If you are looking for a sugar substitute, you might be aware of Xylitol.  If you are a dog owner, you might also be aware of Xylitol but for different reasons.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that looks and tastes like sugar.  It does not raise blood sugar like real sugar and it has far fewer calories (40% less calories per gram).   Xylitol is in small amounts in many plants. Extracted mostly from corn fibre and birch trees (birch sugar).  Xylitol is in sugar-free chewing gum, candies, mints, diabetes-friendly foods, and oral-care products such as toothpaste.  Because it is a refined sweetener, it does not contain any vitamins, minerals, or protein, so really it is empty calories providing no nutritional value. However, xylitol has some positive attributes including:

  • Due to its low caloric content and negligible effect on blood sugar levels, xylitol is popular as a weight-loss friendly sweetener and a good alternative for people with diabetes.
  • Studies have shown that replacing sugar with xylitol can have a positive effect on your dental health. Xylitol can kill the harmful bacteria that can cause gum disease such as gingivitis
  • Because your mouth, nose and ears are all connected, minimizing bad bacteria in your mouth will also reduce ear infections as well as minimize the risk of candida infections.

Despite the good things that xylitol can provide, it can also be dangerous.  Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. When dogs eat xylitol, their body’s think it is glucose and start producing large amounts of insulin.  This can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and possibly death.  Xylitol can also affect a dog’s liver, with high doses causing liver failure.  For a dog, only 0.1gram per 1 kg of body weight is enough to get sick. That means a 6-7pound Chihuahua will get sick eating just 0.3 grams of xylitol – less than what’s in one piece of chewing gum.

If you are a dog owner, keep xylitol or any foods containing xylitol far away from your pets.

There are also a few side effects for humans as well.  Some people will experience digestive issues if they consume too much.  Sugar alcohols can result in gas, bloating, and diarrhea.