The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released an official warning to dog owners on the dangers of xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many household products. While safe for humans, the ingredient can be fatal for their furry companion.
The toxicity of xylitol for dogs has been known for some time, but this is the first official advisory from the FDA. The warning comes amid an increase in the number of dogs accidentally poisoned by xylitol – a figure that has increased from 82 cases in 2004 to more than 3,700 in 2014.
Products that contain xylitol include sugar-free gum, certain baked goods, cough syrup, chocolate bars, children’s and adult chewable vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
If ingested by your pet pooch, the sweetener can cause their pancreas to rapidly release insulin, dropping their blood sugar to dangerously low levels – all within 10 to 60 minutes of consumption.
“In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas,” wrote the FDA in a statement. This results in hypoglycemia, a possibly life-threatening condition if not treated.
Depending on the amount consumed, side effects can take up to 12 to 24 hours to appear, so it is best to stay vigilant during this time. Symptoms to look for include vomiting, weakness, staggering, lack of coordination, collapse, and seizures. If your dog has consumed xylitol, take your pet to the nearest vet or emergency animal hospital.
Other items that dogs should not eat include grapes, raisins, alcohol, onion, garlic, macadamia nuts, avocados, and caffeine. As a side note, the FDA said they do not know whether xylitol is poisonous to cats, as they tend to show disdain for sweets.
The takeaway: There is nothing sweet about giving your dog artificial sweetener, so keep your gum and chocolate bars out of paws reach.