Can Dogs Have Horlicks? The Surprising Truth

Can dogs have Horlicks? Strictly speaking, yes it can. The sweet, malty favorite is non-toxic to dogs.

However, is it healthy for them to have Horlicks? That is a different question altogether.

As it was made for human rather than canine consumption, Horlicks does not seem like it is the best food for a dog to have. With high sugar and milk content among other problematic ingredients, there are many better alternatives for dogs to drink.

What Is Actually In a Cup of Horlicks and Why Is It Not Good For Dogs?

What Is Actually In a Cup of Horlicks and Why Is It Not Good For Dogs?

Horlicks has been around since 1925 and is a long-time favorite of many people. The sweet taste and hearty texture is particularly comforting as a hot drink before bedtime.

However, as a drink for humans it contains a few ingredients that are not recommended for dogs. In this section, I will break down each of the ingredients and what they mean for dogs.

According to the official Horlicks website, the ingredients of the original formula in order of added amount are:

  1. Wheat flour and malted wheat (46%)
  2. Malted barley (26%)
  3. Dried whey (milk)
  4. Calcium carbonate
  5. Dried skimmed milk
  6. Sugar
  7. Palm oil
  8. Salt
  9. Anti-caking agent (E551)
  10. Vitamin mix
  11. Ferric Pyrophosphate,
  12. Zinc Oxide

Wheat Flour and Malted Wheat/Barley

Wheat and grain have unfortunately got somewhat of a bad name now when it comes to dog food.

This is partly due to the pet food mishap in 2007 when wheat gluten from China was polluted with chemicals, resulting in deaths of many poor dogs. The recent surge in popularity of low-carb and gluten-free diets amongst humans has also created the image that grains are bad for everyone- dogs included.

However, according to PetMD, plant materials such as wheat and barley are not bad for dogs. They are just not proper foundational foods for canines, who are meat-eaters by nature. Despite this, dogs have evolved to become able to effectively use carbohydrates from plants as energy for their daily activities.

Malted wheat and barley are grains that have been sprouted before roasting. Malted grains are easier to digest for dogs, and their sweet, rich aroma is attractive to their noses.

Since Horlicks is unlikely to be the primary food source for your dog, the wheat content is not going to pose any problems.

Whey and Milk

When puppies are born, they are nourished by their mother’s milk for the first few weeks. However, once they are weaned they no longer require milk. Instead, they move on to eating solid food, from which they are able to get all the protein and calcium they need.

In fact, most dogs become lactose intolerant as they grow older. This means that they are no longer able to digest milk well, and may suffer from bloating or diarrhea if they do drink any.

While some dogs are still able to drink small amounts of milk without any problems, it can be high in fat and sugars which is not good for a dog’s health. Too much of either can lead to serious problems such as diabetes, pancreatitis and obesity.

Milk and whey are the 3rd and 5th most abundant ingredients in Horlicks, so even drinking one serving can cause discomfort for your dog. Also, original formula Horlicks is recommended to be made with hot milk, which obviously would make the issues worse.



It shouldn’t come as a surprise that white sugar is not good for your dog’s health. It can cause dental problems, obesity, and diabetes which can then lead to further complications. It can also make your dog prone to mood swings and hyperactivity.

Sugar is the sixth highest ingredient listed in Horlicks. We can actually see exactly how much sugar there is in the nutritional profile at the back of the package. A 32 gram serving (one packet) comes loaded with 8.5 grams of sugar!

Out of all of the ingredients in Horlicks, the sugar content is the most problematic for dogs.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils in products around the world. It is derived from the fruit of oil palm trees and is odorless and colorless.

According to VetsNow, palm oil isn’t toxic to dogs. However, in large quantities it can have a laxative effect and cause diarrhea and water loss.

There likely isn’t enough palm oil in Horlicks to harm a dog, but it still isn’t an ideal ingredient.



Salty foods are not good for your dog. Too much salt can result in poisoning, with symptoms such as vomiting, tremors, lethargy and seizures.

As Horlicks is a sweet drink, there does not appear to be enough salt content for it to be dangerous to a dog.

Zinc Oxide

Zinc is well-known as being poisonous to dogs in large amounts. It is commonly added in foods as a nutritional supplement. Again, there is not enough zinc in Horlicks to be harmful to your dog.

Is There Anything Good for Dogs in Horlicks?

Calcium Carbonate

Used as a supplement, calcium carbonate is already one of the most common ingredients in pet food. Calcium is essential for dogs and it provides many benefits such as maintaining strong bones and teeth and prevents blood clotting.

However too much calcium can also be harmful for the dog. It can cause other minerals in the body such as zinc, magnesium and iron to be depleted. There is also a link between excessive calcium intake and canine hip dysplasia.

Usually, dogs will get all the calcium that they need from commercial pet food. So, while the inclusion of calcium in Horlicks can be beneficial, it is uncertain if a dog will reap any benefits if it is already eating a balanced diet.

No artificial colors or flavors, sweeteners or preservatives

The fact that Horlicks does not have any artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives is good for both humans and dogs.

Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are thought by some to be bad for health, causing everything from allergic reactions to cancer. Most sweeteners will cause stomach issues in your dog, and xylitol is specifically toxic to canines.

Vitamin mix

The Horlicks formula has a vitamin mix added for better nutrition. The vitamins and minerals include:

  • Vitamin C- boosts a dogs immune system and helps produce collagen
  • Niacin- good for skin and coat health
  • Vitamin E- good for heart and eye health and protects against free radicals
  • Pantothenic Acid- Key for nutrient metabolism
  • Vitamin B6- Essential for proper nervous system function
  • Riboflavin- Helps to produce red blood cells
  • Thiamin- helps to regulate carbohydrate absorption
  • Folic Acid- Helps to produce red blood cells
  • Biotin- helps with skin health
  • Vitamin D- Helps a dog to develop healthy bones and muscle
  • Vitamin B12- Important for gut and brain health

Better Alternatives

Despite having a few beneficial ingredients, there are much better drink options for your dog.

The obvious and best option is always water. Water and a balanced diet through food is all most dogs will need in terms of nutrition. Water will keep your dog hydrated and help it to stay cool on hot days.

If your dog doesn’t like to drink water, you can try to give it low-sodium chicken broth. Most dogs won’t be able to resist the meaty taste, and it provides a small protein and collagen boost as well.

Carrot juice is another good option for your dog as it is low in calories yet packed full of vitamins. Finally, coconut water has plenty of electrolytes and potassium and is great for quenching your pup’s thirst.

In Conclusion

When it comes to Horlicks for your dog, the negatives far outweigh the benefits.

While the main ingredient of wheat is fine for your dog to consume, the milk and sugar content have a distinct negative effect on a dog’s health. Even though there are good ingredients such as calcium and vitamins, there are much better alternatives out there that you can easily give to your dog.

Verdict: Don’t feed your dog Horlicks!

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