Are sweeteners safe for dogs?

Can Dogs Have Sweeteners - Xylitol, Aspartame and Stevia?

No, dogs should not consume sweeteners as they can be harmful to their health. 

Sweeteners are substances used to add sweetness to human food and beverages without the use of natural sugars like sucrose (table sugar) or glucose. They can be either natural or artificial in origin. Sweeteners provide a sweet taste to foods and drinks without the added calories and potential negative effects of consuming excessive sugar.

Several sweeteners are known to be harmful to dogs and should be avoided including Xylitol, Aspartame and Stevia.


Table of Contents

Which sweeteners are most harmful to dogs?


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in various food products. It is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables, but the Xylitol used as a sweetener is typically produced from sources like birch bark or corn cobs through a manufacturing process.

Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum, sweets, peanut butter, baked goods, and other products. Xylitol consumption can lead to a rapid release of insulin in dogs, causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used to add sweetness to foods and beverages without the calories associated with traditional sugars. It is made up of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid, along with a small amount of methanol.

Aspartame is significantly sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), which allows it to be used in very small quantities to achieve the desired level of sweetness in products. It is commonly found in sugar-free and "diet" versions of various foods and drinks, including soft drinks, desserts, chewing gum, and sugar-free snacks.

The methanol in Aspartame, can be metabolised into toxic compounds like formaldehyde in a dog's body, potentially leading to various adverse effects.


Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. It has gained popularity as a sugar substitute due to its sweetness without the added calories of sugar and its plant-based origin.

The active compounds responsible for Stevia's sweetness are called steviol glycosides. These compounds are extracted from the leaves of the Stevia plant and are many times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). Because Stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, only a small amount is needed to achieve the desired level of sweetness in foods and beverages.

Stevia is often used as a sugar substitute in a variety of products, including beverages, desserts, and baked goods.

While Stevia is generally considered safe for humans, its effects on dogs are not well-studied. Some dogs may experience digestive issues if they ingest products containing Stevia.

toxic sweeteners for dogs

What are the symptoms of dogs having Xylitol?

If a dog ingests Xylitol, it can lead to various symptoms and potentially life-threatening health issues. The symptoms of Xylitol poisoning in dogs can appear quickly, often within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion. The severity of the symptoms can depend on the amount of Xylitol consumed and the size of the dog.

  • Vomiting: Dogs may start vomiting shortly after consuming Xylitol-containing products. This can be a clear sign that something is wrong.
  • Loss of Co-ordination: Xylitol can cause dogs to become unsteady on their feet, have trouble walking, or appear wobbly and disoriented.
  • Weakness: Dogs might exhibit weakness and have difficulty standing or moving around normally.
  • Seizures: Xylitol can lead to seizures in dogs, which can range from mild tremors to full-blown convulsions.
  • Collapse: In severe cases, dogs can experience a sudden collapse due to the effects of Xylitol on their blood sugar levels.
  • Tremors or Shaking: Some dogs may exhibit shaking or tremors, which can be a sign of neurological distress.
  • Depression or Lethargy: Dogs poisoned by Xylitol might become unusually quiet, withdrawn, or lethargic.
  • Jaundice (Yellowing of the Skin and Eyes): In severe cases, Xylitol toxicity can lead to liver damage, which may manifest as jaundice.

If you suspect your dog has ingested anything containing Xylitol and they are showing any of these symptoms, it's crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. Xylitol poisoning can lead to rapid deterioration in a dog's condition, and early intervention greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.

What are the symptoms of dogs having Aspartame?

Aspartame can potentially have harmful effects on dogs if ingested. While the symptoms of Aspartame ingestion in dogs may not be as well-documented as those of other toxic substances, it's important to be aware of potential signs of distress. If you suspect your dog has consumed products containing Aspartame, it's advisable to seek prompt veterinary attention. Symptoms might occur after a dog ingests Aspartame or products containing Aspartame.

  • Gastrointestinal Upset: Dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhoea, or abdominal discomfort after consuming Aspartame-containing products.
  • Lethargy: Dogs may become unusually tired, sluggish, or unwilling to engage in usual activities.
  • Changes in Behaviour: Aspartame consumption might lead to changes in a dog's behaviour, such as restlessness, agitation, or disorientation.
  • Loss of Appetite: Dogs may lose interest in food or treats, even if they usually have a healthy appetite.
  • Seizures: Some dogs might experience seizures as a result of consuming Aspartame, although this is less common and can depend on the individual dog's sensitivity.
  • Tremors or Shaking: Aspartame ingestion could lead to shaking or tremors in dogs, particularly if they have a negative reaction to the substance.
  • Increased Thirst or Urination: Dogs might exhibit increased drinking and urination due to various physiological responses to the artificial sweetener.

It's important to note that the effects of Aspartame can vary widely depending on the dog's size, sensitivity, and the amount ingested. Additionally, since dogs' metabolism and reactions to substances can be different from humans, the symptoms of Aspartame toxicity in dogs might not be well-defined.

What are the symptoms of a dog having Stevia?

The effects of Stevia ingestion in dogs are not as well-documented as those of other substances, and it's generally considered to be less toxic compared to sweeteners like Xylitol. However, as with any food or substance not naturally part of a dog's diet, it's important to be cautious. If you suspect your dog has consumed products containing Stevia, it's advisable to monitor their behaviour and, if needed, seek veterinary attention. Symptoms that might occur after a dog ingests Stevia or products containing Stevia include:

  • Gastrointestinal Upset: Dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhoea, or abdominal discomfort after consuming Stevia-containing products.
  • Loss of Appetite: Dogs might show a reduced interest in food or treats after consuming Stevia.
  • Lethargy: Some dogs might become more tired than usual or exhibit a lack of energy.
  • Changes in Behaviour: In some cases, dogs might show restlessness, agitation, or other changes in behaviour.
  • Increased Thirst or Urination: Dogs might drink more water than usual and consequently urinate more frequently.
  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some dogs might exhibit signs of an allergic reaction to Stevia, such as itching, skin irritation, or swelling.

It's important to note that the severity of these symptoms can vary based on factors such as the dog's size, sensitivity, and the amount of Stevia consumed. While Stevia is generally considered safe for humans, its effects on dogs are not as well-studied.

What food and drinks containing sweeteners are harmful to dogs?

Several foods and drinks that contain sweeteners can be harmful to dogs due to the potential inclusion of substances like Xylitol, which is highly toxic to them. It's essential to be vigilant and read ingredient labels carefully to avoid giving your dog anything that might contain harmful sweeteners. Here are some common foods and drinks that could pose a risk to dogs:

  • Sugar-Free Chewing Gum and Sweets: Many sugar-free chewing gum and sweets contain Xylitol as a sugar substitute. Even a small amount of Xylitol can be extremely dangerous for dogs.
  • Sugar-Free Baked Goods: Sugar-free biscuits, cakes, and other baked goods may contain Xylitol or other sugar alcohols that can be harmful to dogs.
  • Diet Drinks: Some diet drinks and other carbonated beverages are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like Aspartame or saccharin, which can potentially be problematic for dogs.
  • Yoghurts and Dairy Products: Some flavoured yoghurts and dairy products, especially those labelled as "low sugar" or "sugar-free," might contain sweeteners that are not safe for dogs.
  • Sugar-Free Jam: Certain sugar-free jams, and fruit spreads may contain Xylitol or other artificial sweeteners.
  • Protein Bars and Snacks: Some protein bars and snacks marketed as low-carb or sugar-free may contain Xylitol or other sweeteners harmful to dogs.
  • Baked Goods and Snacks Made for Diabetics: Products intended for diabetics or labelled as sugar-free might contain Xylitol, maltitol, or other sweeteners that are unsafe for dogs.
  • Medications and Supplements: Some medications, especially chewable or liquid forms, and supplements may contain Xylitol for flavouring.
  • Peanut Butter and Nut Butters: While most peanut butters are safe for dogs, some varieties marketed as "sugar-free" might contain Xylitol. Always check the ingredient list.
  • Cereals and Breakfast Foods: Certain cereals and breakfast bars may include Xylitol or other sweeteners that could harm dogs.

It's important to remember that even if a product is not listed as "sugar-free," it's a good practice to check the ingredient list for any potentially harmful sweeteners. When in doubt, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid giving your dog any foods or drinks that are not specifically formulated for canine consumption. 

toxic sweeteners in food

How much Xylitol is toxic to dogs?

Xylitol is the most toxic of the sweeteners. The amount of Xylitol that can be toxic to dogs varies depending on factors such as the dog's size, breed, individual sensitivity, and the concentration of Xylitol in the product consumed. Xylitol is known to cause toxicity in dogs even at relatively small amounts, and ingestion of as little as 0.1 gram of Xylitol per kilogram of body weight can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). For some smaller breeds, even smaller amounts can be dangerous.

To provide a general guideline, here's an approximation of the potential toxic dose of Xylitol for dogs based on their weight:

  • Less than 5 kg: Ingesting as little as a few pieces of Xylitol-containing gum or a small quantity of a Xylitol-containing product could be potentially dangerous for very small dogs.
  • 5-15 kg: Ingesting around 1-2 grams of Xylitol could potentially lead to hypoglycemia in dogs of this size.
  • 15-30 kg: Around 2-4 grams of Xylitol could be problematic for dogs in this weight range.
  • 30 kg and above: While larger dogs might tolerate slightly higher amounts, it's still important to be cautious, as Xylitol can have harmful effects even in bigger dogs.

These are rough estimates, and it's important to understand that the toxic effects of Xylitol can be unpredictable. Some dogs might experience symptoms with lower amounts, while others might not show signs until higher amounts are ingested

Can dogs safely have peanut butter?

Yes, most dogs can safely enjoy peanut butter in moderation. Peanut butter is a popular treat for dogs due to its taste and texture, and it can also be used as a tool for administering medications or stuffing into puzzle toys for mental stimulation but always check the ingredients: Choose a peanut butter that is free from Xylitol. Always read the ingredient label to ensure that the product does not contain Xylitol or other harmful additives.

What to do if your dog has consumed Xylitol?

If you suspect your dog has ingested something containing Xylitol, it's important to take immediate action to ensure their safety. Xylitol ingestion can lead to serious health issues, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and potential organ damage.

  • Contact Your Veterinarian: Call your veterinarian. Provide them with information about your dog's size, the amount of Xylitol ingested (if known), and any symptoms your dog is experiencing.
  • Do Not Wait: Xylitol toxicity can progress rapidly. Don't wait to see if symptoms appear; seek veterinary help immediately.
  • Do Not Induce Vomiting: Unlike some cases of poisoning, inducing vomiting might not be recommended for Xylitol ingestion. Your veterinarian will provide guidance on whether vomiting should be induced based on the circumstances.
  • Monitor for Symptoms: Keep a close eye on your dog's behaviour and condition. Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity can include vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, weakness, and collapse.
  • Keep Records: If possible, keep the packaging of the product your dog consumed, as well as any information about the ingredients, to share with the veterinarian.
  • Emergency Treatment: Depending on the severity of the situation, your veterinarian might recommend various treatments, including administration of glucose to counteract hypoglycemia, monitoring of blood sugar levels, and supportive care.

Remember, time is of the essence when dealing with potential Xylitol poisoning. Swift action and professional veterinary care can greatly improve the chances of a positive outcome for your dog.

The outcome of treatment can range from a full recovery to more serious consequences if the Xylitol poisoning is severe and not treated promptly. In some cases, Xylitol toxicity can lead to permanent organ damage, particularly to the liver.

treatment for xylitol ingestion in dogs

What Are Alternative Safe Natural Treats for Dogs?

To keep your dog away from unsuitable low-fat treats that contain sweeteners, look for low fat, natural, safe and healthy treats that do not contain artificial flavourings or preservatives.

Camel Scalp

Camel Scalp is a novel protein, long lasting and low fat chew. Air dried to keep the flavour locked in, there is nothing artifical about this popular dog treat.

Lamb Horns

Lamb Horns are a great low fat chew that will keep your dog occupied for hours. There are no artificial flavourings or processes for this treat that your dog can enjoy time and time again without any danger to their digestion.

With Wags and Woofs,

Laura, Dolly & Reggie

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