When I heard that the FDA issued an even stricter warning against xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in gums and some nut butters, I ran to my cabinets to see if my pup’s treats contained the dangerous ingredient. Peanut butter is after all, the go-to treat for most pet owners looking to hide a pill inside a tasty snack. Luckily, most peanut butters do not contain xylitol but some do, and it can be found in some other surprising food items as well.
So what’s the big deal with xylitol? It can cause your dog to become very ill and even cause death. Xylitol is a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol. The sweetener is present in many products and foods made for human use. However, when ingested by a dog, it can be dangerous.
Unlike humans, when a dog ingests the artificial sweetener, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The rapid absorption results in a quick release of insulin from the pancreas. This causes the dog to have a decrease in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) 10 to 60 minutes after eating xylitol. A rapid release of insulin in a dog could cause a seizure, liver failure or even death in some cases.
We know that some nut butters contain xylitol, but are there other human foods you should think twice about before feeding them to your pet? You bet. Xylitol is a main ingredient in a number of different foods (and products). Even if you aren’t giving these foods to your dog directly, you should be mindful of the access your dog has to these items. All dog owners know their pup will most likely put anything even remotely tasty in their mouth. Here are some other surprising items that may contain the deadly xylitol:
- Breath mints
- Sugar-free baked goods
- Cough syrup
- Children’s and adult chewable vitamins
- Nut butters
- Sugar-free pudding snacks or gelatin
- Sugar-free drinks
- Sugar-free condiments
It’s impossible to watch everything your dog eats, but you can make sure to check the labels on all foods that you are giving your pet. They are a part of your family, and it’s hard to deny pleading puppy dog eyes, but it only takes a few seconds to check the ingredient list. Keep any prepackaged foods or products that contain the artificial sweetener well out of your pet’s reach. Some dogs can reach counters and are quite resourceful when it comes to getting something they want. If you brush your dog’s teeth, only use toothpaste made specifically for dogs. Even when you are on a walk with your pooch, be vigilant with checking your surroundings. Remember, dogs will be dogs and will get into garbage, eat chewed-up gum on the ground or other food lying around.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning
If you suspect your pet ate something that contains xylitol, some common signs of poisoning include:
- Decreased activity
They symptoms typically show up 12 to 24 hours after consumption. If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. Your dog may need to be monitored for hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects.
The good news is if you get your pet to the vet immediately after consuming the artificial sweetener, they tend to be fine. However, play it safe and keep food containing xylitol out of your furbaby’s reach whenever possible.