Xylitol- the not-so-sweet sweetener that can kill your pet
Sometimes television news is slow to catch up to what we’ve been telling pet owners for quite some time- or maybe we weren’t telling the right people, or maybe we weren’t saying it loud enough. I’ve seen numerous reports on all of the news channels lately about the latest warnings about Xylitol (an artificial sweetener)- and how it’s bad for your pets. Maybe it’s just me, and after you’ve told enough people about something, you just assume everyone knows- like chocolate is bad for your pets. Yet, I still find some folks who don’t realize that chocolate is bad for your pets. So is Xylitol. In fact, Xylitol is actually worse for your pets, and it can kill them. Quickly.
At the end of the day, it’s my job to inform and educate- and not make assumptions about what anybody knows- so I apologize for doing that- and I promise not to do it again. As I research this topic, I have found that xylitol sickens or kills close to 6,000 pets each year, and the number is rising.
Back to the task at hand- Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can be found in lots of different products- ranging from chewing gum and toothpaste to peanut butter. It’s not in every single brand of these products- but if you’re watching your waistline and prefer low-calorie or sugar free versions of these products, there’s a chance that the sugar-free gum you’ve got has Xylitol in it. Just some of the products that may contain xylitol include:
- Chewing gum
- Peanut butter
- Sugar-free candy
- Sugar free breath mints
- Fruit drinks
- Jellies and jams
- Baked goods
- Sugar-free puddings and Jello
- Over the counter vitamin supplements
I’ve found a great resource showing what brands of these products contain Xylitol- that must be kept away from your pet: See what brands of products use xylitol as a sweetener.
When ingested by your pet, it causes a fast release of insulin, causing their blood sugar to drop. When your pet’s body experiences a rapid drop in blood sugar, they quickly become hypoglycemic- often in less than 30 minutes. If the dose is large enough, their liver will be damaged with tragic consequences.
It only takes .1 grams of xylitol per kg of body weight to cause hypoglycemia in your pet. So, if your pet weighs 10 pounds (4.54 kg) it would only take .5 grams of xylitol to cause them to become severely hypoglycemic. In many cases- that’s only one piece of gum! That’s right. One piece of gum containing xylitol can kill a small dog, or at the very least liver failure. That’s a lot less than a harmful dose of chocolate.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include:
If you suspect your pet has consumed anything containing xylitol, time is of the essence. Contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary facility immediately. Time is of the essence to reverse the effects of the hypoglycemia. It is possible (if not likely) that your pet will need to be hospitalized and monitored.
If you have sugar-free or low-calorie products in your home- check your pantry and start reading the labels. If you have these products- I suggest changing brands to a product that doesn’t contain xylitol. It may save your pet’s life.