protein bar containing xylitol. 

Chocolate

Unlike humans, dogs are unable to process a certain chemical in chocolate called theobromine. Mild cases of chocolate toxicity may just present with vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases can suffer from side effects such as an elevated heart rate, tremoring, and seizures which, if left untreated, may even progress to death.

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are more harmful to dogs than milk or white chocolate as it contains higher levels of theobromine. It is dose-dependent, so smaller dogs are more susceptible than larger dogs to its effects. You must get your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, even if they seem ok after eating the chocolate, as symptoms can take a few hours to develop.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs though the exact mechanism for their toxicity is unknown. Animals that are affected usually have issues with their nerve and muscle function. Some dogs seem more sensitive to the effects of macadamia nuts than others, but it can be hard to predict in advance which those are.

Possible symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, ataxia (incoordination of the hind legs), and increased heart rate. Some dogs may also develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) due to the high fat/oil content of these nuts. Don’t feed your dog any bars that contain these nuts and you should avoid walnuts, pistachios, and pecans too.

Raisins, Currants, Or Sultanas

Any type of dried grape (or fresh grape, for that matter) could potentially cause kidney failure and even death. The exact mechanism of action is unknown which means it can be quite difficult to know how many make a dog unwell. In some cases, just eating a few grapes or raisins can cause problems. In other cases, a dog may eat lots and be ok.

We can’t predict how each dog reacts, so it’s usually safest to avoid giving any at all. If your dog has accidentally eaten a protein bar that contains raisins, then call your vet immediately, even if they seem ok, as kidney failure develops slowly over several hours/days.

Caffeine

Some protein bars contain added caffeine to act as a mild stimulant and make us feel more energized. In small doses, caffeine just makes us a bit more alert and focussed, but in large amounts, it can cause an elevation in heart rate (tachycardia) and abnormal heart rhythms. 

Dogs are much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than people are, so they should avoid it. More serious symptoms of caffeine overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, tremoring, and seizures. Fatal doses of caffeine start at around 140-150mg/kg body weight. Your dog would probably have to eat a lot of protein bars to suffer any ill effects, but regardless, caffeine should not be actively given to your pet.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Protein Bars?

If your dog has accidentally eaten a stash of your protein bars, here’s what you should do –

  1. Remove your dog from the area – Take your dog away from the scene of the crime so you can stop them from eating any more of your snacks and can clean up the mess.
  2. Check the evidence – Try and identify what ingredients your protein bars contain. If they contain potentially toxic ingredients like chocolate, raisins, or xylitol, then you need to let your vet know this quickly.
  3. Check your dog – How are they? Are they showing any symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain?
  4. Call your vet – Contact your vet if your dog has consumed a large number of protein bars or if they have eaten a bar that contains any ingredients that could be toxic to dogs.
  5. Follow your vet’s advice – If your vet wants to see your dog, then follow their advice, and take your pet to the clinic, even if they currently seem okay. Prompt treatment leads to better outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Too Much Protein Bad For Dogs?

While dogs like meat, they are omnivores which means they need a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Excessive amounts of protein are unnecessary, and in some animals with health conditions (like kidney disease) this could even be harmful. Good quality commercial diets are correctly balanced to provide your pet with what he needs, so protein supplements should be avoided.

Which Ingredients In Protein Bars Are Poisonous To Dogs?

Protein bar ingredients vary considerably between brands. Some contain no harmful ingredients, whereas others could be toxic to dogs. The poisonous ingredients to look out for include chocolate, xylitol, caffeine, macadamia nuts, raisins, and currants. Contact your vet if your pet eats a bar containing these.

Do Dogs Need Supplements?

Most dogs don’t require any supplements as they should be getting all their nutrition from a high-quality, balanced diet. If you have chosen a diet that is appropriate for their age and size and is approved by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), then your pet shouldn’t need anything else. There may be some exceptions to this if your dog has a specific medical condition, in which case, follow your vet’s instructions.

Final Thoughts

No, you shouldn’t feed your dog protein bars. There are no proven health benefits for dogs, but there are plenty of potential risks. While a small bite of a bar containing no toxic ingredients is unlikely to do much harm, it still adds extra calories, which may contribute to weight gain. If your dog has eaten any bars that contain harmful ingredients, then it is important to call your veterinarian immediately for advice.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety or care advice. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, insurance expert, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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