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Vet's view: Xylitol can be deadly to dogs
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that "every sweet has its sour." Nowhere in the world of dog medicine is this quip more apropos than with respect to xylitol, an increasingly ubiquitous sugar substitute found in everything from cupcakes to toothpaste. After all, it's currently considered the most canine-toxic "human food" on the planet.
Yet few dog owners seem to have gotten the message.
By now, everyone knows chocolate is toxic to dogs. It seems that every veterinarian's office is adorned with posters telling cautionary tales of pumped puppy stomachs, with the sad eyes and foil wrappers to prove them. Meanwhile, xylitol's power languishes in pet owner obscurity, even as its reach expands.
According to the ASPCA's Poison Control Center, more dogs than ever are being poisoned by products containing xylitol. That's partly because xylitol use is more widespread than ever but also because of a low awareness of its harmfulness among pet owners. This, despite the efforts of veterinarians working hard to inform all U.S. consumers that xylitol is a menace to dogdom.
How menacing? A few sugar-free Tic Tacs, a pack of Trident gum, a spilled tin of Starbucks mints, a sugar-free Jell-O dessert cup. It takes only a little of this toxin to send a dog into hypoglycemia-induced seizures and sometimes fatal liver failure. All dogs are susceptible, some more than others. Indeed, it has been calculated that as little as a gram of sweetener can kill a 10-pound dog.
You'd think it would be easy to simply eradicate this product from the market given its extreme dog toxicity, but here's the trouble: Xylitol is a great product. It's natural, just as sweet but less caloric than sugar, doesn't raise insulin levels and seems to reduce the kinds of oral bacteria associated with dental disease. Diabetics rave about it. Dentists do, too. All of which is why consumer product manufacturers have been slowly replacing their sweeteners with xylitol.
And that's absolutely OK. That is, if only dog owners knew a) xylitol was toxic, and b) which products contained xylitol so they could take all necessary precautions. Sadly, both points elude veterinarians who find it hard enough to preach to a) when b) is such a moving target.
When I first started writing about xylitol years ago, the number of consumer products containing the sweetener numbered fewer than 100 in the USA. Moreover, they were largely restricted to sugar-free gums, oral care products and baked goods. Fast-forward to today and the list is way longer and much more diverse. You can find xylitol in everything from Flintstones vitamins to omega-3 supplements to nicotine gum.
These products never used to contain xylitol. In fact, I used to recommend Flintstones vitamins for my patients. Now I have to caution my clients to stick to pet-only brands and to be very diligent about reading labels.
What's worse (for veterinarians, especially) is that the human versions of many drugs, especially the children's elixirs, are now being formulated with xylitol for greater pediatric palatability. Unfortunately, these lower-dose preparations are exactly what some of our smaller patients require. Because there are no animal equivalents for many drugs we use every day, kids' drugs are often the next best thing.
But veterinarians have only recently become aware of this new change to many of the same pediatric drugs we've been prescribing for years. In fact, I nearly poisoned one of my patients last week after the pharmacist called to ask whether I might prefer a pediatric elixir format of Pfizer's Neurontin since the smaller doses weren't available in a capsule. Luckily I'd just read an advisory and knew to ask. But still … she might have died!
So now it's not just good enough to reach every dog owner with news that xylitol is highly toxic. We have to teach them that labels must be dissected for every sweetened household item and that pharmacists must be specifically consulted whenever any flavored human drug or supplement is prescribed. Talk about an uphill trek.
But what really irks, say concerned pet owners, is the lack of transparency on this issue on the part of consumer products manufacturers. One of my blog's regular readers, screen name Pai, objected on these grounds with this passionate comment:
"I'm appalled that so many (if not all?) of the companies that switch their recipes to include this ingredient do not seem to see fit to TELL anyone about it! I fear we will need another rash of dog deaths … before this issue is given the publicity it deserves."
I couldn't have said it better.
Now, I'm not necessarily one for mandatory labeling, nor would I press for the extinction of any safe and effective human product. Still, here's one area where corporate responsibility is clearly lacking. They may be just animals, but they are, after all, family.
Article Source: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/parenting-family/pets/dogs/story/2011/02/Vets-view-Xylitol-can-be-deadly-to-dogs-/43576818/1
Please read those labels and keep your pets safe!