Pet Poison Safety: Products Sweetened with Xylitol Can Be Toxic To Dogs

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has issued a warning to pet owners that xylitol, a sweetener found in many sugar-free products, can cause serious problems for companion canines.

“Last year, we managed more than 170 cases involving xylitol,” says the APCC’s Dana Farbman, CVT. “This is a significant increase from 2004, when we managed about 70.” And in the first half of 2006, toxicologists have already handled 114 cases. “It’s difficult to say why there’s such an increase,” says Farbman. “Xylitol products are relatively new to the United States marketplace, so one possibility may be an increase in availability.”

Dogs ingesting significant amounts of items sweetened with xylitol could develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. Signs can develop quite rapidly, sometimes less than half an hour after ingestion.

It was previously thought that only large concentrations of xylitol resulted in problems—but new data is beginning to disprove this. “We seem to be learning new information with each case we manage,” says APCC veterinary toxicologist Dr. Eric Dunayer. “We also have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener.”

APCC experts urge pet owners to keep candy, gum and other foods containing xylitol out of their animals’ reach. If you suspect that your pet has ingested products sweetened with xylitol—or any other potentially dangerous substance—call your veterinarian or the APCC's emergency hotline at (888) 426-4435 for round-the-clock telephone assistance. For more pet poison prevention tips, please visit
APCC online.

Sent: Sunday, October 01, 2006 1:13 PM
Subject: Dog Owners Warned Over Sugar-Free Items

Dog Owners Warned Over Sugar-Free Items

NEW YORK (Sept. 30) - Keep those sugarless treats out of Fido's reach. Veterinarians warned on Friday that a commonly used sweetener might cause liver failure in dogs, and perhaps even kill them.

Researchers said for dogs, ingesting even a small amount of xylitol, found in many sugar-free foods, can trigger significant insulin release, which drops their blood sugar and can be fatal.

Their report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association appears to strengthen the suspected link between the sugar substitute xylitol, thought to make dogs sick, and possible liver failure.

Xylitol, a naturally occurring product, is found in many sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and toothpastes.

Researchers Sharon Gwaltney-Brant and Eric Dunayer with staff at a poison unit of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Illinois, gathered information on eight dogs treated between 2003 and 2005 after eating products containing xylitol.

Each dog became ill, and five died or had to be put down because of liver failure, possibly from ingesting xylitol.

One dog who had to be euthanized had eaten four large, chocolate-frosted muffins containing about 1 pound of xylitol.

"People don't think sugar-free gum can kill their dog. I didn't before I got into this. But this is something people should be aware of," Gwaltney-Brant, who co-authored the study with Dunayer, said in a statement.

Gwaltney-Brant said for dogs, ingesting even a small amount of xylitol can trigger significant insulin release, which drops their blood sugar and can be fatal.

"A 22-pound dog who consumes one gram of xylitol should be treated," she said, adding that further studies were needed to definitely establish a cause-and-effect relationship.