While our main goal as pet parents is to keep our furry friends happy and healthy through diet, hygiene, and care, we often also like to feed them delectable treats as a reward for good behavior or training, or even a “gotcha day” anniversary celebration.
Being that these food items can be either made for humans or dogs and are available in innumerable forms, it is important to familiarize ourselves with what is safe for our canine companions to consume. Sorbitol is a common food additive and can be found in both human and dog products. Because most pet parents are particular about what their pup ingests, it’s natural to wonder: is sorbitol safe for dogs?
Read on to find out more about sorbitol, including exactly what it is and whether it’s okay for your dog.
What is Sorbitol?
Sorbitol is a colorless, odorless sugar alcohol that can be natural or manufactured depending on the need. Natural sources of sorbitol include berries, apples, peaches, pears, and other fruits. When manufactured, it is used as a sweetener substitute with less calories than traditional sugar and can also help food items retain texture. It is often made from potato starches. Sorbitol also has some medical indications, including for use as a laxative in humans. When scanning ingredient lists for the presence of sorbitol, it may be listed as D-sorbitol, E420, or D-glucitol.
Is Sorbitol Safe for Dogs?
So, we’ve covered what sorbitol is. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: is sorbitol toxic to dogs?
Generally speaking, and in small amounts, sorbitol is considered safe for dogs; however, if consumed in excess, it has the potential to create some unwanted side effects in dogs.
Why is that, you might ask? Although non-toxic, sorbitol is still a non-essential food additive for pet food items, and consuming it in excess could cause your dog discomfort.
There are no well-defined parameters around what is considered a small and tolerable amount of sorbitol for dogs. If you realize that your pet has ingested sorbitol, you should keep tabs of how much of the food item they have consumed and monitor them closely for gastrointestinal upset.
That being said, sorbitol is not toxic like its infamous relative xylitol, so there is no need for immediate stress or panic following sorbitol ingestion, as your pet may tolerate the amount ingested. If your dog develops clinical symptoms (more than likely gastrointestinal-related) that were not present before consumption of sorbitol, however, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away and discontinue use of the product.
Foods and Products that Contain Sorbitol
As mentioned previously, sorbitol is both naturally occurring and made as a food additive. Natural sources include most pitted fruits and some cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or brussels sprouts. Both human and pet products alike have potential for exposure to sorbitol as an added ingredient. Some common human-made products that may contain sorbitol include:
- Sugarless gum
- Diet beverages
- Ice cream
- Medication suspensions
- Other “sugar-free” foods and beverages
Specifically focusing on pet products, sorbitol can also be found in:
- Dessert biscuits
- Dog toothpaste
The very small amount of sorbitol in toothpaste for dogs is likely not enough to cause an issue for your pet unless they are overly sensitive to it, the ASPCA notes . If you do notice any sensitivities, discontinue use of the product and discuss alternatives with your trusted veterinary team. Do not allow the presence of sorbitol in your pet products to deter you from practicing preventive dental hygiene for your pet or providing them treats in moderation and as tolerated; instead, allow it to help guide you in making an informed decision.
Sorbitol and Dogs: Precautions to Take
Being an aware and educated pet parent is the best way to avoid unwanted side effects of sorbitol consumption in dogs. Take note of where sorbitol-containing products are in the home and place them out of reach of your dog to prevent ingestion.
In the cases of human products containing sorbitol, the product may be toxic or harmful to the pet for reasons other than the sorbitol itself. Anything that the dog receives by mouth should have its ingredients scanned for potential problems prior to it being given.
For pet-specific products containing sorbitol, the amount considered safe for dogs to consume without unwanted gastrointestinal side effects is not set in stone, so these products should only be given using your discretion and reflection on how your pup may have tolerated the item before.
Some signs that your dog may have consumed more sorbitol than they can comfortably tolerate include:
Mild cases can be self-limiting with the elimination of the sorbitol, meaning that they resolve on their own without medical intervention. On the flip side, other cases may have more severe gastrointestinal symptoms, leading to dehydration and other secondary issues that require treatment by a veterinary team.