Low-calorie sweetener used in mints, toothpaste, baked goods can kill dogs
The FDA is ramping up warnings about a common sweetener that can be toxic to dogs.
Xylitol, a type of sweetener found in many sugar-free gums and other products, can have devastating consequences if ingested by a dog, the agency said in a statement issued Thursday.
The FDA warning, titled “Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off,” was issued Thursday by the agency as a “consumer update.” A prior FDA warning, issued in 2011 by the agency’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, briefly warned of potential illness in dogs and ferrets from eating xylitol.
Dogs often eat foods and other items that their owners don’t intend. Ingesting just a few pieces of gum can poison even a large dog, experts say, with effects including low blood sugar, seizures, coma, liver damage and possibly death.
The FDA also called attention to the inclusion of xylitol in some nut butters. Owners often give peanut butter to their pets as a treat to get them to take medication.
“We love that [the FDA warning] contains better, more direct language,” said Dr. Jason Nicholas, a Portland, Ore., veterinarian who runs a website, PreventiveVet.com, which has called for more action on xylitol poisonings.
Dr. Nicholas said he hopes the FDA will require that food packaging include the weight or amount of xylitol per serving, and a clear symbol or text warning of the danger xylitol poses to dogs.
Food makers have said their products are properly labeled and intended for human consumption, and should be kept safely away from pets.
“We hear from pet owners all the time that they had no idea that xylitol was so toxic,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. Her center reported 2,900 xylitol-poisoning calls last year, up from 300 in 2009. So far this year, such calls have increased again by 15% over 2015.
Toronto Emergency Veterinary Hospital urges “fast and aggressive” treatment by a vet in any case of xylitol poisoning. Take the package of whatever the dog ate with you, so the vet can assess the amount of xylitol ingested, it advises.
According to the veterinary hospital, symptoms will develop within 15 to 30 minutes and include:
Unco-ordination or difficulty walking or standing.
Depression or lethargy.
The FDA offers these additional tips to keep your pup safe:
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.