We’ve spoken before about the importance of finding a good artificial sweetener for foods. We have developed a taste for sweet foods, and it’s hard to control sugar cravings. But the presence of sugar in our foods leads to tooth decay, obesity, and health conditions like diabetes.
In the quest for a good sugar substitute, xylitol is one of the leading candidates. Unfortunately, xylitol, while safe for humans, can be deadly to dogs and other pets. The FDA released a video about this danger, which includes helpful tips about preventing xylitol poisoning to your dog.
Why Xylitol Is Deadly to Dogs
Xylitol is a substance that is very similar to sugar. That’s part of the reason why it’s used. It can fool our taste buds into thinking it’s sugar. It also fools oral bacteria–they take in the compound even though they can’t digest it. This causes them to essentially starve to death with full bellies, helping to protect you from cavities and gum disease.
The problem is that the digestive system of dogs, cats, and other pets are not as good at distinguishing xylitol from sugar as ours is. When dogs, cats, and other pets eat xylitol, it triggers them to release insulin. However, because the digestive system can’t break down xylitol, there’s no increase in blood sugar. That means that when the liver and other cells remove sugar from the blood in response to insulin, the result can be very low blood sugar. Sometimes, this can be fatal.
Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning
The FDA video highlighted some of the more common symptoms a pet might experience if they ingest xylitol. These include:
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Low energy or depressed mood
- Passing out and not waking up
These symptoms can appear in as little as 15 minutes after eating a product that contains xylitol. In addition, the FDA has had reports of pets dying in less than an hour after eating xylitol. So if your pet shows these symptoms and you think they’ve eaten xylitol, you should contact your vet, emergency room, or animal poison control center immediately.
How to Avoid Xylitol Poisoning for Your Pet
Fortunately, the FDA video also contains some tips for helping you to keep your pet from experiencing xylitol poisoning. These include:
- Keep xylitol-containing products away from pets
- Only use pet toothpaste for your pet
- When using peanut butter as a treat or vehicle for pills for your pet–check the label
The FDA notes that it’s important to keep xylitol-containing products away from your pet. This includes products that you don’t think of as food, such as gum or toothpaste. Dogs don’t know it’s not food, and they will eat it anyway if it tastes good.
Xylitol is a good ingredient in human toothpaste, but it’s not right for pets. That’s why you should always use pet toothpaste when brushing the teeth of your dog or cat.
Many dogs love peanut butter, which makes it a good treat for them. And because it’s sticky, it’s a great way to give your dog a pill. But some peanut butters contain xylitol. Check your label before you give it to your dog.
Safe Preventive Dentistry
At the River Edge Dental Center for General & Cosmetic Dentistry, we believe that preventive dentistry is the best way to help our patients get and maintain healthy smiles. We also believe that there’s no reason anyone else in your family, especially pets and children, should have to suffer for your oral health. That’s why we make sure to give you detailed instructions on the safe use and proper storage of all oral health and cosmetic dentistry products we give you.