Xylitol – what is it and why MUST your dog avoid it?

There are some food and drink items that are well known to be bad for dogs. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that giving alcohol to a dog is a very bad idea, and most dog owners are well aware of the dangers of feeding them chocolate. In modern times though, when we demand sugar-free and long-lasting foods, some of the ingredients in them are not familiar to all of us, and a little known chemical that appears in many foods is perhaps the most harmful of all ingredients to dogs.

What is xylitol?

Derived from the Greek for ‘wood sugar alcohol’, xylitol is a sweetener created by forming an alcohol from xylose – a sugar found in wood. It’s used in many of the products we consume as an alternative to sugar, making it safe for people with diabetes to consume, as well as a suitable option for anyone looking to lower their calorie intake.

Among humans, xylitol is known to have some health benefits. Studies have suggested that it can be beneficial towards dental care and even the prevention of ear infection. It’s not known to be harmful to humans, although it does have a laxative effect and some people can experience heart palpitations after consumption.

Why shouldn’t dogs consume xylitol?

Xylitol is toxic to dogs, with studies linking it to hypoglycaemia and serious liver disease. According to PreventativeVet.com, the amount of xylitol that can be fatal to a dog is much smaller than that of chocolate, yet fewer than 50% of dog owners are aware of what xylitol is and its effects on dogs.

Considering the chemical’s harmful effects and the lack of awareness about them, it’s not surprising that canine xylitol poisoning cases have increased since the turn of the millennium.

What items contain xylitol?

Always check the ingredients of food items carefully before even considering giving them to your dog. Some items likely to contain xylitol include:

– Chewing gum (especially if sugar free)
– Peanut butter
– Cough sweets and other boiled sweets
– Mints (such as Mentos)
– Toothpaste (dogs’ teeth should always be brushed with special canine toothpaste)
– Jelly
– Yogurt

In short, anything sugar free that has a hard or gelatinous texture should trigger ‘X word’ alarms, so take a look at the packaging.

What should I do if my dog has consumed xylitol?

If you think your dog might have eaten something containing xylitol, a speedy reaction is crucial. Take him to a vet immediately, who may be able to induce vomiting and help him recover with treatments such as dextrose.

Knowing what not to feed your dog is a start, but many owners fail to recognise the connection between what they feed their dog and his all-round health and behaviour. Our new Canine Nutrition Diploma Course can tell you everything you need to know about how to provide your four-legged friend with a nutritious diet and spot any signs of how what he eats may be affecting the way he is.

Categories: Canine Nutrition

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