Coventry Animal Hospital has recently had some clients concerned about peanut butter being toxic to their dogs and we wanted to address this concern.
Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that is commonly used as a sweetener. It has an anti-bacterial benefit in the mouth and is used to help fight cavities. Xylitol is found in many sugar-free gums, as well as mints, toothpastes and mouthwashes and even lip balm. It is also becoming more widely used in sugar-free baked goods, candies, supplements and some peanut butter. Beware, as items are not always clearly labeled as containing xylitol.
Normally when a dog eats food, its pancreas releases insulin, which signals the body to remove sugar from the blood stream and store it in their liver. Xylitol causes the pancreas to remove sugar from the circulation but does not offer calories. Xylitol results in severely low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia: weakness, wobbling, tremors, seizures or coma.
Xylitol can also cause serious damage to the liver. This leads to sudden liver failure. The liver is responsible for making factors that allow blood to clot – without these, patients can experience internal bleeding.
As little as a stick of gum could be toxic to a small dog. If you suspect any amount of ingestion, call a vet clinic immediately. Effects of xylitol can be seen as early as 30 minutes after ingestion.
If treated promptly, the dog can be made to vomit up the xylitol. To correct low blood sugar, it is recommended to maintain the dog in hospital on intravenous dextrose. Bloodwork is recommended to check its liver function. Despite treatment, some dogs still do not survive.
There are no known reports of xylitol poisoning in cats, so it is unknown whether it is toxic to felines.
Use of xylitol for oral health
Pet toothpaste does not contain xylitol or fluoride and is safe for dogs to ingest. There are water additives for cats and dogs that are added to drinking water at a prescribed dilution; this weak dilution is safe to be swallowed. If you are questioning whether a dental product is safe for your pet, please ask one of our veterinary team members.