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Is Stevia Safe for Dogs? Ok to Have it?

Low-calorie artificial sweeteners such as Stevia and Aspartame are often used in human food and drinks but are also gaining popularity as an additive to dog kibble. They have zero calories and don’t cause blood sugar spikes, making them a popular choice for people watching their weight or managing diabetes. But can these sugar substitutes be given to dogs?

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that mimic the taste of sugar but don’t have the same caloric content. They are often used in human food and drinks as low-calorie or zero-calorie alternatives to sugar.

The most common artificial sweeteners used in human food are aspartame, sucralose, and stevia. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, while sucralose is about 600 times sweeter. Stevia is a natural plant extract that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Aside from stevia, below are the other artificial sweeteners;

  • Erythritol
  • Xylitol: It is found in many “sugar-free” items such as ice cream, candies, pastries, gums, yogurts, juices, and more. FDA reported that these sweeteners are very fatal to dogs and you should avoid giving your dog any kibble that has this sweetener. Read more here.
  • Yacon syrup, and
  • Monk fruit sweetener.

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that’s extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant.

Dried stevia rebaudiana plant leaves are crushed into a powder and used as a natural sweetener in foods and beverages.

It’s around 200 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories, making it popular with people looking to reduce their sugar intake and for pet parents looking to manage their dogs’ weight, oral, and heart health. Unlike other artificial sweeteners, stevia is not an industrial chemical but a natural product.

In the 1970s, Japan was the first country to experiment and officially replace refined sugar with stevia as a sweetener. Japan banned chemical sweeteners with stevia and steviosides. Stevia crop is now cultivated in China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Paraguay, Brazil, the U.S., Canada and Europe

Several other countries such as Brazil, Korea and Japan have approved extracts of stevia and steviosides as safe for humans and dogs.

Was Stevia banned in the 90s?

Yes, stevia got banned in the US in the early 90s.

In 1991, Stevia the FDA banned it from use in the US after a study linked it to cancer. The study was refuted in 1995 and FDA started allowing it to be imported to the US as a supplement, not a sweetener. It took another 13 years for the FDA to approve it as a sweetener as it is safe. Since December 2008, FDA FDA has accepted rebaudioside A, a type of stevia extract indicating that Reb A is “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)”. Rebaudioside A is 250 to 450-fold sweeter than sugar. However, FDA has not approved crude stevia as food additive.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) set a temporary permitted daily intake (ADI) of stevioside at 5.0 mg/kg body weight (BW) in 2006. This was the first step toward international recognition of stevia as a mainstream and generally-accepted nonsynthetic noncaloric sweetener. Read more here

As of this publication, the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) has yet to approve it and only France has approved Stevia extracts consisting of at least 97% Rebaudioside A (Reb-A) as food and beverage sweeteners.

Stevia
  • Main Name: Stevia
  • Additional Common Names: Sweetleaf, Sugar Leaf
  • Scientific Name: Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Toxicity: Non-Toxic to Dogs, Non-Toxic to Cats, Non-Toxic to Horses
  • Toxic Principles: Non-toxic

Types of Stevia Extracts:

  • Rebaudioside A: 250- to 450-fold sweeter)
  • Reb B: 300- to 350-fold sweeter
  • Reb C (50- to 120-fold sweeter)
  • Reb D (250- to 450-fold sweeter)
  • Reb E (150- to 300-fold sweeter),
  • Steviobioside (100- to 125-fold sweeter),
  • Dulcoside A (50- to 120-fold sweeter),
  • Isosteviol and dihydroisosteviol

Rebaudioside A is the main sweet component in the stevia plant and is used as a sweetener and sugar substitute.

Rebaudioside B is less sweet than Rebaudioside A but has a more sugar-like taste.

Rebaudioside C is 50- to 120-fold sweeter than sugar but has a bitter aftertaste.

How stevia is extracted from plants:

To extract stevia from plant, follow the steps below.

  • Boil hot water and put the stevia leaves on the boiling water
  • Next step is solvent purification of the water-soluble extract. You can use ion-exchange resins or activated charcoal to remove any unwanted impurities.
  • After that, you need to remove the water by doing an evaporation process under vacuum and low temperature.

Now you have the crude stevia extract which is not yet ready for consumption. To purify it further, you need to do a series of steps which include:

  • -Precipitation
  • -Filtration
  • -Crystallization

After all those processes, you will be left with the final product which is the stevia extract. More details of this extraction process are on this PDF

Stevia extracts generally contain a high percentage of stevioside and rebaudioside A, and smaller amounts of other steviol glycosides.

Chemical Composition of Stevia in dog kibble:

The main active compounds in stevia are Stevioside and Rebaudioside.

Stevioside is the compound that’s most responsible for Stevia’s sweet taste. It’s around 250 times sweeter than sugar but is not metabolized by the body, so it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes.

Rebaudioside is another sweet compound found in Stevia leaves. It’s around 350 times sweeter than sugar but is quickly broken down in the body and doesn’t have the same long-lasting sweetness as Stevioside.

Benefits of Stevia in dog Kibble:

There are several potential benefits of feeding dogs artificial sweeteners like stevia, including:

Healthy blood pressure regulation:

In a study of rats and dogs, a year-long randomized study demonstrated that stevioside induces vasorelaxation. The study found that subjects that were given steviosides exhibited decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Weight loss:

Sugar substitutes like stevia could help dogs lose weight by reducing their overall calorie intake. However, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Diabetes management:

Artificial sweeteners don’t cause blood sugar spikes, which makes them a safe choice for dogs with diabetes. However, as with weight loss, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Tooth decay prevention:

Sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay, so using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar could help prevent this.

Das and Murphy’s study (Das) found that stevioside and rebaudioside A, are noncariogenic. The research found that the main cariogenic organism, Streptococcus mutans, experiences growth suppression and secretes less acid when grown on media containing stevioside than when grown on sucrose, glucose, or fructose media (Green and Philips)

Other benefits:

While there are limited studies on the side effects of stevia on dogs, several studies have found stevia to be beneficial antihypertensive, antihyperglycemic, antioxidant, noncariogenic, chemoprotective, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antiviral effects on human health.

Stevia is getting thumbs up from researchers and academics as a safe artificial sweetener for human food but you can totally give your dog stevia without any worries.

Another 2006 study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that stevioside, a component of stevia, may help prevent cavities by inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is responsible for tooth decay.

Uses of Stevia:

There are several ways that stevia can be used for dogs, including:

In dog food: Stevia can be used as a low-calorie or zero-calorie sweetener in dog food. It can be used to sweeten kibble or wet food, as well as homemade dog treats.

In dog water: Adding stevia to your dog’s water bowl can help make it more palatable and encourage them to drink more. This is especially helpful in hot weather or if your dog is ill and needs to stay hydrated.

Drawbacks of Stevia:

Despite the potential benefits, there are also some drawbacks to using stevia for dogs, including:

Unknown long-term effects:

While stevia is considered safe for human consumption, there is limited research on its long-term effects. This means that the long-term safety of feeding stevia to dogs is unknown.

Potential gastrointestinal issues:

Some dogs may experience upset stomachs or diarrhea if they consume large amounts of stevia. If your dog does have any adverse reaction, it’s important to stop giving them stevia and speak to a veterinarian.

Is Stevia Safe for Dogs?

Overall, stevia is considered safe for dogs and studies have confirmed that it is nontoxic and nongenotoxic but may cause diarrhea if your dog eats large quantities.

You can slowly introduce stevia to your dog’s diet and stay on the lookout for any potential side effects.

However, as with any change to your dog’s diet, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian before making any decisions. Also, worth noting that your dog does not need sweeteners, including artificial sweeteners and can opt not to give them at all.

Why give dog sweeteners such as Stevia anyways?

Sweeteners are used by dog kibble manufacturers as an essential ingredient that will improve the appeal of dog food, mostly dry dog food that may not be as tasty.

By adding a sweetener, the kibble will become more palatable and your dog is less likely to be finicky about their food. However, keep in mind that too much of anything is never good for your pet and always moderation when it comes to their diet.

Another common reason people give stevia to dogs is to help manage their weight or diabetes. As mentioned above, stevia is a 0-calorie artificial sweetener. This means it won’t contribute to your dog’s weight gain like sugar or other high-calorie sweeteners will.

Additionally, stevia may help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic dogs. Studies have shown that stevia can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels in all animals including dogs, rats and humans (R).

Does Stevia kill dogs?

There haven’t been any reported cases of Stevia having killed any dog. I also searched any published research from all major science publications and there appears to have been no reported cases of dogs getting harmed or killed by consuming stevia.

Stevia will only kill your dog if it has xylitol which is another artificial sweetener that has been found to be so deadly when given to dogs. In fact, xylitol can induce insulin shock killing your dog within 30 minutes and if that doesn’t kill your dog, liver failure will.

So next time you hear a pet parent worried about whether stevia will kill their dog, mention to them that it won’t and that it can only kill them if stevia extracts contain xylitol.

It is, however, important to note that stevia and xylitol are not from the same plant and usually, stevia extracts do not contain any extracts from xylitol.

Is Stevia Ok for a dog?

Yes, it is okay for a dog to have Stevia, and studies have shown that they do not have adverse effects on dog health with studies demonstrating zero impact on genetic material, meaning that Stevia is not mutagenic. It is also known to be effective at glucoregulation and has significant antiviral and antimicrobial capabilities that are super healthy for dogs.

A lot of pet owners are now using stevia as an all-natural means of sweetening their dog’s food because it is calorie-free and will not contribute to weight gain like sugar or other high-calorie sweeteners will.

Additionally, stevia may help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic dogs. Studies have shown that stevia can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels in all animals including dogs, rats and humans (R).

While stevia is safe for dogs, it’s important to remember that they don’t need sweeteners and you should always consult with a veterinarian before making the decision to give your dog Stevia or any artificial sweetener.

It is worth noting that xylitol, another plant-based sweetener has been known to kill dogs.

When a dog eats xylitol it induces the pancreas to release insulin thereby bringing down the sugar level in the dog’s blood to a very low and dangerous level. Low sugar levels are also called hypoglycemia. When blood sugar levels drop too fast, it can cause a seizure or coma and can even be fatal.

Stevia Alternative, xylitol:

How about Xylitol? Which amount of xylitol will kill my dog:

If your dog ingests xylitol quantities of 0.1 g/kg, you should be worried as your dog will probably experience sudden deterioration of its health because of an immediate drop in its blood sugar levels. Higher doses exceeding 0.5 g/kg will lead to severe hepatic necrosis and death.

**Xylitol is found in sugarless gum, sugar-free baked goods, some peanut butter brands, chewable vitamins, and other sugar-free products.**

Please be extra careful when handling foods that may contain xylitol as it can be very harmful or even lethal to dogs. If you think your dog has ingested xylitol, please call your veterinarian or poison control hotline immediately.

Vomiting, lethargy and weakness are the first signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs followed by ataxia, tremors, seizures and then coma. Liver failure will develop within a few days and can be fatal even with treatment.

Food items that contain xylitol and should keep away from dogs:

  • baked goods
  • breath mints
  • children’s and adult’s chewable vitamins
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • cough syrup
  • peanut butter
  • ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • dietary supplements
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • sugar-free desserts

FAQs on Stevia Safety with Dogs:

Q: Does stevia have xylitol?

A: No, Stevia does not have xylitol and while both are artificial sweeteners from plants, the stevia and xylitol are extracted from different plants and are packaged separately.

Q: Is Stevia toxic to dogs?

A: Conclusive research has proven that stevia and its extracts including Reb A and stevevioside are are nontoxic or nonmutagenic to dogs. Some studies demonstrated that stevia does not have DNA-damaging activities in cultured animal cells and organs.

Q: Is chocolate safe for dogs?

A: Chocolate is not safe for dogs to consume. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs.

Q: Is erythritol safe for dogs?

A: So far, there is no evidence that erythritol is harmful to dogs. In fact, erythritol has been shown to be safe for human consumption and is even being used as a food additive in some products.

Q: Can dogs eat Stevia in yogurt?

A: Yes, dogs can eat stevia in yogurt but stick to no more than 5 spoons of yogurt as an excess amount may lead to your dog having diarrhea.

Q: Can dogs eat sucralose?

A: Yes, dogs can eat sucralose as there is no evidence that sucralose is harmful to dogs but like other sweeteners such as stevia, large amounts of sucralose can cause your dog to have a running stomach.

Sources/references:

  • Liu JC, Kao PK, Chan P, et al. Mechanism of the antihypertensive effect of stevioside in anesthetized dogs. Pharmacology 2003; 67: 14-20.
  • AKC
  • Lee CN, Wong KL, Liu JC, Chen YJ, Cheng JT, Chan P. Inhibitory effect of stevioside on calcium influx to produce antihypertension. Planta Med 2001; 67: 796-9. [110]
  • Das S, Das AK, Murphy RA, Punwani IC, Nasution MP, Kinghorn AD. Evaluation of the cariogenic potential of the intense natural sweeteners stevioside and rebaudioside A. Caries Res 1992; 26: 363-6.
  • Wong KL, Chan P, Yang HY, et al. Isosteviol acts on potassium channels to relax isolated aortic strips of Wistar rat. Life Sci 2004; 74: 2379-87.
  • Grenby TH. Update on low-calorie sweeteners to benefit dental health. Int Dent J 1991; 41: 217-24. [116]
  • Grenby TH. Dental aspects of the use of sweeteners. Pure Appl Chem 1997; 69: 709-14. [117]
  • Phillips KC. In: Developments in Sweeteners (T.H. Grenby, ed.) p 1-43. Elsevier Applied Science, London, 1987.