Peanut Butter and Xylitol Danger for Pets
If you’ve wondered how to give your pet their medication, and reached for a jar of peanut butter, you’re not alone. Peanut butter is commonly used among pet owners to get pets to eat their meds -both because of its stickiness and its yumminess!
But sadly, some brands of peanut butter contain a substance that can kill your dog. Xylitol is a sugar substitute being used more often in peanut butter and in many other household products that you might not even know about.
Berks Animal Emergency and Referral Center believes one of our jobs is to raise awareness of potential hazards to your pet. Hopefully giving you some information on what Xylitol is and where it is used can help you keep your pets safe at home.
What is Xylitol?
A chemical compound discovered in 1891, xylitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute and has gained popularity due to its low glycemic index. Since it has fewer calories than sugar, it is used in products marketed to those who wish to lose weight. It is also effective at reducing mouth bacteria that produce tooth-harming acids, so is being used with more frequency in mouthwash, toothpaste, and sugar-free gum.
How Does Xylitol Harm My Pet?
In dogs, cats, and other animals, xylitol causes a massive insulin release from the pancreas and a subsequent dramatic drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Hypoglycemia in pets can be life-threatening.
Vomiting is usually the first sign of xylitol toxicity, which can occur from 15 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. Severely low blood sugar levels can result in:
In large doses, xylitol causes hepatic necrosis, a form of acute liver failure. This is a health crisis requiring aggressive emergency veterinary intervention in order to prevent death in the patient.
Dogs are the usual victims of xylitol toxicity, die to their indiscriminate palette and tendency to “get into things”. Cats are also susceptible to the dangers of xylitol, but tend not to eat enough of the xylitol containing substance to be as severely affected.
Not Just Peanut Butter
Although peanut butter made the national news cycles for the dangers of xylitol, it’s important to note that there are over 700 household and food products that contain this substance. Before you go scrambling around your house looking at labels (and we hope you do!), let us give you a head start on where to find it.
At present, 5 brands of peanut butter contain Xylitol. They are:
- Go Nuts, Co.
- Krush Nutrition
- Nuts ‘N More
- No Cow (Previously D’s Naturals)
In addition, the following items may contain Xylitol:
- Peanut butter and other nut butters
- Chewing gum
- Sugar free candy
- Vitamins, especially children’s vitamins
- Jello and pudding
- Ice cream
- Nicotine gum
- Nasal spray
- Energy drinks
- Digestive aids (Bean-o)
- Prescription suspensions/ syrups/melts
- Over the counter suspensions
- Diet and sleep aids
- Body lotions and facial care products
While some of these products may list Xylitol as an ingredient, many don’t. You’ll need to look carefully at “inactive ingredients”, especially on medications. Also be aware that technically, Xylitol is a “natural” sweetener. You may want to assume that products with this labeling contain it.
Treating Xylitol Toxicity
If your pet ingests Xylitol, it’s an emergency. Bring your pet to see us immediately. We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist you.
Treatment will depend on how much Xylitol your pet ate, and when. It’s helpful for you to bring us the wrapper that the item came in so we can decide the best course of treatment.
If we can determine that your pet ate xylitol within the last 30 minutes, inducing vomiting right away gives us a head start on diminishing the effects on the body. Time is of the essence!
If Xylitol has left the stomach and is affecting insulin release, though, only aggressive and lengthy treatment will give us the best prognosis. This may include all of the following:
- Hospitalization with 24 hour monitoring
- IV fluids
- Medications to protect the liver and IV glucose
- Repeated blood testing to assess liver damage and effectiveness of treatment
- Blood transfusions
If you look for Xylitol containing products in your home, we’d be interested to know what you find! And, if you choose to keep these products on hand, make sure they are stored safely out of your curious pet’s reach.
Please give us a call with any questions. As always, we are here to help.