The health risks of eating a sugary diet are well known, and this applies to both humans and pets. Two of the main risks of eating a diet high in sugar is dental problems and weight gain. This has led governments to push towards people eating healthier diets that are lower in sugar. Food industries have responded by introducing more sugar-free products into their ranges. To retain the flavor of the foods, this means that they use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. While artificial sweeteners that are used in food intended for human consumption are approved by food regulatory bodies, it does not mean that they are safe for consumption by all species. In fact, an FDA study has recently revealed that a sweetener called xylitol is deadly for dogs, says Live Science.
What is Xylitol?
According to Arun Vet Group, one of the substances that are used as a substitute for sugars. This is a sugar alcohol that tastes and looks almost identical to refined sugar. The biggest difference between this and refined sugar is that xylitol is much lower in calories. It is for this reason that xylitol is used in low-calorie and reduced-sugar products.
What is Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs?
Although xylitol is a completely safe substance for humans, it is considered toxic for dogs, says Pet Health Network. The main reason that it is so dangerous for dogs is that it results in high amounts of insulin being released. When a lot of insulin is released, it causes acute poisoning, and this can lead to two serious and potentially fatal syndromes in dogs. The first is hypoglycemia, which is life-threateningly low blood sugar levels. The second is acute hepatic necrosis, which is severe liver failure that will eventually lead to death.
There are many symptoms of xylitol poisoning that you should look out for if you suspect that your dog has eaten something containing xylitol. These include:
- Acute collapse
- Weakness or lethargy
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Trembling, tremoring, and seizures
- Walking drunk
- Racing heart
- Abnormal mentation
- Jaundiced gums
- Clotting problems
How to Avoid Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
The main way to avoid xylitol poisoning is to not give your dogs food that contains this substance. You should also put foods that contain this substance out of their reach to reduce the risk of them accidentally eating something that contains this substance.
What Foods Contain Xylitol?
To make sure that your dog avoids eating foods that contain xylitol, it is important that you know which foods contain this substance. It is also important to note that xylitol is an ingredient in some products that are not food. According to Pet MD (https://www.petmd.com/dog/emergency/poisoning-toxicity/6-dangerous-and-surprising-items-contain-xylitol), the following are some of the products that contain xylitol.
- Chewing gum – This is one of the most common foods in which xylitol is found. While some chewing gums contain only a small dose of xylitol that may not affect your dog if only one piece is eaten, others contain large doses that are fatal to dogs.
- Dental hygiene products – Both toothpaste and mouthwash can contain xylitol. One reason it is used is because of the sweet taste without the ill-effects of sugar. It is also used because it has tooth-strengthening and plaque-fighting properties.
- Baked goods – Many packaged baked goods contain xylitol. Similarly, diabetics often buy xylitol to make their own baked goods at home.
- Fruit and vegetables – Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that is found in small quantities in many fruits and vegetables. Therefore, giving your dog a snack of fruits or vegetables is not always the healthy snack option you think it is. IN fact, many fruits and vegetables are dangerous for dogs for other reasons, so you should always check this before offering them to your dog.
- Medications and other pharmaceutical products – Xylitol is commonly found in many medications, deodorants, lotions, and gels. These are all products that you should keep safely stored away where your dog cannot access them.
- Sugar-free groceries – Any food or drink that states it is sugar-free or low in sugar probably contains xylitol.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Xylitol?
As xylitol is so toxic for dogs, it is essential that you seek medical advice as soon as possible. If you see your dog eating a food that contains xylitol or you suspect that they have stolen some food and they are showing the signs and symptoms of xylitol poisoning, then you should contact your veterinarian immediately to book an emergency appointment.
How is Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs Treated?
The most common form of treatment for dogs with xylitol poisoning is for the veterinarian to induce vomiting. This reduces the amount of the substance that is absorbed into their body, thus reducing the symptoms and the risk of death. The next course of action that your veterinarian will take is for them to put your dog on a sugar intravenous drip. This regulates your dog’s blood sugar levels. Following this emergency treatment, it is likely that your dog will need to keep your dog in the surgery for several days for monitoring and observation. This will include blood tests to check for liver damage. If the veterinarian diagnoses liver damage, then this is a serious condition that will require further specialist life-saving treatment.
Are All Artificial Sweeteners Bad for Dogs?
While Xylitol is a potentially lethal substance for dogs, that is not necessarily the case for all artificial sweeteners. For example, aspartame is another common substance used to replace sugar in food and drinks. This is not as dangerous to dogs and is unlikely to cause any problems if eaten in small quantities. However, it can cause an upset stomach when eaten in large quantities. The best course of action is to avoid feeding your dog any foods that contain sweeteners.