What do chewing gum, peanut butter and toothpaste all have in common?  If you ask your veterinarian, she is sure to know because certain brands of these products can be fatal to your dog.  Some of these common items contain xylitol which is extremely dangerous to dogs.

Xylitol, also sometimes called birch sugar, is processed differently in dogs than in other species.  Xylitol confuses the dog’s pancreas causing it to release excessive amounts of insulin into your dog’s bloodstream. When this happens, your dog may experience weakness, tremors, poor coordination, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures and all can happen within 10-60 minutes of your dog ingesting it.  Xylitol poisoning can also lead to fatal liver failure. Even a very small amount can be deadly.

The next time your dog sticks his nose into someone’s purse hoping for a snack, be aware.  Do they have sugar free gum or mints in their bag?  If your dog gets a hold of something like that, grab the product and call your veterinarian immediately. If they are not available drive to the closest veterinary emergency room.

It’s a good idea to check your pantry and medicine cabinet for items that might have xylitol.  Sugar free gum, mints and candy often contain xylitol.  But so do some brands of reduced calorie chocolate, peanut and other nut butters, toothpaste and mouth washes.  Even some medications and vitamins have xylitol in them.  Basically, any food or medicine that might have a sugar substitute should be checked for xylitol.

The best way to prevent your pup from ingesting xylitol is to keep all your medicine and food in a pantry or cabinet that you dog can’t get to. If your dog does eat something with xylitol time is of the essence.  The best prognosis is dependent on how quickly the dog is treated.  There is no antidote for xylitol poisoning.  Your veterinarian will need to do bloodwork to determine how to proceed.  Treatment with intravenous glucose and liver protective drugs is common and your dog will likely have to spend a night or more at the hospital.

For a complete list of items that contain xylitol you can go to preventivevet.com/xylitol-products-toxic-for-dogs.  You might be surprised at some of the products that could be fatal to your dog.