xylitol-warning-petsWhat dog doesn’t love peanut butter? I know my dog does. She loves it so much that I use it in more than a few ways. I put it in her Kong toy for fun, I hide her heartworm medication in it to be sure it will be eaten, and I even freeze it for a summer treat.

One day I was strolling down the aisle of my favorite pet store and was excited to see that they were selling “dog” peanut butter. I was a little curious to see if there was any difference between the peanut butter I buy from the grocery store and this one packaged for dogs. After comparing the two, I discovered that there certainly is a difference. While manufacturers are marketing labels “low fat,” “sugar free,” “fat free,” and “natural” peanut butters, we need to read past the buzz words before giving them to our beloved pets.

In our best friend’s favorite snack hides a silent killer called Xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener used in low calorie foods like sugar free gum, protein bars, low carbohydrate foods, sugar free candies, and some peanut butters. When dogs ingest foods containing Xylitol, it causes a large release of insulin into the blood stream. The release of insulin then causes all the sugar in the blood stream to be absorbed, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) within 10-60 minutes.

Xylitol can also lead to liver failure, liver damage, and even death in pets. It only takes a very small amount of Xylitol to cause sickness and show clinical signs. Clinical signs of Xylitol poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, collapse, and seizures.

Next time you go to the grocery store, make sure you read the labels and look out for products that contain Xylitol, especially in peanut butter. Xylitol also has a few aliases. It can also be listed as Eutrit, Kannit, Newtol, Xylite, Torch, or Xyliton. When in doubt, do not give your furry friend anything that may contain this hidden toxin.

If your pet ingests only a little bit of Xylitol, you should bring them to your veterinarian right away so they can begin treatment.

Dr. Irene Lentis is a veterinarian at Somerset Veterinary Group who also spends her time volunteering with local animal shelters.