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Xylitol – A Sweet Treat for You, A Danger To Your Dog

Friday, January 01, 2016

Christina Maglaras, DVM
Practice limited to Emergency/Critical Care
Garden State Veterinary Specialists


It seems like everyone with dogs is aware of certain household toxins, such as chocolate and human medications, posing as threats to your canine companions. More worrisome, are the toxins that almost all homes contain, but few people are aware of. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is used in many products, designed for human use. Desirable properties of xylitol include its use as a low calorie sweetener, it induces very little insulin release in humans (i.e. diabetic patients), and it also holds some antibacterial properties. The major sources of xylitol exposure for dogs are food, dental or medical products. Xylitol has been deemed safe for human and feline consumption, but can be a problem for your dog.

Initially, exposures to xylitol in dogs were from sugar-free chewing gums, however, now many foods contain xylitol. Many low carb foods including breads, candies, gums, desserts, have xylitol as the selected sweetener. In recent months, it was discovered that xylitol was found in several brands of human peanut butter, a treat commonly given to dogs. Essentially, this toxin is everywhere, and not just in chewing gum. What is even more worrisome is that the FDA no longer requires xylitol be listed as an active ingredient on the label of products. It is likely often on the label in gums and sugar-free baked goods. However, if it is a medication or dental product, xylitol may be considered an ‘inactive ingredient’ and thus not required to be listed within the ingredients.

Xylitol has a wide margin of safety in mammals (including humans and cats) with the exception of dogs. It requires a very small amount of a product containing xylitol, to cause signs of toxicity in dogs. For example, just a few pieces of sugar -free gum, can cause your 30 pound dog’s blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels, which can cause seizures. Did your dog eat the whole pack of gum? Well, that will cause liver failure, which, if not treated in time, will cost your dog his or her life. Unfortunately, this toxin is fast-acting, and can cause damage within 20 minutes of ingestion, but onset can be delayed for up to 48 hours in certain situations. Who knew that something so little and so tasty, could be so deadly to your dog?

The best course of action is prevention. Keep chewing gum and medications locked away. Keep purses and bags zipped up and stored in a closet or on a coat hook, away from kids and dogs. If there are sugar-free candies and baked goods in the house, be sure that you do not share with your dog. If you know that your dog ate a product containing xylitol, do not delay; contact a poison control center or your veterinarian immediately! For further information, www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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