(This is an updated version of this article. I originally posted it in 2015)
Lack of Awareness About Xylitol Poisoning
A Portland veterinarian is leading a campaign to educate dog owners about the danger xylitol poisoning poses to their pets.
Dr. Jason Nicholas also wants to convince companies to put warning labels on their products that contain it.
OregonLive said Dr. Nicholas “made it his mission to educate pet owners and enlist product manufacturers to include pet alerts” last August after he discovered that “some specialty nut butter companies were using xylitol as a sweetener.”
Most pet owners know that chocolate can sicken or kill dogs. But many don’t know that xylitol can be more dangerous to dogs as it’s 100 times more toxic than chocolate.
On his website PreventiveVet.com, Dr. Nicholas said that more than half of the people who took its Pet Safety Awareness Survey hadn’t heard of xylitol or the danger it poses to dogs.
Xylitol is “Highly Toxic”
Dr. Nicholas also said that the “general lack of awareness of xylitol and the danger it poses, coupled with the high toxic potency of xylitol in dogs” is huge problem that is getting bigger as more and more products contain it.
Dr. Nicholas’ concern is well-founded. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of calls the ASPCA’s poison center took 82 call regarding xylitol poisoning in 2004 after receiving 82 calls that year. In 2014, it received 3,727 calls, with at least 11 fatalities. That’s an increase of almost 450%.
The Pet Poison Helpline notes that signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include “weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremoring, seizures, jaundice, malaise, black-tarry stool, and even coma or death.”
Most Common Culprit: Sugar Free Gum
The Wall Street Journal reported that that while many cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs is caused by sugar free gum, “veterinarians say some of the most serious poisonings result from dogs ingesting an entire jar of xylitol-sweetened vitamins or homemade baked goods made with bulk xylitol.”
Peanut butter and tooth paste are 2 other common culprits.
Dr. Amy Koenigshof, an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, told the Journal that many experts consider Ice Breakers Ice Cubes the most dangerous sugar free gum to dogs as some flavors contain 8 to 10 times more xylitol than other brands.
These Terms Mean a Product Could Contain Xylitol
On his website, Dr. Nicholas noted that these are some common marketing buzz terms that you can look for on the front of the product packaging that might indicate that you’ll find xylitol in the ingredient list:
- Sugar Free
- Reduced Sugar
- All Natural – No Sugar Added
- No Artificial Sweeteners
- Naturally Sweetened
- 100% Natural
- Safe for Sugar-Controlled Diets
- Safe for Diabetics
- Aspartame Free
- Sweetened with Birch Sugar
- Low Carb, low cal, low calorie products
- Helps Fight Cavities
- Cavity Fighting
- Tooth Friendly
His website also has extensive lists of products that contain xylitol.
Keep It Out of Reach!
The easiest way to prevent your dog from ingesting products containing xylitol is to simply keep them out of reach.
Don’t leave food containing xylitol around your kitchen where your counter-surfing dog can snag it.
If you keep sugarfree gum or mints in your backpack/purse hang it up.
Store all bathroom products with xylitol in drawers and cabinets.
I can personally attest to how easy it is overlook a situation where you dog can easily grab something with xylitol.
I usually have sugarless gum on my desk. One morning I found that during the night our cat swatted it onto the floor. Now I keep it in a drawer.
Protecting Your Dog from Xylitol Poisoning
Here’s a summary of Dr. Nicholas’ tips to protect your dog from xylitol poisoning:
- Be careful where you put your purse, backpack, briefcase, or any other bag that may contain your gum, mints or even lip balm.
- If you do any sugar-free baking in your household, or if anyone in the home is diabetic, be extremely careful where you store your baked goods and bulk sweeteners.
- If you brush your dog’s teeth, be sure to use only pet-specific toothpastes.
- Check the ingredient label of any product you buy, keep in your purse, pockets or around your house.
Dr. Nicholas currently has two petitions asking the Food and Drug Administration and companies that manufacture products with xylitol to put warning labels on products that contain it. Click here if you would like to sign them.
And here’s a story KIRO TV ran about the danger xylitol poses to dogs.