No Sugar Coating: Products Sweetened With Xylitol Toxic To Dogs
The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today reminded animal lovers and pet parents that xylitol, a sweetener found in certain sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods, toothpaste, and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for pets. Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Ill. managed approximately 2,690 cases of accidental xylitol ingestion. This is a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of cases involving xylitol-containing products from just three years ago, and 30 times as many cases from 2004, when the Center managed less than 100 incidents of xylitol ingestion.
“One explanation as to the increase in the number of pets accidentally exposed to xylitol may simply be an increase in availability,” says Mindy Bough, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “Xylitol seems to be becoming more popular in food products because it is a useful sugar substitute for diabetics and has been shown to decrease the development of cavities in humans.”
The products that contain xylitol are most commonly sugar-free chewing gums and candies, but the sweetener can also be found in mints, baked goods, vitamins, toothpaste, and xylitol powder, which is used as an alternative to conventional table sugar.
According to Dr. Eric Dunayer, Senior Toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs ingesting items sweetened with xylitol could develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. “These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately.” Dr. Dunayer also states that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.
While it was previously thought that only large concentrations of xylitol could result in problems, this no longer appears to be the case. “We seem to be learning new information with each subsequent case we manage,” says Dr. Dunayer. “Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients. However, we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener.” Dr. Dunayer also says that with smaller concentrations of xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed as much as 12 hours after ingestion. “Therefore, it is important to remember that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won’t develop later on.”
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center strongly urges pet owners to be especially diligent in keeping candy, gum, or other foods containing xylitol out of the reach of pets. As with any potentially toxic substance, should accidental exposures occur, it is important to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org/apcc.