The Food & Drug Administration is issuing a stricter warning for dog owners against xylitol, a common sweetener that’s found in many gum products as well as some nut butters, because it can “can have devastating effects on your pet.”
In a consumer update called “Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off,” the FDA notes that its Center for Veterinary Medicine has received several reports of dogs falling very ill or even dying ingesting xylitol. Ferrets should also be kept away from the stuff, but the FDA notes that the toxicity of xylitol for cats has not been documented. Thus far they seem to be okay, since they don’t like eating sweets.
This echoes warnings other experts like the veterinary toxicologists at Pet Poison Hotline, which urged pet owners to be wary of xylitol after an increase in accidental dog poisonings.
Though xylitol is often associated with sugarless gum, it’s also in other products — so check that peanut butter label before you reward Fido for a job well done. Also on the list of items to check: mints, baked goods, cough syrup, children’s and adult chewable vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
So why is it so bad for your pooch when it just tastes sweet to humans? Xylitol causes a sudden release of insulin in dogs, which causes low blood sugar and could lead to seizures, brain damage and liver failure.
If your dog is vomiting, followed by symptoms like decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures — signs of a sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar — and you think he’s chowed down on xylitol, take your pet to the vet or emergency animal hospital immediately, the FDA says.