Rating: Cut back
Sugar-free sweetener: Chewing gum, packaged sweeteners, other sugar-free foods.
The sweetest of the sugar alcohols, xylitol is about as sweet as sugar. Like most other sugar alcohols (maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol), xylitol is not well absorbed by the body, so it has fewer calories than table sugar (although slightly more than most other sugar alcohols). Also, it does not promote tooth decay. Large amounts may have a laxative effect, leading to diarrhea.
While xylitol is harmless to humans, even small amounts (such as in several sticks of chewing gum) can kill dogs. Dogs quickly absorb xylitol into their bloodstream, which may trigger a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. The insulin, in turn, may cause a rapid, steep decrease in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes. Untreated, that can quickly be life-threatening. Xylitol also causes fatal liver disease in dogs.