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Xylitol- the not-so-sweet sweetener that can kill your pet

Most everyone knows that chocolate is bad for your pet. There’s a long, long list of things that you should never give your pet- and chocolate is always near the top of that list. (If you didn’t know- chocolate is a huge no-no, and can kill your pet if they eat too much). But the focus of this article is to tell you about a sweet food additive that is just as bad as chocolate- and maybe even worse. That additive is Xylitol. This sugar substitute is also marketed and sold under the general term of “Birch Sugar”.

Xylitol kills or sickens close to 6,000 pets each year, and with the rise in Xylitol’s popularity, that number continues to grow.

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:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Chewing gum
  • Peanut butter
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar free breath mints
  • Fruit drinks
  • Jellies and jams
  • Cereals
  • 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:

  • Weakness
  • trembling
  • seizures
  • collapse

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.