This Artificial Sweetener Could Kill Your Dog, FDA Warns

Photo (cc) by ETersigni

Chocolate isn’t the only candy you need to keep away from Fido.

The artificial sweetener xylitol, often found in sugar-free gum and candy, can be deadly to your dog, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns in a recent consumer alert.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has received several reports of dogs being poisoned by xylitol over in recent years.

In addition to gum and candy, xylitol can be found in:

  • Breath mints
  • Baked goods
  • Cough syrup
  • Children’s and adult chewable vitamins
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste

In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. In dogs, however, xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can stimulate a potent release of insulin, the FDA explains:

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening…

If you suspect your dog ate something containing xylitol, you should take the pooch to the vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately, even if you don’t see adverse effects right away, FDA veterinarian Martine Hartogensis says. In some cases, adverse effects do not occur for up to 12 to 24 hours, so your dog might need to be monitored.

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Symptoms associated with hypoglycemia:
    • Decreased activity
    • Weakness
    • Staggering
    • Lack of coordination
    • Collapse
    • Seizures

To prevent your dog from getting ahold of products containing xylitol, the FDA suggests that you:

  • Keep products that contain xylitol (including those you don’t think of as food, such as toothpaste) well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that some dogs are adept at counter surfing.
  • Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.
  • If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a vehicle for pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol.

As for cats, the FDA reports that xylitol toxicity has not been documented. “They appear to be spared, at least in part, by their disdain for sweets,” the alert reads.

How do you protect your dog from possibly poisonous products in your home? Share your tips in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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