Most people will benefit when they reduce their sugar intake, but their pets sometimes pay the price. With more and more households cutting sugar out, there are more people using sugar substitutes such as xylitol.
HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?
Many sugar substitutes are dangerous for cats and dogs. Xylitol is one of the most dangerous for pets, because it’s very common. It’s a low-calorie substitute with a low glycaemic index. Xylitol is also preferred by people because it comes from nature including corn, mushrooms, lettuce, berries, plums, oats and other plants. You’ll find xylitol in everything from gum, to candy, to peanut butter, even toothpaste.
Toxicology experts at PetPoisonHelpline.com have confirmed; an increase in xylitol poisonings does correspond with the rise in xylitol products in our homes. Phone calls concerning xylitol poisonings increased 105% between 2015 and 2020. In fact, xylitol poisonings are now the second most popular reason the Poison Helpline gets calls, with chocolate overdoses remaining their biggest concern.
Another source of the problem is rooted in the legalization of marijuana. While the number of poisonings increased over 100% in five years, the largest spike was from 2018 to 2019, when xylitol poisonings increased 47.2%. Experts believe that correlates with the sudden demand in THC infused edibles. Many edibles, be it brownies or candies contain xylitol. If it’s a chocolate edible with xylitol and THC, that’s a triple threat.
WHAT PETS ARE AFFECTED?
Both dogs and cats can get very sick, even die. Dogs, however, are affected the worst. At best your dog will experience a drop in blood sugar, but for many dogs that quick drop leads to unconsciousness and seizures. In high doses it will take just a few hours for liver failure to begin.
WHY DON’T THEY BAN XYLITOL?
As far as sugar substitutes go, xylitol is one of the healthier options for humans. Since it occurs in many natural food sources, it’s not harmful to us. There are even some benefits; research is showing xylitol leads to better dental health, has antioxidant properties, and can prevent ear infections.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR PET SAFE
Most pet owners know that candies aren’t safe for their fur kids and keep them out of reach. However, one of the biggest sources of xylitol that dogs can consume is peanut butter. Many brands of peanut butter, especially diet varieties are sweetened with xylitol. If you share peanut butter with your pup, be sure to check the ingredients.
Some pets, dogs in particular, really enjoy chewing gum… we’ve heard many stories about pets finding their way into their owner’s purse or pocket, because they were lured by the smell of the gum. Like candy, gum can contain xylitol, regardless though, it should be kept away from your pets. It becomes a choking hazard when they’re chewing the gum and the wrapper at the same time.
If you suspect your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance or food, please call the ASPCA Poison Control Centre in Canada at 1-888-426-4435.