Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in everything from toothpaste to peanut butter to sugar-free gum. And, it turns out, it's poison for dogs.
A puppy, taking a rest. Image: Klearchos Kapoutsis
The FDA just dropped a new warning that, while it's just fine for people, the sweetener has proven fatal for dogs. Not giving your dog sugar-free gum may already seem like intuitive advice, but xylitol has found its way into plenty more products as of late.
Some of those products, while not intended for dogs, end up being eaten by them anyway. It's in toothpaste (although not pet toothpastes), baked goods and even the peanut butter that pet owners sometimes use to hide their dogs' meds.
The problem starts with a sudden rush of insulin that hits dogs (although not humans) after they eat something that contains xylitol. This can send their blood sugar levels fatally low. Once a dog has eaten something with xylitol in it, the symptoms — which include vomiting, staggering, seizures, and even death — hit hard and fast within a day.
Even before the FDA warning, veterinarians had already started trying to warn people of the danger to their pets. But this is the first official advisory and should go much further in spreading the word about the danger. Remember: just because something is safe for you to eat doesn't mean that it's safe for your dog.