Xylitol is a sugar substitute that has been growing in popularity in recent years – it is now found in over 700 human products! Although considered extremely safe for people, this sweetener is one substance that can make your pets sick – and may even kill them.
If you’ve ever reached for a spoonful of peanut butter to treat your dog, read on. Xylitol and peanut butter are a common combination, and you need to know if other items in your home contain this secret ingredient.
What is Xylitol?
Originally discovered in 1891, Xylitol is a substance derived from fruit and vegetable fibers. It first gained popular use in Finland during World War II when sugar was scarce, it is now manufactured from xylan, a product found in hardwood trees and corn cobs.
Today, Xylitol is used for weight loss food items since it is very sweet yet contains a fraction of the calories of sugar. It is also becoming common in oral health products since it reduces mouth bacteria’s ability to produce teeth harming acids.
Xylitol Toxicity in Pets
Make no mistake, Xylitol is toxic to pets. When dogs or cats consume it, it causes a massive insulin release from the pancreas. This in turn causes an extreme dip in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which can result in weakness, trembling, seizures, and collapse.
The first sign of Xylitol toxicity in pets may be seen anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours after ingesting the product. Vomiting is often the first sign. In large doses, Xylitol can cause acute liver failure (hepatic necrosis), followed by death.
Dogs are usually the main culprits of dietary indiscretion, and therefore the more common victims of Xylitol toxicity. Cats are just as susceptible to the toxic effects, but they are more discriminate in what they eat and rarely consume toxic amounts of Xylitol.
Xylitol and Peanut Butter…. and Beyond
There are currently 5 brands of peanut butter than contain Xylitol. They are:
- Go Nuts, Co.
- Krush Nutrition
- Nuts ‘N More
- No Cow (Previously D’s Naturals)
However, even though Xylitol and peanut butter made the national news cycle, there are hundreds more products that contain the product. Before you race through your home in a panic looking at labels (and we encourage you to do just that!), here’s a head start on where to look.
- Peanut butter
- Sugar free candy
- Sugar free gum
- Ice cream
- Jello and pudding
- Jam and jelly
- Sugar free breath mints
- Nasal spray
- Nicotine gum
- Energy drinks
- Vitamins, especially children’s vitamins
- Digestive aids (Beano, antacids)
- Over the counter medications, syrups and suspensions, sleep aids
- Body and facial creams
- Other personal care products
Food products are regulated to list ingredients in order of predominance by weight so you can often easily see if food items contain Xylitol. But drugs and other personal care products don’t fall under these guidelines, and Xylitol may be listed under “inactive ingredients” underneath the main ingredient list.
Xylitol Toxicity Treatment
If your pet consumes a product containing Xylitol, consider it a life-threatening emergency. Bring them in to see us right away. If it’s after hours, go to the nearest veterinary emergency hospital to seek immediate treatment for your pet.
It’s very helpful for you to bring in the wrapper (s) that the procyt came in to assist us in determining how much Xylitol your pet ate. Treatment will depend upon how much Xylitol your pet ingested and when.
Inducing vomiting may be indicated if the pet has eaten Xylitol within the past 30 minutes (before it leaves the stomach). If longer than that, treatment may also need to include:
- Hospitalization with 24 hour monitoring
- IV fluids
- IV dextrose
- Other medications to protect the liver
- Blood monitoring
- Blood transfusion
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. Bayshore Animal Hospital and Avian Practice is happy to help answer your pet health questions. Together we can make sure our pets are safe and healthy in our homes, with a little extra attention to Xylitol and where it is found.