Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs?

Is sorbitol safe for dogs

Sorbitol is a sweetener found in processed dog foods as well as treats and dog toothpastes. But is sorbitol safe for dogs?

It’s not a clear cut answer. The FDA says it’s safe. But a study done on nursing rats showed signs of liver and bone marrow damage in offspring. 

So the question remains …

What Is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, peaches and plums. It has a low glycemic level and is low in calories. It’s extracted from starches like corn, potatoes, sorghum or wheat for use in pharmaceutical products, sugar-free foods, and oral care products like mouthwash and toothpaste

Sorbitol has been used in the food industry in the USA since 1929. However, too much sorbitol is not a good thing.

Is Sorbitol Safe?

Sorbitol is on the FDA’s list of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) foods. FDA studies found sorbitol has no toxicity or carcinogenic effects. But the FDA has stated that a daily intake of sorbitol that exceeds 30g per day may result in symptoms like … . 

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain 

The FDA advises pregnant and breast-feeding women consult their physicians before eating foods with sorbitol.

And if you look deeper… there’s research from 1985 stating that food containing greater than 10% sorbitol may be harmful to health and can have a laxative effect. Polyols like sorbitol are alcohol sugars. In Europe, polyols are banned in soft drinks due to their laxative effects. In fact, sorbitol is hyperosmotic, meaning it draws water into the colon to promote bowel movements … so people use it as a non-prescription laxative.

That’s the effect of sorbitol in people … so what about dogs? 

Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs?

While some artificial sweeteners like xylitol are toxic to dogs, sorbitol isn’t one of them. But a sweetener like sorbitol in dog treats or food is an absolutely unnecessary ingredient. 

So, sorbitol is relatively safe … but is sorbitol good for dogs?

Not really. Sorbitol is excreted through the urine in an unprocessed form so it has no nutritional benefit for your dog. You’ll find sorbitol and other sweeteners added to a wide range of dog foods, treats and pet toothpaste to make them palatable. But this begs the question … why? Your dog doesn’t need his food salted or sweetened. If your dog’s a picky eater, there are plenty of healthier options to entice him to eat. 

And if a manufacturer needs to add sorbitol to their food or treats, what does that say about the quality and taste of the food? The presence of sorbitol suggests there are probably other reasons not to feed them to your dog!

Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs In Toothpaste

Yes … sorbitol is approved for use in toothpaste and mouthwashes and safe for use with dogs. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for dogs or that dogs need it. There are safer effective alternatives for your dog’s dental care.

RELATED: Natural toothpaste for dogs …

Effects Of Sorbitol In Dogs

Whether sorbitol is safe or not, it can cause reactions in dogs. 

Sorbitol isn’t completely digested in the small intestine and this is known as sorbitol intolerance. It’s absorbed in small amounts and then converted to fructose. The sorbitol that’s left may result in diarrhea.

  • Dogs who eat foods with sorbitol may react with hypoglycemia, obesity, nervousness, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis and allergies.
  • ​​Sorbitol in dogs may cause minor to moderate gastrointestinal discomfort or distress. 
  • In large amounts (like a dog allowed to free-feed on kibble), sorbitol may cause symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and nausea.
  • People and dogs with IBS don’t absorb sorbitol properly but the symptoms you see are similar. You’ll need to ask your vet to confirm what’s causing your dog’s symptoms.
  • Sorbitol has osmotic laxative properties, which means it draws water into your dog’s intestine for softer poop. But too much sorbitol can cause diarrhea and here are healthier, natural options to treat your dog’s constipation.
  • Sorbitol can make things worse for a dog prone to diarrhea. Find out what’s causing the diarrhea and if he’s eating processed food with sorbitol, that’s probably the first thing you need to change. 

Can Sorbitol Kill Dogs?

Sorbitol is unlikely to kill your dog. But if it causes severe diarrhea, it can make your dog very sick and dehydrated Sorbitol is a hidden ingredient in processed food so you might not even realize your dog is reacting to it. Make sure you read and understand ingredient labels and avoid foods with sorbitol and other questionable ingredients. 

RELATED: How safe is your dog’s food? …

The best approach is to feed your dog a whole food, raw diet. You can buy pre-made raw foods … or make it yourself so you know exactly what’s in it.  

  1. Cardoso, S, et al. Exposure to sorbitol during lactation causes metabolic alterations and genotoxic effects in rat offspring. Toxicol Lett. 2016 Oct 17;260:36-45.
  2. Liauw, S., et al. Sorbitol – Often forgotten cause of osmotic diarrhea. Can Fam Physician. 2019 Aug; 65(8): 557–558.
  3. Ruiz-Ojeda, FJ., et al. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr. 2019 Jan; 10(Suppl 1): S31–S48.

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