Did you know that a sugar substitute called xylitol is more toxic to dogs than nearly any other food product…including chocolate? Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that is found in many products made for humans. It is commonly found in sugar-free gums, mints, and dental care products. It’s also showing up in foods like sugar-free baked goods, children’s chewable vitamins, and some brands of peanut butter. The use of xylitol in peanut butter is particularly dangerous because peanut butter is often fed to dogs.
While safe for humans, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, and can even be fatal. Pet health experts are warning that with the increased use of xylitol in human products, cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs are on the rise, too. In fact, the ASPCA’s poison control hotline gets an average of 10 xylitol-related calls a day from dog owners.
Xylitol is a powerful stimulator of insulin release in dogs. This means that even if your dog ingests a small amount, it will cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Moderate to severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, and even death in as little as half an hour. Small amounts of xylitol also can cause severe liver failure (acute hepatic necrosis) in dogs, which can also lead to death.
What’s a small amount? It varies by the size of the dog, but a toxic dose of xylitol for a small 10 pound dog can be as little as .45 grams for hypoglycemia and 2.3 grams for liver failure. Experts warn that as little as 3 pieces of sugar-free gum could be fatal for a 10 pound dog.
What can you do to prevent your dog from getting xylitol poisoning? Here’s some advice:
- Read the ingredient label of any food product (such as peanut butter or baked desserts) that you might give to your dog.
- Be careful not to leave things like sugar-free gum, mints, and desserts lying around where you dog can get to them.
- Diabetics who consume sugar-free products should be especially careful about reading labels and keeping their food away from the dog.
- Never use human toothpaste when brushing your dog’s teeth. Always buy toothpaste made for dogs.
- Keep your dog on leash when out for a walk so she doesn’t scavenge xylitol-containing products from the ground.
- Check out this list of products that contain xylitol (including peanut and other nut butters) to make sure your dog is safe.
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