Are artificial sweeteners bad for dogs? Short answer – yes! Pet owners everywhere are waking up to the dangers of artificial sweeteners for their furry friends. Xylitol has especially come under scrutiny for its fatal effects on dogs. Yet, it’s not always easy to recognize these toxins in your pet’s food. In many cases, dog owners don’t even know that the snacks they are feeding their pets are toxic.
What are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are food additives that are meant to give food a sweet taste without the increase in calories that regular sugar comes with. Because of this, many people opt to use artificial sweeteners in their food. In 2021, Study Finds reported on a study that found that 1 in 5 people was likely to share their food with their pets. That’s 20% of dog owners who could be unwittingly feeding harmful artificial sweeteners to their dogs. Additionally, some dog food also comes with these harmful additives unbeknownst to dog owners.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol. It is available as a white powder that can substitute for sugar in baked goods. It is found in many sugar-free chewing gums, oral-care products, candies, and mints. It has no nutritional value so it is essentially empty calories. It is considered a carbohydrate but since it does not raise blood sugar in humans it is a popular choice in low-carb foods as well as foods for diabetics.
Why and How Xylitol Harms Dogs:
Xylitol is the most dangerous artificial sweetener for dogs. In answer to the question, “Is Xylitol bad for dogs?” The answer is certainly YES! Small amounts of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia, which is a sudden drop in the dog’s blood sugar levels, as well as seizures. Increased amounts of xylitol can result in liver failure and death.
Why is Xylitol bad for dogs but not humans?
Xylitol is not harmful to humans. Humans even produce a small amount of it as part of normal metabolism. For humans, it does not spike blood sugar levels making it an ingredient in many foods marketed to people with diabetes. However, it has adverse effects when consumed by dogs.
How does Xylitol harm a dog?
It is known to cause sudden liver failure, but the reason is unknown. If a dog is not supported properly in liver failure, he could die.
How long does it take Xylitol to hurt a dog?
Xylitol poisoning in dogs can be seen within as little as 10 minutes but can sometimes not show symptoms for several days. Two factors in the equation of successful treatment are how much was ingested vs your dog’s weight and how quickly you get veterinary care. It is so important to get your dog to the vet as soon as you see symptoms or know they have ingested the artificial sweetener.
My dog ate sugar-free gum, will they be alright?
One piece of Sugar-free gum has enough Xylitol in it to make a small dog very ill. Xylitol is metabolized very fast, which is why it is very important to see your vet as soon as possible.
Xylitol Goes By Many Names:
This toxic additive goes by many names which may be used to disguise its presence in foods. Some of the Xylitol brand names are birch sugar, birch bark extract, sucre de bouleau, E967, and Xylo-pentane 1,2,3,4,5 are some of the names that can alert you to the presence of Xylitol in any product. When you see any of these listed in the ingredients of a product you’re using, make sure to keep it away from your pet.
Peanut Butter, Yogurt, and Many Other Foods have Xylitol:
Peanut butter is popular with dog owners as a filler for Kongs and other dog toys. Now, owners need to be aware that manufacturers are putting Xylitol in peanut butter, and many times it is listed as birch sugar. Peanut butter with Xylitol can easily be avoided if you know the other names for Xylitol and read the labels. Even if you can’t remember all the names, buy a peanut butter that is just peanuts or peanuts and oil to be on the safe side.
Here are some other foods to take a closer look at:
- sugar-free baked goods
- ketchups and bbq sauces
- candies and puddings
- chewing gum
- breath mints
- pancake syrups
- certain medications (fastmelts and chewables)
But to be on the safe side, always check your labels.
What Are The Symptoms Of Xylitol Poisoning In Dogs?
Some of the symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include:
- decreased activity
- loss of coordination
What To Do If You Expect Your Dog Has Xylitol Poisoning:
Call your veterinarian immediately. Give your vet as much information as you know about what they ingested and how much, as well as how much your dog weighs. Do not try to treat the Xylitol poisoning of your dog at home unless instructed by your vet to do so.
List of other artificial sweeteners and what they are in:
Undoubtedly after reading about Xyliol you are paranoid about all of the other artificial sweeteners that are on the market and want to know how they affect our dogs. Here is a short list of them and how they affect our pups.
Erythritol is a polyol that occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, and fermented goods. For example, it is present in watermelons, soy sauce, some baked goods, grapes, and wine. Its biggest appeal is that it contains no calories, and is thus a huge hit with people who are passionate about living healthy lifestyles.
Erythritol can be absorbed in the body without being broken down, so will not cause a spike in your dog’s insulin levels. For this reason, it is generally considered safe for dogs. However, when consumed in large amounts, it can still cause gastrointestinal issues which are very uncomfortable for dogs.
This artificial sweetener usually comes in a green packet. It is naturally present in the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is native to Brazil and Paraguay. Though it is much sweeter than sugar, it contains a bitter aftertaste. Apart from Stevia products, some of the common products containing this sweetener include sports drinks, soy sauce, sugar-free candy, and gum. PureCircle Stevia Institute reports that stevia is present in 14000 foods and beverages around the world.
Just like erythritol, stevia is not broken down by the body, hence why it is considered safe for consumption. But just like erythritol, it can induce diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues in canines when ingested in larger amounts.
Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener made from the aspartic amino acid which is a neurostimulator. It has been linked to memory loss and brain tumors in both humans and dogs. Admittedly, dogs need higher doses of this sweetener in order to experience its side effects. Nonetheless, it is safer for dog owners to steer clear of it at all costs.
Monk fruit, saccharin, and sucralose are also artificial sweeteners that are considered safe for dogs. They can be found in some baked goods, drinks, protein bars, diet sodas, and salad dressings. The most common side effect is gastrointestinal upset as a result of consuming large amounts of the sweetener.
Advice From Veterinarians On Xylitol:
Vets all agree that sweeteners have no nutritional value for dogs, and are therefore not essential to include in a dog’s diet. Make sure your dog has no access to products that contain Xylitol or any of the sweeteners mentioned above.
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