Healthy for humans, deadly for dogs | Beaufort County Now | Beware of Xylitol Products

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

  • Xylitol poisoning in pets increased 108% from 2015 to 2020, including a 47.2% jump from 2018 to 2019 alone
  • In 2020, xylitol earned the dubious title of second most common poison for pets, with chocolate being No. 1
  • If too much xylitol is consumed, a sharp drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can occur, triggering loss of consciousness and seizures; larger doses can also cause liver failure and death, which may begin hours or days after ingestion
  • Xylitol is found in hundreds of products, including food, candy, gum, mints and over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • It’s possible for a small dog to become severely ill from ingesting just one piece of xylitol-containing gum or mint, so keep all products with xylitol out of reach of your pets

Calls regarding xylitol poisoning in pets increased 108% from 2015 to 2020, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, which noted that such poisonings jumped 47.2% from 2018 to 2019 alone. In 2020, xylitol earned the dubious title of second most common poison for pets, with chocolate being No. 1.1

Xylitol, a low-calorie sugar substitute, is found in hundreds of products, including candy, gum, mints, peanut butter and prescription and over-the-counter medications. In humans, xylitol is considered safe and may even have benefits for ear infections, antioxidant support and dental health.2 In dogs, however, it can be deadly.

If too much xylitol is consumed, a sharp drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can occur, triggering loss of consciousness and seizures. Larger doses can also cause liver failure and death, which may begin hours or days after ingestion.3 As for why humans can safely consume xylitol while dogs cannot, it’s thought that dogs have much more complete and rapid absorption of xylitol after oral ingestion compared to humans.4

Xylitol Is a Dose-Dependent Poison

The dose of xylitol matters when it comes to poisoning. A dose of approximately 0.1 grams/kg of body weight is enough to cause hypoglycemia in dogs while a dose of 0.5 grams/kg can lead to hepatic necrosis. This means that it’s possible for a small dog to become severely ill from ingesting just one piece of gum or one mint. As explained by the Pet Poison Helpline (PPH):5

“Most chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22-1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint. Therefore, only one piece of gum may result in hypoglycemia in a 10 pound (4.5 kg) dog. Hypoglycemia is typically evident within 1-2 hours of xylitol ingestion but, in rare cases, has been delayed as much as 12 hours.”

While I don’t recommend taking any chances with xylitol and your dog, and advise keeping any and all products that contain it out of your pet’s reach, some pet dental products do contain it in small quantities, and xylitol’s plaque-reducing effects in humans led to a pilot study on the effectiveness of the substance as a canine plaque-reducing aid when added to dogs’ drinking water.

A low-dose xylitol drinking water additive led to a 5.1% decrease in mean tooth plaque score, and a 14.9% decrease in mean calculus score, after 90 days, but there’s a big caveat in that no one knows whether it’s safe for dogs to consume xylitol long-term, even at low doses. According to the researchers:6

“Regardless of size the maximum daily [xylitol] dose recommended by the manufacturer is 50 mg; therefore, even a 2-kg dog would receive well under the reported toxic dose.

If adequate instructions are given and client compliance is good, the product used in this clinical trial poses minimal acute health risk to patients. Despite this, there are no studies reporting the health risks of chronic, low dose administration of xylitol in dogs.”

 

Understanding Xylitol on Ingredient Lists

Because xylitol is typically considered to be a proprietary ingredient, most products will not list an amount for it on the label. This is why it’s better to be safe than sorry, and if you suspect a product contains this alternative sweetener, do not give it to your dog and keep it stored in a place your dog cannot access — xylitol has a sweet, pleasant flavor, which makes it alluring to dogs that can easily access it.

Sometimes, the placement of xylitol on an ingredient list can be helpful in determining the amount in a product. In the U.S., ingredient lists must list items in order of weight, with the ingredient with the greatest predominance by weight listed first. If xylitol appears high up on the ingredient list — especially in the first, second or third spot — assume the product contains a significant amount.

“In general, for most chewing gums, the amount of xylitol is often clinically insignificant if it’s listed as the 4th or 5th ingredient. If it’s listed as one of the first three ingredients, extreme caution should be taken,” according to PPH.7

This “rule” does not work for drugs and dietary supplements, however, because xylitol is considered to be an inactive ingredient in these products and therefore may simply be listed alphabetically — making it typically near the end of the list, even if significant quantities are present.

PPH has an extensive catalogue of how much xylitol is found in different products, so it’s a good resource if your dog ingests something suspect. If in doubt, however, it’s always best to seek emergency veterinary assistance.

Beware of These High- and Hidden Xylitol Products

Through PPH’s research, they’ve uncovered some products that either contain high amounts of xylitol or act as unexpected sources. Marijuana TCH-infused edibles are one source to be aware of, as they often contain xylitol and are becoming more popular with the legalization of marijuana.8 Foods that contain xylitol as the primary sweetener, meaning they must be kept away from pets, include:9

Clemmy’s Rich and Creamy ice cream products

Dr. John’s products (hard and soft candies, chocolates, drink mixes, etc.)

Jell-O sugar free pudding snacks

Nature’s Hollow jams, syrup, ketchup, honey, etc.

SparX Candy

Zipfizz energy drink-mix powders

The following dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications also contain xylitol:10

Axia3 ProDigestive Antacid (flavored chewable tablets)

Children’s Allegra Oral Suspension

Fleet Children’s Pedia-Lax Liquid Stool Softener

Umcka Cold and Flu chewable tablets (homeopathic product)

KAL Colostrum Chewable, Vanilla Cream

KAL Dinosaurs Children’s Vitamins and Minerals (chewable tablets)

Kidz Digest Chewable Berry from Transformation Enzyme

L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears

Mega D3 Dots with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per “dot” (dissolvable tablet)

Suntheanine L-Theanine chewable tablets by Stress-Relax

Vitamin Code Kids by Garden of Live (chewable multivitamins)

Webber Natural Super Sleep Soft Melts (dissolvable tablets)

If your dog consumes a product that contains xylitol, get to an emergency veterinary clinic right away. If ingestion is caught early and treatment begins right away, most dogs can be decontaminated and have a full recovery.11 However, if liver failure has already begun, treatment becomes much more difficult. In an emergency poisoning situation, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline, 24/7, at 855-764-7661.

Source:  Healthy for Humans but Enticing and Deadly for Dogs (mercola.com)

Hat tip to Carole Gunn for sending us this link.


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