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In an effort to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers seeking snacking options that prioritize health, manufacturers across the globe are looking for other ways to add sweetness or flavor to their products without extra calories. As a result, zero-calorie sugar alternatives like sucralose have found their ways onto the ingredient list of many foods and drinks with low or no added sugar labeling. But is sucralose safe for our dogs? Is it a good idea to use sucralose as an alternative to sugar in dog foods?
Well, we’ll find out shortly, but before then…
What Is Sucralose?
Sucralose is a zero-calorie sugar alternative that’s commonly used as a sweetener around the world. It is produced by substituting 3 hydroxyl groups with 3 chlorine atoms on the sugar molecule. This substitution intensifies the sweetness to 600 times than the regular sugar. Unlike other sweeteners like stevia, sucralose has no bitter aftertaste.
While it is technically derived from sugar, you shouldn’t confuse it with sucrose, the chemical name of the regular sugar. Whether it is from cane, maple syrup, honey or high-fructose syrup, regular sugar is absorbed and digested by the body. However, sucralose neither provides calories nor nutrients. In other words, it doesn’t have any significant health benefits to the body.
There are three forms of sucralose available in the market:
- Pure sucralose: Mostly available in powder and granular form.
- Splenda: The most common brand of sucralose. Besides sucralose, it contains bulking agents, namely dextrose and maltodextrin.
- Liquid sucralose: A colorless liquid that’s commonly sold in the market and made of sucralose and a small percentage of preservatives, acidulants, and other components.
Can Dogs Have Sucralose?
Technically, sucralose is not toxic to dogs. So, giving your dog small quantities of Splenda or other forms of sucralose shouldn’t have any serious consequence. That being said, sucralose is not recommended for dogs either. Allowing your pup to consume large quantities of sucralose can cause him to experience a wide range of unpleasant side effects, including:
- Gastrointestinal Distress: Your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is home to many beneficial bacteria, which play a critical role in ensuring that your pup has a healthy immune system. However, if this study is anything to go by, sucralose may wreck your dog’s gut bacteria. According to the study, sucralose was shown to decrease the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut by 50%. If your dog consumes large quantities of sucralose, therefore, he is likely to experience digestive issues, including vomiting and diarrhea.
- Increased Blood Glucose and Insulin Levels: A past study indicated that sucralose increased blood glucose and insulin levels while lowering insulin sensitivity. If your dog is diabetic, therefore, you may want to avoid adding sucralose to his diet because the compound can destabilize his blood glucose levels.
- May generate chloropropanols when heated: When heated, sucralose has been shown to degrade and release chloropropanols, which are not only toxic to your dog but may also be carcinogenic.
What Do I do if my dog accidentally consumes large quantities of sucralose?
If your pup consumes large quantities of sucralose, keep a close eye on him for the next few hours. Rush him to a local vet if he shows the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in walking
- …and any other abnormal behavior
But if you are unsure about the exact sugar alternative that your Fido has consumed, you can check the label of the ingredients on the product’s package. Whatever sugar alternative it is, consult your vet for more professional advice.
Your dog’s safety vs. Other sweeteners
Sucralose is not the only sugar alternative in the market. If you walk into any supermarket or convenience store today, you are likely to find four or five different sweeteners. But are they safe for your dog? Well, we have covered a few on this blog and you can check them via the following links:
Note: Most sweeteners are marketed with different brand names and not their chemical names (just like sucralose, which is commonly marketed as Splenda), so strive to read the packaging to be sure of the sweetener you are about to get for your dog.
The Bottom line
While sucralose is not considered to be toxic to dogs, it is not very safe for your canine friend. To be safe, we recommend that you should avoid giving it to your dog or adding it to his food. And as always, we suggest that you seek professional veterinary advice every time your dog consumes large quantities of sucralose or any other sweetener or food you are uncertain about—just to ensure that your furbaby is not in any danger.