Reading labels has become common practice for humans looking to minimize the intake of harmful ingredients in the food products we consume. When feeding human food to dogs, it is important to keep in mind that their metabolisms are not the same as ours, and therefore, reading labels should become commonplace to avoid feeding our dogs something that could cause them harm.
Peanut Butter is one of those human treats our furry friends certainly love. Most peanut butters in the market are not just made of ground and churned peanuts, but will contain oils, sugar and other additives to make it tastier, creamier, or sweeter. One such products that is found in many human foods is Xylitol, a sweetener that is used in a wide range of products, including sugar-free gum and mints, nicotine gum, chewable vitamins, certain prescription drugs, dental hygiene products and baked goods. It is sweeter than sucrose and cheaper than other sugar substitutes, it is also a natural sugar alcohol normally found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables. Its popularity is due because it contains fewer calories than sugar and causes little to no rise in insulin in humans, making it a recommended sweetener for diabetics.
Although Xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, due to different metabolisms, it can be fatal for dogs; being puppies and small breeds the most susceptible. Xylitol strongly promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas into circulation leading to a rapid decrease of blood glucose levels. The Pet Poison Helpline (PPH), states that xylitol causes hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis in dogs. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion, and can lead to live toxicity, liver damage, and consequently liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs can include weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremors, seizures, black-tarry stool, and even coma or death.
The prognosis of full recovery is excellent the soonest the treatment. Vomiting is usually induced, IV fluid or dextrose administration can follow to bring the dog’s sugar levels back to normal. Should a dog reach the level of hepatic failure, this can lead to death.
Researchers have found that most peanut butter brands do not usually contain Xylitol, but the brands that where identified should be on your radar to avoid feeding your dog such products. An article from Dr. Karen Becker’s Healthy Pets site, listed several nut brands that contain Xylitol. These are: Go Nuts, Co.; Hank’s Protein Plus Peanut Butter; Krush Nutrition; Nuts ‘N More; and P28. Since the list might not be all inclusive, it is very important to read ingredient lists in all the products we feed our dogs.
Since Xylitol is an ingredient found in many human products, we need to be extra careful about keeping our dogs safe from ingesting it in any form. The most important thing you can do, is to check out the label of ANY product you will feed your dog. This is also a reminder that foods that are safe for us are not always safe for our pets.
If you suspect your dog ingested xylitol, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for life-saving treatment.