Many of us, your veterinarian included, give peanut butter as a treat to our pets. For years this has been an extremely safe treat to hide pills or just give as a reward for good behavior. This was perfectly safe in moderate amounts like most things in life. However, the companies that make your food, in a quest to make food “better” for us, have substituted an artificial sweetener called xylitol in some brands of peanut butter. Xylitol can have very serious effects on your dog.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener. It has very potent health benefits for people. It is good for your teeth and is a safe sweetener for diabetics to eat. However even in low doses it can cause profound effects in our pets. A dose as low as 0.1g/kg, can cause an acute hypoglycemia. Basically it causes a spike in insulin thereby causing a very fast drop in circulating levels of glucose in the blood. This causes clinical signs such as confusion, collapse, and seizures. It can be life threatening. In doses as high as 0.5g/kg, xylitol can cause severe liver damage.
This sweetener is not just being used in peanut butter. Many products, some that you would never imagine, have xylitol in them. These are gum, nicotine gum, over the counter medications, vitamins, and some breads. It is extremely important to read the label before giving any human food/medication to your dog. A few of the brands of peanut butter that do have xylitol are Nuts and More, Krush Nutrition, Go Nuts, Co, Hank’s protein plus peanut butter, and P28.
If your dog does ingest xylitol, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Bring the package of the item that your dog ingested so the veterinarian can attempt to ascertain what dose your pet has received. Your dog may need to be hospitalized for up to two days depending on the dose.
As with any veterinary issue, early diagnosis and treatment are critical to a positive outcome. If your dog ingests anything with xylitol, do not wait until you see clinical signs to visit your veterinarian. Early treatment could prevent serious complications in the future.
Dr. Ryan McKenna
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