Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs?

Amanda Sarvas
is sorbitol safe for dogs?

Sorbitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in pet dental products. If you’ve ever seen it on an ingredient label, you’ve probably wondered, “What the heck is this?” and “is Sorbitol safe for dogs?” Let’s start with the basics…

Sorbitol is a type of carbohydrate called sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are water-soluble and occur naturally in many fruits and berries, including bananas, prunes, peaches, cherries, and more. Prunes’ infamous reputation for being a laxative is due in large part to their high sorbitol content.

Although it does occur in nature, almost all sorbitol you see on an ingredient label is synthetic. Synthetic sorbitol is made from reducing glucose from potato starch. 

Sorbitol has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. The glycemic index is a measure of how much your dog’s blood sugar will rise when they eat the item. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100, whereas sorbitol has a glycemic index of 4 to 7. Because of this, sugar-free and diet products for humans often contain sorbitol .

Where Is Sorbitol Commonly Found? 

It may surprise you to know that sorbitol isn’t hard to find in the pet world once you start looking for it. 

There are two dog products that commonly contain sorbitol : 
Dog toothpaste 

But sorbitol could be lurking in other dog products too. That’s is why it’s always a good idea to read the ingredients on everything you feed or use on your pet. 

Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs? 

Sorbitol is generally considered to be safe for dogs. However, there are several reasons you may want to avoid giving it to your dogs… 

Reason #1: It’s Unnecessary 

Sugar or sugar substitutes are completely unnecessary in pet products. Dogs don’t naturally crave sugar, but they can become addicted to it just like we can. It can cause them to overeat and reject less sweet healthier food options. Rather than starting down this slippery slope, it’s best to avoid sweeteners whenever possible.

When given a choice, your dog would much better off eating something biologically appropriate than something artificially sweetened.

Ultimately, there are so many high quality dog products out there that don’t contain sorbitol, and it shouldn’t be hard to find alternatives.

Reason #2: It Can Cause Digestive Upset 

Sorbitol has a laxative effect as it moves through the digestive system. Also, if your dog has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), sorbitol can worsen it. 

Humans are often prescribed sorbitol to help ease constipation, but it has some unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Excess gas
  • Rectal irritation
  • Mild to severe stomach cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black, bloody or tarry stools
  • Weakness or dizziness 

Reason #3: It Can Cause Birth Defects  

One study found that when pregnant rats consumed sorbitol, their offspring were smaller than average and also showed signs of liver and bone marrow damage. 

That’s a pretty big red flag… You’re best off avoiding products with sorbitol altogether.

Scientists have not yet studied the effects sorbitol might have on pregnant and nursing dogs. So it’s safest to avoid sorbitol for for these dogs (1). 

A Note About Xylitol

Do not confuse sorbitol with xylitol. Although they sound similar, xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs. It can cause a drop in blood sugar, liver damage, and even death. Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in human toothpaste, gum, and an assortment of sugar-free foods. Keep these items out of your dog’s reach at all times. 

RELATED: Where is xylitol hiding?

Is Sorbitol Safe For Dogs In Toothpaste? 

As we’ve covered above, you may want to avoid any products that contain sorbitol for your dog. And that includes dog toothpaste.

So why is it included in the first place? 

Typically it’s just as a palatant to make the toothpaste taste better. While other sugar alcohols, like xylitol, can inhibit the growth of cavity-causing bacteria, sorbitol cannot. Because xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, manufacturers look for another option. 

Many dog toothpaste brands contain sorbitol. Here are some you might be familiar with: 

  • Arm & Hammer Dog 
  • Bluestem Oral Care 
  • Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Tartar Control Toothpaste
  • Pro-Sense Dental Solutions 
  • Sentry Petrodex Veterinary Strength Enzymatic Poultry Flavor Dog Toothpaste

If you’ve used these kinds of toothpaste in the past, don’t fret. Just look for alternatives moving forward.

Instead, opt for a natural brand with no artificial sweeteners or flavors. Or, better yet, make your own dog toothpaste.  

Related: Toothpaste for dogs: DIY and natural options … 

Sorbitol In Dog Treats 

Sorbitol is less commonly used in treats. Instead, other sweeteners like corn syrup, glycerin, and plain old sugar show up on the labels. These are also something you'll want to avoid giving to your dog. They can cause health concerns like obesity, dental disease, metabolic disease, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

You’re more likely to find sorbitol in “dental” treats and chews. Manufacturers want to use a sweetener to make their products taste better. The better their product tastes, the more dogs eat it, and the more people keep buying it. Because sugar causes cavities, they use sorbitol in its place. Although it does not cause cavities, sorbitol offers no health benefits in these treats besides “enhancing” the flavor.

Instead of giving your pet a carbohydrate-laden dental chew, instead, opt for a raw meaty bone. Raw bones are often called “nature’s toothbrush,” and one study found that chewing raw beef bones reduced the plaque on the teeth by 87% (2).

RELATED: The best recreational bones for dogs …

Sorbitol: Yay Or Nay? 

Is Sorbitol safe for dogs? NAY! Let’s quickly recap the reasons why you should avoid giving your dog products with sorbitol in them: 

  • Sorbitol doesn’t offer any health benefits to your dog. 
  • It’s completely unnecessary. 
  • It can cause severe digestive upset and worsen IBS symptoms. 
  • It caused liver and bone marrow damage in breastfed rat pups. 


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