Xylitol is natural sweeter that has made breaking away from sugar easier. Those on low-carbohydrate diets may see the sugar alcohol in many purchased foods, and even those who don’t pay much attention to it, may be surprised to see it on quite a few food labels. However, the increased prevalence of xylitol in human foods raises concerns for dog parents.
Some Xylitol Containing Products
- PUR Gum — One of the many chewing gum brands to contain xylitol, as it’s great for teeth and an alternative to aspartame.
- Store-Bought Baked Goods — "Low carb” cookies and even mixes may be culprits.
- Peanut Butter or Nut Butter — Some blends contain sugar alcohol, so it’s incredibly important to check labels since peanut butter is often used in homemade dog treat recipes.
- Jams — Specifically, Xyloburst Jam. The name gives it away, but other jams might contain the sweetener as well.
- Mints — Spry and Thrive Market both produce xylitol mints, which again, are very common given they are better for human oral health.
- Toothpaste and Oral Care — Pets can easily get a hold of a tube of toothpaste. Some manufacturers are forgoing fluoride, opting for xylitol. Natural toothpastes especially, are often sources, as well as mouthwash.
The Concern For Dogs
Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs and two things can happen when pups consume the sugar alcohol:
- Blood sugar can drop dangerously low, very quickly. Dog’s process xylitol differently than humans and excess insulin can be released into the bloodstream. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can cause seizures and loss of consciousness that can result in death.
- Liver damage. While considered a slightly less threat, Xylitol can cause cellular damage within the liver.
What should you do if your dog consumes xylitol?
If Fido gets a hold of the gum in your purse, and your heart sinks to your feet when you catch him snacking on a few pieces. Stay as calm as possible and proceed with the following:
- Quickly remove the gum while gauging to the best of your ability how much was consumed.
- Head to the vet immediately, as they will induce vomiting via oral hydrogen peroxide administration.
- The vet will begin monitoring blood sugar levels while possibly adding on liver protective medications.
Each year over 100,000 pets are inadvertently exposed to toxins, resulting in calls to poison control centers or visits to veterinary hospitals. These pet poisoning prevention tips can help you reduce those chances. Swift actions are vital as the xylitol will start absorbing quickly.
Xylitol Poisoning Prevention
Keeping xylitol away from dogs is the best prevention and here are some tips:
- Childproof bottles can be a good place to store gum or candies. Remove labels from old prescription bottles and voila. This still isn’t totally dog-proof for extra aggressive chewers.
- Stick with tried and true dog treats and food. If there is any question, don’t give it to them.
- Keep bathrooms off-limits. Teach the kids to keep doors shut at all times. There are way too many harmful things, from medications and cleaners, that are in bathrooms anyway.
- Always stay in puppy proof mode. It’s easier to just reverse everything in the house for future pups or even kids. Cleaners, medications, chemicals, and xylitol products can now and forever stay in out-of-reach cabinets versus lower storage spots.
- Most obviously, don’t buy it. Ask your dentist about safer alternatives. As of now, most natural, sugar-free gum is xylitol-based.
There are a lot of things dogs shouldn’t have, but xylitol can be immediately dangerous. We all make mistakes, so just act quickly if it happens to your baby. Prevention is everything, so it’s probably best to just rid the home of the ingredient. Now let’s push for change, and maybe manufacturers can come up with puppy-safe gum and sugar-free products.
Editor’s Note: Looking for spooky fun for the whole family—including your pup—this Halloween? These tips can help you keep your pup safe and included in the holiday festivities!
Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.
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