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Sugarless Products Can Be Dangerous for Dogs
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/15/2017, edited: 09/27/2021
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Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is frequently used in chewing gum, candies, baked goods, chewable vitamins, and other products typically marketed as sugar-free, no sugar added, and naturally sweetened. These products are helpful for people trying to cut down on their sugar intake, but xylitol is poisonous to your dog.
Because it is widely used as a sugar substitute in a variety of products that may be accessible to your dog, care must be taken to ensure your dog does not ingest products that contain xylitol. Read on to find out more.
What Products Contain Xylitol?
Because xylitol is beneficial in its use with humans, we are seeing more and more items daily that contain some measure of it. Xylitol is contained in many foods that are safe for diabetics, like baked pies, cakes, and muffins. These desserts are advertised as sugar-free and also include types of ice cream. Other products that may contain xylitol are:
■ Sugarless gum brands like Trident, Orbit and Ice Breakers
■ Cough medicine
■ Artificial sweetener that can be added to baked goods in place of sugar
■ Mints and sugarless candy
■ Toothpaste and mouthwash
■ Dietary supplements
■ Smoking cessation gum
■ Some peanut and nut butters
Why is Xylitol Dangerous to my Dog?
Unfortunately, common household items may be left lying around your home because you are unaware of the dangers to your dog. More and more products contain xylitol. The incidence of toxicity from a canine ingesting something containing the sweetener has risen by the thousands per year annually since 2014when records were first kept by the ASPCA-Animal Poison Control Center.
Xylitol causes a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This causes blood sugar levels to plummet, resulting in hypoglycemia, which if left untreated, can result in death. As well, the consumption of Xylitol can lead to liver failure and death if toxicity is not treated and supportive care provided quickly.
Pet owners should be aware that xylitol is often marketed under other names. If an item is described as low calorie, low carb, or safe for sugar-controlled diets, read the label carefully to verify the ingredients. Other terms to look out for are reduced sugar and naturally sweetened.
What are the Signs of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs?
Symptoms of xylitol toxicity include weakness and lethargy, vomiting, tremors, loss of coordination, staggering, and seizures. Diarrhea and collapse may also be seen. These signs may appear immediately or within 12-24 hours after ingestion of xylitol. Sometimes, liver failure occurs without hypoglycemia preceding it.
Even a small amount of the sweetener, such as that contained in gum or candy, can be harmful or even kill a dog, depending on the dog's size. If your dog ingests xylitol, veterinary treatment is essential. Xylitol is absorbed very rapidly. Don't take a chance and wait for symptoms to start; it may be too late to save your dog.
Transport your dog to a veterinarian where blood work can be conducted to check blood sugar levels and liver function. Supportive care and monitoring will be conducted, which will include IV fluids, blood sugar monitoring, and medication to protect the liver and address hypoglycemia. With prompt treatment, most dogs will recover, but if liver failure has begun the prognosis is less certain.
How Can I Protect my Dog From Xylitol Poisoning?
Pet owners should take precautions to prevent xylitol poisoning. Be sure to check ingredients on sugarless products and avoid products with xylitol. Other sugar-free products made with sorbitol are considered safe for dogs. If having products containing xylitol is necessary for someone in your home, keep them out of your dog's reach and in secure containers. Toothpaste can contain xylitol, so when brushing your dog’s teeth, always use toothpaste formulated for dogs, not human toothpaste.
You should always be aware of what ingredients consumable products in your home contain. Many products that are safe for people can be deadly to your dog. Ensure that your furry buddy only ingests products that are appropriate for dogs by keeping consumables not intended for your companion out of reach.