It’s Called Xylitol and It Could Put Your Pet at Risk



Most everyone I run into knows about the concerns over chocolate, and how you should never, ever, feed it to dogs.  Just to refresh for anyone that might want the exact information, here is the mechanism by chocolate may be harmful:

One of the most common toxicities in dogs is caused by chocolate ingestion. Dogs cannot metabolize chocolate in the same way people can, so keeping chocolate or products containing caffeine in a secure location out of your dog’s reach is essential. The amount ingested that can cause toxicity depends on the size of the dog and the type of chocolate, with darker and more bitter chocolates being the most toxic. If your dog accidentally ingests chocolate, contact an emergency veterinarian immediately.

So that I am very clear, because there is misinformation in social media, there is no safe amount any dog, and perhaps less commonly known, cats can ingest.  I know you might read on Facebook, or see videos on Tik Tok that the fear is overblown, but it is not.  What you might be surprised to find is that there are also other commonly found household ingredients that are also a problem for pets.  Items such as- 

  1. Avocados. Every part of the fruit has a strain of fatty acid called persin, which is toxic to your pup in large quantities. Avocado may be good on nearly everything, but it’s not good on your dog’s puppy chow.
  2. Onions and Garlic. Staples in the human diet, these beloved veggies can cause anemia in your dog by killing her red blood cells. Even a little bit can be detrimental to her health.
  3. Grapes and Raisins. Eating this seemingly innocuous fruit (in either the fresh or dried form) can cause kidney failure in dogs. Yikes!
  4. Milk and other Dairy Products. While dogs can drink milk from their mothers, any other type of dairy (cow, goat, etc.) could make them sick. There are sugars and fatty acids that dogs don’t have the enzymes to digest properly.
  5. Macadamia Nuts. While it’s still unknown just what it is about these nuts that is poisonous to dogs, the fact is, they are. Your pup may be eyeing your macadamia nut cookie, but don’t give in to his puppy-dog eyes. He’ll thank you later—well, maybe.
  6. Sugary foods and drinks. Speaking of cookies, don’t let your dog eat anything high in processed sugars. The same thing will happen to her that happens to people when they ingest too much sugar: weight gain, tooth decay, and even diabetes.
  7. Caffeine. It contains a stimulant that is toxic to dogs. While you may enjoy a morning cup of joe, your dog should stick to tried-and-true water.
  8. Yeast dough. If eaten raw, this can rise and ferment in your dog’s stomach. The fermentation can cause alcohol poisoning, and the rising will stretch your pup’s stomach to the point of pain. So the next time you make a homemade pizza, avoid giving those leftover dough bits to your pooch!
  9. Salt. Too much salt can lead to dehydration and even sodium ion poisoning. While a little bit of salt is fine, be aware of how much your dog ingests, to keep the quantity at a minimum.

This list, fairly well line by line, applies to kitties as well.  Cartoons that suggested kittens drink cream were misnomers.  But there is one other hidden danger I wish to speak about here, and it is called “Xylitol.”  When I talked to my friends, one by one and in a group, none of them had ever heard of it.  It is a little known ingredient used as a sweetener in many foods humans consume.

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in plants, including many fruits and vegetables. It has a sweet taste and is often used as a sugar substitute.

Xylitol tastes sweet but, unlike sugar, it doesn’t cause tooth decay. It reduces levels of decay-causing bacteria in saliva and also acts against some bacteria that cause ear infections. It’s widely used in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other candies.

It is found in strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms, and cauliflower.  Most dogs probably don’t bother anyone for cauliflower.  But it is still there.  However many do like to hide pills in items like peanut butter, which while not directly harmful to pets does often contain xylitol.

Most of the following list is not something a pet would usually have offered to it.

  • breath mints
  • baked goods
  • cough syrup
  • children’s and adult chewable vitamins
  • mouthwash
  • toothpaste
  • some peanut and nut butters
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • dietary supplements
  • sugar-free desserts, including “skinny” ice cream

On this list, nut butters along with some jellies not mentioned may have it.  Now the ASPCA says it is not specifically harmful to cats, this is not universally agreed upon.

In a June 2018 study out of Hungary, published in the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, it appears it doesn’t have the same blood sugar-lowering toxic effect in cats as it does in dogs — we can’t be as definitive about the liver cell-damaging toxic effect (see note about why below).

  • The term “it appears” is highlighted because, while it was a (very) well-designed and carried out study, it was a small study — of just 6 cats. So, it’s still possible that xylitol could be toxic to a subset of cats (e.g., same breed, age, etc.). But since the blood sugar-lowering effect in dogs affects all dogs and not just a subset, it’s most likely that if xylitol did drop blood sugar in cats, it would also have that effect in all cats and not just a subset. Additionally, there were mild yet significant alterations when the dose of 1000mg/kg was administered. These changes were within the physiological range, but we must remember that “normal” isn’t always “normal” for every cat.

There have been cases of xylitol toxicity to cats.  It may not be as widespread as with dogs, but it happens.

I felt this information is important to disseminate.  I love animals, as everyone that knows me can attest to, and I am asking you to share this story.  Please read every label and always check with your vet about food safety.  We have to be careful when it comes to our kids.


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