Have you ever heard of Ensure? Well, you probably have. But did you know that in dogs, Ensure can be used as a supplement food? To support nutritional balance, healthy hydration, and even weight gain?
So, can dogs drink Ensure? Yes, dogs can drink Ensure. Although the supplement was originally created for people, it is safe for dogs in small amounts and when used responsibly. However, since chocolate is toxic to dogs, the cocoa Ensure flavor must be avoided. Also, dog owners should be aware that some more sensitive dogs may develop certain side effects as Ensure is not part of the natural canine diet.
In this article, we will talk about Ensure for dogs. We will start by explaining what Ensure is and then go into the details of the drink’s health benefits and potential risks. Then we will give some dosing and feeding instructions and go through possible alternatives.
What Is Ensure – Ingredients and Fact?
Ensure is a supplement formulated to satisfy the human’s nutritional needs. The emphasis is put on the word supplement – meaning Ensure is not a meal replacement, but an addition to otherwise complete and balanced nutrition.
To explain more specifically what Ensure is, we will review its different ingredients. For easier understanding, we will divide its ingredients into three main groups:
- Core ingredients
- Vitamins and minerals
- Supporting ingredients
Group number 1: Core ingredients
The core ingredients in Ensure are high-quality milk and soy proteins. These proteins serve as sources for nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are building blocks for proteins and critical for normal functioning. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, lysine, threonine, valine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan.
Group number 2: Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals support proper growth and development and are vital for all body functions and processes. Ensure contains the following vitamins and minerals: thiamine, riboflavin, niacinamide, vitamin B12, folic acid, biotin, choline chloride, pyridoxine, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin K, sodium selenate, calcium carbonate, magnesium phosphate, calcium phosphate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, salt, potassium chloride, chromium chloride, ferrous sulfate, potassium iodide, and sodium molybdate.
Group number 3: Supporting ingredients
The role of the supporting ingredients is to keep the shake well-mixed, smooth, and delicious. The group of supporting ingredients includes flavor factors (liquid sucralose, acesulfame potassium, natural and artificial flavors), balancing agents (sodium citrate, potassium citrate, and potassium hydroxide), and stabilizers (cellulose gum, soy lecithin, monoglycerides, cellulose gel, and carrageenan).
Is Ensure Good for Dogs?
The chocolate flavor aside, there is nothing directly toxic in Ensure for dogs. However, that does not mean that the supplement is immediately suitable. Namely, it all depends on how it is used – when given in moderation and properly combined with otherwise complete and balanced nutrition, Ensure can have certain benefits for dogs. Let’s have a closer look at those benefits.
Reason number 1: Rich in essential nutrients
As explained in the section above, Ensure is rich in health-boosting and essential nutrients. This is particularly useful for dogs that prefer junk food and do not eat enough healthy ingredients.
Reason number 2: Supports weight gain is skinny dogs
Because of the unique formula and ingredients, Ensure supports weight gain. This is a benefit in underweight dogs having trouble putting on some weight. As weird as it may sound, weight gain can even be harder than weight loss.
Reason number 3: Suitable for debilitated dogs
Ensure is a convenient food option for debilitated and convalescent dogs. Plus, its liquid form allows practical feeding – all you need to do is place the liquid and a syringe and hand-feed your dog.
Why Is Ensure Bad for Dogs?
Ensure can be bad for dogs, especially if used inadequately – in large amounts, too often, or as the sole source of nutrition. This is because Ensure is originally made for people and not dogs. Here are some of the reasons Ensure can be bad for dogs.
Issue number 1: Digestive upset
Like all foods that are not part of the natural canine diet, Ensure can wreak havoc on the dog’s sensitive stomach and trigger a bout of digestive upset. The telltale signs of digestive upset include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, appetite loss, lethargy, and dehydration.
Issue number 2: Risk of overeating
When served liquid foods, dogs tend to overeat. Overeating is a risky issue, especially in large dogs, which can lead to gastric dilatation and, in more severe cases, even torsion or volvulus.
Issue number 3: Lactose intolerance
Ensure is a milk product, and as you already know, dogs are lactose intolerant. Although the amount of lactose in a dog-friendly Ensure serving size is not enough to cause stomach issues, the risk is still present.
Issue number 4: Too much sugar
Ensure it is loaded with sugars. Dogs do not particularly need sugar. In highly active dogs, sugar can serve as a quick source of energy. However, in inactive dogs, it can contribute to weight gain and also increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Issue number 5: High in calories
Ensure it is calorie-rich, which is a benefit if the goal is weight gain. However, in an already overweight dog, adding high-calorie foods can be detrimental. Obesity is a widespread pandemic among modern canines. Although not a disease per se, it predisposes dogs to many health conditions and aggravates others. If your dog is obese, you need to invest time and effort in weight loss, not add high-calorie foods.
Issue number 6: Soy protein isolate
Ensure contains soy protein isolate. Soy protein poses a dual danger. First, soy is often a GMO ingredient, and long-term exposure to such foods can be risky for both dogs and people. Second, soy is a common allergen in dogs. Although food allergies in dogs are not as common as in people, they are still a possibility.
Issue number 7: High glycemic index
Ensure contains corn maltodextrin, which has a high glycemic index (meaning it causes sudden blood sugar spikes). In people, this ingredient is also linked with an increased risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. While for a healthy dog, this may not be a problem, the drink is best avoided in diabetic dogs.
What Happens if My Dog Drinks Ensure?
What happens after a dog drinks Ensure depends on several factors. As mentioned, some dogs are more sensitive than others and may experience digestive upset (this is not limited to Ensure, but human foods in general).
To be on the safe side, we always recommend practicing a slow Ensure introduction. Namely, you should start by giving your dog a tiny amount of Ensure and then wait to see how its stomach handles the supplements. If there are no signs of stomach upset, you can proceed with a larger amount next time.
Also, we must note to stick to the original Ensure formula – many generic Ensure drinks contain additives that are not dog-friendly. As already mentioned, you must avoid the Ensure chocolate flavor.
Is There Something Else Like Ensure for Dogs?
Yes, there are brands making similar food supplements specifically for dogs. For example, DogSure is a food supplement for adult and senior dogs rich in vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients. The formula is easily digestible and vanilla-flavored to ensure high palatability. It is also lactose-free and loaded with antioxidants and omega fatty acids.
Similarly, Royal Canin offers a palette of liquid diets formulated for dogs. There are different options based on the dog’s unique requirements. The Royal Canin line of liquid diets is vet-formulated and requires a veterinary prescription.
What Can I Give My Dog as A Meal Replacement Instead?
The above-mentioned options are excellent meal replacements. They will keep the dog physically satiated while satisfying its nutritional requirements. Plus, they are tasty, and the dog will have no trouble drinking them. However, in the long run, it is advisable to make a strategy based on your dog’s individual needs and your goals.
For example, if your dog is underweight, first, you need to have it thoroughly examined by the vet to rule out underlying health issues. Then, you need to make simple dietary changes like adding an extra meal, using a high-protein diet rich in vitamins and minerals, limiting the dog’s physical activity, etc.
SUMMING UP: CAN DOGS DRINK ENSURE
All in all, yes, dogs can drink Ensure. In fact, when used responsibly, the supplemental drink can be beneficial for dogs. However, it should be well-understood that it is not made for dogs exclusively, and there are far more suitable canine-specific products.
Namely, if your dog is debilitated because of a medical issue or you have a senior dog that does not eat enough, there are severe pet brands offering food replacers formulated for dogs. These products will keep the dog satiated and nutritionally satisfied without the risk of side effects.
If you are not sure whether your dog needs a food replacement or if you do not know which product is best for its unique needs, do not hesitate to consult with your trusted veterinarian.