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Over the past few years, Erythritol has become a popular alternative to sugar for a number of good reasons.
To begin with, it tastes like sugar but contains zero calories. It also doesn’t affect blood sugar and insulin levels.
Besides, Erythritol has fewer adverse effects on dental health, especially when compared to typical sugar.
Sounds almost ideal, doesn’t it?
However, the million-dollar question is: is the sweetener safe for dogs?
Well, we’ll find out shortly, but before then…
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is essentially sugar alcohol or polyol that occurs naturally in some vegetables, fruits, and fermented foods.
It can also be commercially produced by fermenting simple sugars from corn (dextrose).
It is approximately 70-80% as sweet as your typical sugar and it is often used as a sweetener to replace calories from sugars and carbohydrates packed in most common foods and beverages.
Besides being used as a sweetener, many people also use Erythritol to boost the moisture retention properties of their foods. Erythritol also adds texture and browning in foods.
The sweetener is classified as sugar alcohol because of its chemical structure and has nothing to do with alcohol. The beer, spirits, and wines that we drink are ethyl-alcohols.
Its molecular structure allows it to be absorbed in the body without being broken down. This is the reason why it has zero calories.
Is Erythritol safe for dogs?
The short answer is: Erythritol is safe for dogs.
The main difference between Erythritol and other artificial sweeteners is the fact that it is a sugar alcohol, which implies that it doesn’t break in your dog’s body to create insulin spikes.
It doesn’t feed harmful bacteria in your dog’s gut either. After it passes through your pooch’s digestive system and bloodstream, it is excreted through the urine in almost unprocessed form, causing no harm.
Does Erythritol offer any Benefits to Dogs?
Besides its role as a sweetener, Erythritol may provide some health benefits to your dog, including:
I. Improving your dog’s oral health
Studies have shown that Erythritol has no effect on plaque buildup compared to other sugar alcohols.
In fact, it has been shown to reduce dental plaque, dental caries, and oral bacteria compared to sorbitol and xylitol.
II. Blood sugar regulation
Erythritol is a great choice for dogs that are overweight or diabetic.
Consumption of Erythritol has been proven to have no impact on blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics.
Although the studies were not done specifically on dogs, the data is promising.
III. Potent antioxidant properties
Erythritol is a powerful scavenger of hydroxyl free radicals and may protect your pooch from cardiovascular issues.
It may also protect your dog from conditions like acidity and constipation as well as lower inflammation in organs like the liver, kidney, and intestines.
IV. Friendly to your dog’s gut compared to other sweeteners
Chemically, Erythritol has a small four-carbon molecule, making it easy to digest in your pooch’s gut.
Besides, it has a low glycemic index, which implies that it gets digested quite slowly and almost completely.
So, compared to other sweeteners that are safe for dogs, Erythritol causes less acidity and diarrhea.
The Dose Makes the Poison
Like other sweeteners, you should only add Erythritol to your dog’s food in moderation.
When consumed in large quantities, Erythritol can produce certain unpleasant side effects in dogs, including:
1. Gastrointestinal Distress
When consumed in large quantities, Erythritol can cause digestive issues and diarrhea in dogs.
Erythritol and other sugar alcohols can draw water into your dog’s intestines as his body tries to digest the sugars, which may increase the amount of liquid in his stool, potentially causing diarrhea.
The sweetener may also cause bloating and gas in dogs.
Erythritol made from wheat or other gluten-containing grains may have residual amounts of gluten.
So, if your dog is intolerant to gluten, you should steer clear of this sweetener.
But if you have to use Erythritol, go for manufacturers that produce their products from gluten-free sources.
If possible, choose certified organic options like NOW Foods’ Organic Erythritol.
3. Artificial sweeteners
Since Erythritol has a slightly mild taste, it is often combined with other artificial sweeteners such as asaspartame to balance its taste or boost its sweetness.
Generally, artificial sweeteners are not healthy for dogs. In fact, some studies have linked some artificial sweeteners with an increased risk of health issues in dogs, including weight gain, seizures, and even cancer.
Although most of the claims haven’t been proven, it is advisable to be cautious.
If you are going to add Erythritol to your dog food for the first time, start with small quantities first.
This way, you can screen out diarrhea, allergy, and other negative reactions before they become serious.
And always consult your local vet if you observe abnormal symptoms after giving your dog foods or treats with Erythritol.
Alternative Sweetening Options
If you are trying to cut down the amount of sugar that you give to your canine friend and Erythritol doesn’t seem to be the right fit, there are a few options that you can try.
The first option that we recommend is stevia. Just like Erythritol, stevia has a glycemic index of 0, is natural, and doesn’t have an impact on your dog’s blood sugar level.
Stevia is 250-300 times sweeter than your typical table sugar, so you may need much less of it than Erythritol when preparing your dog food.
Beyond this, there is no much difference between these sweeteners. They are both safe for your dog and the decision to choose one over another boils down to your taste and preferences.
We have a comprehensive post about stevia and dogs. You can read it here: Is stevia safe for dogs?
Erythritol is a great choice if you are looking for a zero-calorie sugar alternative that you can add to your dog food.
If your dog has issues with blood sugar regulation, Erythritol is the sweetener that you can get for him.
However, sugary foods are not healthy for dogs, so while Erythritol may not be toxic to your dog, use it in moderation.
Allowing your dog to consume this sweetener in large quantities may cause side effects like diarrhea, bloating, and other digestive issues.