Artificial sweetener found in chewing gums can kill dogs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns.
The agency released a consumer update report on May 12, informing the public about the dangers of xylitol, which may be found in sugarless gum. While the substance, also known as sugar alcohol, is in many food products good for human consumption, it may have life-threatening effects on pets.
The FDA and the Center for Veterinary Medicine have already received numerous reports of xylitol poisoning, particularly related to chewing gum, over the past years, FDA veterinarian Martine Hartogensis says.
Recent news about dog deaths and illnesses after consuming xylitol-containing products have also emerged.
Xylitol In Humans, Xylitol In Pets
One puzzling question that people have is the difference between the effects of xylitol in humans and pets. Many are wondering how the substance can cause serious effects on animals yet appears to do no harm in humans.
The amount of blood sugar in both people and pets is controlled by insulin released by the pancreas. In people, xylitol does not trigger the release of insulin. In dogs, however, xylitol is rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream, causing the robust release of insulin from the pancreas.
If insulin is released rapidly, this may lead to a powerful drop in the amount of blood sugar, which may occur in just a span of 10 to 60 minutes. If this is left uncontrolled, the condition called hypoglycemia may cause death.
What A Xylitol-Poisoned Dog Looks Like
Dog owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of xylitol poisoning to ensure prompt attention when needed. Among the symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting as well as manifestations of low blood sugar level such as weakness, staggering, incoordination, fainting and seizures.
If xylitol poisoning is suspected, owners must take their pets to the veterinarian or emergency animal facility immediately. In some cases, the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia may not manifest until after 12 to 24 hours. With this, it is important to maintain close monitoring.
There have been no reports of xylitol toxicity among cats. The FDA thinks that felines are exempted from the condition, most probably because they do not like sweets to begin with.
Preventive Measures That Dog Owners Can Practice
Owners must be aware of other food products that contain xylitol. Among these products include breath mints, baked products, mouthwash, toothpaste and chewable vitamins.
"If you're concerned about your dog eating a food or product with xylitol in it, check the label of ingredients," says Hartogensis. If such products are present in the house, pet owners must ensure to keep them away from pets.
Owners must also use products intended for pets only. For example, it is unadvisable to use human toothpaste for pets. Checking product labels prior to giving them to pets is also highly recommended.
Prompt Reporting Is Key
The FDA is also encouraging the public to report any safety issues with a product or any unwanted effects that may be linked to these products.