The popular sugar substitute, xylitol, has been in use for decades as a sugar substitute by dieters trying to shed a few pounds. While the dietary product helps in the fight against the “Battle of the Bulge,” it can be deadly to dogs, according to the FDA in a statement released on Thursday.
Besides being found in some brands of sugarless gum, xylitol is also an ingredient of several other food products to help make them tastier and be a safe alternative to sugar for people who are diabetic. Some other food products that can contain xylitol and should be kept away from canines include toothpaste, breath mints, children’s and adult chewable vitamins, sugar-free candy, some baked goods, mouthwash, and cough syrup.
A number of reports of dogs being poisoned by xylitol has caused the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to act and issue a statement about the dangers eating products containing the sweetener has on dogs. According to the agency, the number of xylitol-related poisoning cases people have called the involving dogs is on the rise. In 2004, the agency received 82 phone calls about dogs poisoned by xylitol. By contrast, in 2004, the agency received over 3,700 calls regarding canines being poisoned by products containing xylitol.
Also, according to Fortune magazine, last year, the Pet Poison Hotline received 2,900 xylitol-poisoning calls. That is up drastically from the 300 xylitol-poisoning calls it received in 2009.
Xylitol is definitely not a dog’s best friend, because dogs cannot process it like humans can, according to CBS News. In dogs, xylitol is quickly absorbed into their bloodstream and stimulates “a potent release of insulin from the pancreas” which leads to a rapidly lowered blood sugar level, with potentially deadly consequences. The food sweetener does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas in humans.
Dogs who eat products containing xylitol might exhibit symptoms like lack of coordination, seizures, vomiting, and a sudden lowering of blood sugar, staggering, decreased activity, and collapse. According to U.S. News & World Report, canines who have these symptoms should be taken to an emergency animal hospital or vet immediately. It can sometimes take 12 to 24 hours before the side effects of xylitol poisoning appear in dogs. It is not yet known if cats are affected adversely by consuming products with xylitol in them.
Most dog owners know about the potential dangers that chocolate can pose for dogs, so they make sure that they do not put chocolate anywhere that dogs can get at it. However, many dog owners do not yet know about the dangers that other food products can pose, like xylitol. According to Dr. Ashley Gallagher of the Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C., dog owners should be just as vigilant about products containing xylitol. Gallagher said, “You have to really watch them.”
Xylitol can be deadly to dogs, so it is best to store not only food products that might contain the ingredient, such as sugarless gum, where canines cannot get access to it. The same goes for products like toothpaste that contains the sweetener. One should never use human toothpaste to brush a dog’s teeth. Instead, only use toothpaste made for dogs. Even some varieties of nut butter can contain xylitol. It pays to read the ingredients of products and if xylitol is listed, store the product somewhere safe, away from dogs. For more CDA News, follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
By John Samuels