Is Maltodextrin Safe For Dogs?

Is maltodextrin safe for dogs

In 2017 AAFCO approved maltodextrin for use in pet foods. The FDA lists it as a GRAS nutritional food additive. (GRAS means Generally Recognized As Safe.) But is maltodextrin safe for dogs?

When you consider a food item or food additive you always want to consider the long term risks and benefits. Chocolate may be safe but we certainly can’t live on it forever. And there’s no good reason for your dog to eat maltodextrin in his food, treats or supplements every day.

Maltodextrin can be hiding in places you least suspect … so let’s talk about what it is and where to watch out for it.

What Is Maltodextrin?


Maltodextrin is a partially hydrolyzed sugar compound (polysaccharide) that comes from various starches. The most common starch sources are corn, oats, rice, potato, and tapioca. Interestingly, maltodextrin, compared to other artificial sweeteners, isn’t always sweet. In fact, sometimes it’s tasteless.

Maltodextrins are classified by their dextrose equivalent (DE). Dextrose equivalent (DE) means the amount of reducing sugars in a sugar product.  The higher the DE, the sweeter the product. Maltodextrins have a DE between 3 and 20. The European Union defines products with a DE over 20 as glucose syrup.  DEs of 10 or below are called dextrins. 

What Is Maltodextrin Used For?

The human food industry has used maltodextrin in processed foods for more than 30 years … and its use has spilled over into pet products too. Maltodextrin is often used thicken and bind ingredients together. When you think about how sticky syrup is, it makes sense. Some companies also use it to change the freezing points or textures of products. And it often replaces fats as a food energy source.

You’ll find it in many processed foods like …

  • Salad dressings
  • Gravies
  • Rehydration drinks
  • Frozen dairy products
  • Health supplements – for pets and people
  • Pet foods and treats 

So maltodextrin can be hiding in your dog’s food, treats, and supplements. The trouble is … it’s not always easy to spot on a label.  Labels also use the terms syrup solids or dextrins or glucose polymers. So you need to read labels carefully.

And once you find it on a label, there’s another concern. With different sources and varieties, DE levels can vary. This means it’s hard to tell how much sugar is in your dog’s treats or supplements. So it’s best to avoid sugars altogether.

RELATED: What Are Fillers And Binders (And Why They Shouldn’t Be In Your Dog’s Supplements)

Why Is There Sugar In My Dog’s Food And Treats?

Many pet foods, treats, and supplements contain maltodextrin sugars. Although dogs do have a “sweet tooth,” maltodextrin is added for the structural reasons mentioned above.  It’s not there for flavor. So you’re more likely to find maltodextrin in canned foods, semi-moist treats, and supplements. These products need structural support and protection against moisture and freezing. 

So that means avoiding canned dog food and moist treats is your best bet to avoid maltodextrin … which may or may not be disclosed on the ingredient list.

But there’s a sneakier way your dog can get maltodextrin .. and that’s in his supplements.

Maltodextrin In Dog Supplements

If you do some digging into products that might contain maltodextrin, you may be surprised at what you find. Because many of them are health supplements. Though … as you’ll see in a moment, you may have to dig pretty hard to get the answer.

This is a really important detail when you think about exposure over time. So even if you’re feeding your dog a fresh, raw diet … you need to make sure there’s no maltodextrin in his supplements. And unfortunately, you won’t usually see it on the label.

One type of supplement you might not suspect as having maltodextrin is probiotics … important health supplements you might give your dog every day. But the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to list maltodextrin on the label. One investigation into human products found that many probiotics contain 30% maltodextrin (often from genetically modified corn … meaning it exposes your dog to harmful glyphosate).

The reason for this is that probiotics are tiny, so they have to come in a carrier base. The base also acts as a stabilizer. And it’s often maltodextrin. Other carriers you might see are FOS (fructooligosaccharides) or inulin. These are fine and won’t harm your dog.

How To Avoid Maltodextrin In Dog Probiotics

So, if maltodextrin isn’t on the label, how can you avoid it? It’s not easy, because you’ll have to do some sleuthing and call the manufacturer. Here’s what to ask them:

What carrier (or base) are your probiotics in?

They may not even know … because they might just place their probiotic order from their supplier, and didn’t think to ask about the carrier. And chances are, it’s maltodextrin. So if they don’t know the answer (or don’t want to ask their supplier and get back to you) … that’s a red flag and it’s safest to avoid that product.

So now you know how to avoid maltodextrin … but here’s why you should avoid products with maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin Safety And Your Dog

There’s been some research on the use of maltodextrin in dog products … but the focus has been on its ability to boost recovery times after exercise. Long term safety studies for dogs or people are lacking. The most consistent message is to use it in moderation … much like all sugars. One study looked at some of the health impacts of maltodextrin, stating …

“… the decrease in the consumption of ‘whole’ foods and dietary fiber, along with a rise in the consumption of rapidly digestible and absorbable CHO sources such as isolated starches, starch derivatives, and sugars, parallels an increase in the global prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

A few years ago one major pet food company launched a line of exercise supplement bars for sporting dogs, with maltodextrin topping the list as the first (and largest) ingredient. And you can find dog rehydration products similar to the ones for people that contain maltodextrin. But if you have a sporting dog who needs a boost, you’ll want to skip these products and choose a more natural route.

Stick with clean, filtered or spring water to rehydrate your dog. Or give some home made bone broth to provide extra nutrients. But always use natural, fresh energy sources when your dog needs a boost, regardless of the research behind “energy” products. You’ll protect your dog from the top health risks listed below.

PRO TIP

Homeopathic veterinarian Dee Blanco DVM recommends sparkling water with a pinch of a good sea salt to get electrolytes into your dog. The bubbles help get electrolytes into the cells and will rehydrate him faster than plain water.

#1 Maltodextrin Can Cause Nutritional Deficiencies

Maltodextrin can be a source of quick calories at 4 per gram … but, like all sugar, its energy is very short-lived. Ideally, you want to fuel your dog with energy that lasts and provides valuable nutrition.

Simple carbohydrates (sugars) may provide short term energy boosts. But, the trouble is, they don’t provide any other nutrition. In addition to “empty calories,” maltodextrin robs your dog of vitamins and minerals. This is because maltodextrin is classified as a complex carbohydrate … but acts like a simple carbohydrate. 

A complex carbohydrate contains vitamins and minerals needed to use energy. But maltodextrin doesn’t have any vitamins or minerals … .so it borrows them from the body. This can deplete your dog’s vitamins and minerals. 

RELATED: How Hidden Sugars In Your Dog’s Food Are Making Him Sick

#2 Maltodextrin Can Lead To Poor Gut Health

A study found maltodextrin changed gut bacteria, which increases the risk of disease. Maltodextrin suppresses the growth of probiotics that play a key role in immune health.  The same study showed that maltodextrin can increase the growth of bacteria like E. coli.  So if your dog has any digestive problems or leaky gut issues, feeding maltodextrin will make him worse.

And remember to check your dog’s probiotic labels as explained earlier … to make sure the supplements you’re giving to improve gut health aren’t doing just the opposite!

#3 GMO Exposure

Maltodextrin is usually made from genetically modified (GMO) sources. This helps keep the costs down but it increases health risks for your dog.

In the US, maltodextrin manufacturers mainly use corn, and in Europe they often use wheat. Although the FDA considers GMO corn safe, we know there are risks associated.  Many studies showing GMOs to be safe are funded by the companies that create these products. But there are a lot of independent scientists who believe GMOs are harmful. 

In fact, GMO crops are banned in 39 countries around the world, including 28 countries in Europe. Sadly, the US and Canadian governments still allow GMO crops and foods. So there’s a strong likelihood that North American maltodextrin is from GMO crops. To reduce your dog’s risk, choose only certified organic products.  

RELATED: Why Your Dog Is Probably Eating GMO Food – And Shouldn’t

Less Maltodextrin Is More

Given these risks, it’s wise to eliminate maltodextrin whenever you can … especially in your dog’s probiotic supplements where they can harm his gut. Choose to feed whole fresh foods and avoid unnecessary ingredients. Your dog will be healthier and he’ll thank you for it!

References

Frye CW, VanDeventer GM, Dinallo GK, et al. The effects of a post-exercise carbohydrate and protein supplement on repeat performance, serum chemistry, insulin and glucagon in competitive weight-pulling dogsJ Nutr Sci. 2017;6:e27. Published 2017 Jun 5.

Hofman DL, van Buul VJ, Brouns FJ. Nutrition, Health, and Regulatory Aspects of Digestible MaltodextrinsCrit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016;56(12):2091-2100.

Hofman DL, van Buul VJ, Brouns FJ. Nutrition, Health, and Regulatory Aspects of Digestible MaltodextrinsCrit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016;56(12):2091-2100.

Nickerson KP, McDonald C (2012) Crohn’s Disease-Associated Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli Adhesion Is Enhanced by Exposure to the Ubiquitous Dietary Polysaccharide Maltodextrin. PLoS ONE 7(12): e52132. 

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