Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used as an alternative sweetener in many foods, including some brands of peanut butter. Most humans don’t have any problems with it, but when it comes to xylitol and dogs, that’s a very different story.
But let’s back up a minute so you can better understand why xylitol is so dangerous for your canine companions.
You might remember from biology classes that insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas in response to eating food, particularly those high in carbohydrates known as sugars. Insulin helps to open the gates in our cells and drives the sugar into the cells so our bodies can use the fuel for energy. So when we eat, our blood sugar goes up, along with an increase in insulin.
Dogs digestive systems work in much the same way and they produce insulin as well. So far, so good.
But let’s look now at what happens when a dog ingests xylitol.
Unlike humans, dogs are extremely sensitive to even small amounts of xylitol. When a dog eats a food that contains xylitol, such as some brands of peanut butter, the dog’s pancreas releases a massive amount of insulin.
The insulin in turn causes a rapid and precipitous crash in the dog’s blood sugar and you may notice your dog staggering, vomiting and exhibiting extreme weakness. If the dog’s blood sugar gets low enough, they may even lapse into a coma and some dogs have actually gone into liver failure and died.
Cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs are on the rise, in part because there are so many more products that now contain the chemical. These include:
Grocery Items – such as ketchup and peanut butter, which many pet owners like to use as a treat or to hide medications.
Sugar Free Baked Goods – such as cupcakes and pastries
Gum – Orbitz, Trident and Stride brands. But please check the label on the brand of gum you have.
Dental Health Products – many mouthwashes and toothpastes contain xylitol.
Human medications – mostly meltables such as gummies and liquids.
Beauty products – lotions and even deodorants.
If you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol, call your vet immediately for advice. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms, you may want to give her something really sweet like some honey or maple syrup, to keep her blood sugar levels up until you can get her to the veterinarian’s office. Do not try to force any liquids or food if your dog is comatose, as she can get the material into her lungs.
The best advice is to rid your home of all products containing xylitol, as it’s just too dangerous for dogs in any amount.