Sugar free treats are healthy right?
WRONG!!! At least when it comes to dogs, cats, and ferrets, xylitol (an artificial sweetener) can be deadly when consumed, even in small amounts.
Why aren’t people poisoned by xylitol? In short, our human pancreas reacts to xylitol differently than a dog’s.
When both a human or dog eats a sugary substance, the pancreas (a small, squishy organ in the upper abdomen) releases insulin to counteract a higher circulating blood sugar level. However, when a human eats xylitol instead, the body doesn’t recognize it as real sugar, and therefore won’t flood the body with insulin. In contrast, if a dog eats xylitol, their body will “see” the xylitol as sugar, and their pancreas will overreact, releasing insulin to bring down a high blood sugar that doesn’t actually exist. This influx of unnecessary insulin rapidly drops the circulating blood sugar levels in the body and can lead to an extremely dangerous condition called hypoglycemia.
The Food and Drug Administration recently released a short video and article about xylitol toxicity to educate the public after a sad case of an owner sharing a xylitol based ice cream treat with their dog. (See article and video here:)
Paws Off Xylitol; It’s Dangerous for Dogs
For a quick summary:
Common places to find xylitol include mouthwashes, mints, chewing gum, low calorie baked goods, cough syrups, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, sugar-free PEANUT BUTTERS, sugar-free desserts, and “skinny” ice cream
Guard your pockets! -One of the most common patient histories are dogs that rummage through their owners’ purses or discarded laundry and eat forgotten packs of chewing gum!
Profound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) leading to seizures, severe lethargy and depression, vomiting, collapse, staggering
What to do if you think your dog may have ingested a product containing xylitol:
Don’t wait! The onset of symptoms is rapid (think less than an hour in some cases!) Contact your veterinarian right away! Better safe than sorry and the consequences of xylitol toxicity may be treated if strict monitoring and blood sugar level correction can occur rapidly after ingestion.