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Updated 15 May 2016

Sugar-free foods can be deadly for dogs

Keep all products containing the sweetener xylitol out of your pooch's reach, experts warn.

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Here's an alert for all pet lovers: Sugarless chewing gum isn't good for your pooch. In fact, it could be deadly.

Xylitol, the substance that gives sugar-free gum its sweetness, is dangerous to dogs, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns. The FDA has received multiple reports in recent years of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, which is used in various consumer products, such as sugar-free candy, breath mints, baked goods, chewable vitamins, mouthwash and toothpaste.

"If you're concerned about your dog eating a food or product with xylitol in it, check the label of ingredients," Martine Hartogensis, an FDA veterinarian, said in a statement from the agency. "If it does, indeed, say that it contains xylitol, make sure your pet can't get to it."

Dogs process xylitol differently than humans. They absorb it quickly, and it can spike their insulin levels, causing dangerously low blood sugar. This can be life-threatening if it's not treated, Hartogensis said.

Take your dog to the vet or emergency animal hospital immediately if you suspect xylitol poisoning, she said. A dog may vomit and suffer from similar symptoms to those of an adult with low blood sugar such as lethargy, weakness, lack of coordination, staggering and seizures. Monitoring could be necessary because symptoms may not appear for as long as 24 hours.

To avoid xylitol exposure, keep human toothpaste, sugar-free gum and any other xylitol-containing product away from your dog. Don't use human toothpaste on dogs, the FDA says.

Also, be aware that nut butters can include xylitol. If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a way to get your dog to take pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn't contain xylitol.

And what about cats? According to the FDA, they aren't fans of sweets, so xylitol doesn't seem to be a major threat for them.


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