Pet Safety: Xylitol in “Sugar Free” Treats

Growing up, my grandparent’s car was a greater treasure chest than my mom’s kitchen. Why? Packets of gum stashed everywhere. Gum in the glove compartment, gum in the back of the passenger seat, gum in the cupholders, gum gum gum! I’m sure my dog Merry would have thought the same thing. However if they’d lived long enough to meet him and have him in their car, that could have been a potentially deadly treasure trove for him. Why? Because my grandparent’s only ever bought sugar free gum that almost always contained xylitol.

Xylitol is perfectly harmless towards humans and used as an artificial sweetener in a variety of different products including chewing gum and even peanut butter. However it is extremely dangerous for dogs! Xylitol can cause dog’s blood sugar to dramatically decrease, causing potentially fatal hypoglycemia or liver failure. Symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include weakness, lethargy, discoordination, vomiting, and potentially seizures. If you notice your dog having these symptoms, especially if you realize they’ve just consumed something with xylitol, you should immediately call your vet (Source: Pet Poison Helpline). There isn’t documented evidence to say one way or the other if xylitol is toxic to cats and other pets as well, but let’s just say sugar free gum ain’t the best way to treat Mr. Whisker’s bad breath anyways.

Since prevention is the best medicine of all, make sure that you aren’t putting your dog into a situation where potentially dangerous treats abound and be aware of the gum that you buy for yourself and making sure that it is in a safe place. Just a few sticks of Orbit sugar free gum could be enough to put your precious pup in danger. Other common sources of xylitol poisoning in dogs include other “sugar free” products such as mints, toothpastes, pudding, and peanut butter. If something says “sugar free” you should check that its ingredients don’t include “xylitol” or “sugar alcohols” which can often be xylitol.

Peanut butter is an especially insidious food to include xylitol because so many of us love using it as an easy treat for our pets or a way to easily get medications down. If you’re giving your dog peanut butter make sure that you check the ingredients of the brand that you’re using. It’s best to use as plain of a peanut butter product as possible anyways because added sugar and salt is also unhealthy for dogs, although it probably won’t kill them quickly like xylitol can. Merry’s favorite brand of peanut butter is Adam’s 100% Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter: Unsalted.


More Information:

Snopes: Xylitol Danger

VCA Hospitals: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs