What is Birch Sugar?
Birch sugar, also known as xylitol, is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in a variety of foods and beverages. It is derived from the bark of birch trees and is used in many products, including chewing gum, candy, baked goods, and oral hygiene products.
Although birch sugar is safe for human consumption in moderate amounts, it can be harmful to dogs, and there have been several cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs reported in the veterinary literature.
How is Birch Sugar Harmful to Dogs?
One of the reasons why birch sugar is harmful to dogs is that it can cause a rapid and significant increase in insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels in the body. When a dog ingests xylitol, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which can cause a surge in insulin levels that can lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels.
Even small amounts of xylitol can be dangerous for dogs.
Hypoglycemia can cause a variety of symptoms in dogs, including weakness, lethargy, seizures, and even coma.
Another reason why birch sugar is harmful to dogs is that it can cause liver damage. When dogs ingest xylitol, their bodies can convert it into compounds that can damage liver cells. This can lead to a condition known as acute hepatic necrosis, which is a potentially life-threatening liver disease.
Symptoms of acute hepatic necrosis include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and jaundice.
How Much Birch Sugar (Xylitol) is Toxic in Dogs?
The toxic dose of birch sugar for dogs is relatively low, with as little as 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight being enough to cause hypoglycemia, and as little as 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight being enough to cause liver damage. This means that even small amounts of xylitol can be dangerous for dogs, and pet owners should be careful to keep any products containing birch sugar out of reach of their pets.
What Foods is Birch Sugar Found?
Birch sugar can be found in a variety of foods, including chewing gum, candy, baked goods, and oral hygiene products. It is also used as a sweetener in some diet foods and beverages. While most human foods containing xylitol are clearly labeled as such, there are some products that may not be labeled, making it difficult for pet owners to know if they contain the sweetener.
This is why it is important for pet owners to read labels carefully and to be aware of the signs and symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs.
One study published in the Journal of Animal Science and Technology found that xylitol was a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gum, with concentrations ranging from 2.4% to 98.4% depending on the brand.
Another study published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care found that xylitol was a common ingredient in oral hygiene products such as toothpaste and mouthwash, with concentrations ranging from 1.6% to 33.3%.
Be Safe: Avoid Birch Sugar Around Pets
While birch sugar can be a safe and effective sugar substitute for humans, it is important to remember that it can be harmful to dogs, and pet owners should take steps to keep their pets safe from xylitol poisoning.
This includes reading labels carefully, keeping products containing birch sugar out of reach of pets, and being aware of the signs and symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs.
In conclusion, birch sugar is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in a variety of foods and beverages. While it is safe for human consumption in moderate amounts, it can be harmful to dogs, and there have been several cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs reported in the veterinary literature.
Because birch sugar (Xylitol) can cause a rapid and significant increase in insulin levels, so it is best to avoid foods that contain this artificial sweetener all together.
Curtis has been passionate about the health and welfare of animals since his first dog rescue.
After studying Sports Medicine & Biology at the University of Oregon, Curtis went on to excel in a career of Clinical Nutrition, later owning a health care supplement company serving private-practice physicians.
Known for his expansive knowledge of natural health and alternative medicine, Curtis believes that natural plant-based therapies can be applied to veterinary animal care which led him to study the science of Cannabinoid Medicine. His expertise in Functional Medicine led him to formulate a unique hemp-based canine care product, Canine Support Formula, fulfilling a dream to combine natural pet-care strategies with the new therapeutic potential of medical cannabis.
In reverence for his own dog, Parker, Curtis has dedicated his company–K9 Medibles–to improving the health and longevity of all dogs.
To learn more about Curtis and how K9 Medibles can help your dog, click HERE.