ALERT: Xylitol Is Toxic to Dogs and Found in Many Products (Including Some Peanut Butters!)

November 19th, 2015 by Daniel Mudrick

Do you check the ingredients of people-foods before you give them to your dog? You may not think that something like peanut butter could ever harm your dog, but it absolutely can – depending on the ingredients!

Xylitol, a sweetener that is being added to more and more foods, is an ingredient you need to check the labels for if you’re going to feed something to your dog.

What Is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener made from birch tree bark. We’re seeing it added to more foods now as North Americans try to cut back on the amount of sugar we’re consuming.

While it’s seemingly great for people – it is better for people with diabetes, it can reduce dental cavities, and it has fewer calories than sugar – it’s toxic to dogs.

What Happens If My Dog Eats It?

Your dog’s reaction to xylitol will depend on how much they eat. However, even just one piece of gum can have enough of the ingredient to cause a serious reaction.

Hypoglycemia: Dogs who ingest more than 0.1 grams of xylitol per kg may develop life-threatening low blood sugar after just 10 to 15 minutes. You can usually notice something is wrong with your dog 1 to 2 hours after ingestion, but it can take as long as 12 hours.

Liver Failure: Dogs who ingest larger amounts of xylitol can suffer from acute liver necrosis and liver failure.

Symptoms of Canine Xylitol Consumption:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Jaundice
  • Malaise

Xylitol poisoning is very serious for dogs. Dogs who ingest it can fall into a coma or even die. Immediate emergency treatment is essential for dogs who have consumed xylitol. If caught fast enough, xylitol poisoning can often be successfully treated. However, it may be too late if the dog has already begun to develop liver failure.  

What Foods Can Contain Xylitol?

You should always check the labels and ingredients of any food before you give it to your dog. And if you drop a piece of food and your dog snaps it up before you can stop them, you should check the label right after.

These are the foods you should be extra cautious with concerning xylitol:

  • Chewing gum
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Mints
  • Baked goods
  • Jam
  • Energy bars
  • Peanut butter and nut butters (currently this is mostly an issue with specialty brands, but you should always double-check before you give any peanut butter to your dog)
  • Anything that says it is “sweetened naturally”, or includes a “natural sweetener” or “sugar alcohol”
  • Many dental products

If you are vigilant in checking food labels before feeding people-food to your pets, you should be able to avoid accidentally feeding them toxins like xylitol. And as mentioned, if you pet eats something without your permission, always check the ingredients as soon as possible.

>> Do you think your pet ate something toxic? Call us at 905-855-2100 right away or bring your pet straight here for emergency care.

Click here to get some dog-friendly treat recipes you can make at home! Just be sure to check the labels on the ingredients you are using first.

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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