If you’re a dog lover, then you’ve probably given your dog some peanut butter as an occasional treat. Peanut butter is often used to hide medications and to fill Kong toys and they love it. In many cases this is perfectly fine (so long as it’s not in excess — as too much can cause pancreatitis and/or contribute to obesity)
However, buyer beware, with the introduction of a unique line of peanut and other nut butters onto the market, the answer to the question of whether or not it’s safe to give, even a small quantity of, peanut butter to your dogs is no longer a straightforward one. The problem is because of the use of the sweetener that’s been used to replace the sugar in this line of peanut and other nut butters which is called xylitol.
As of January 216 the list of peanut and nut butters containing xylitol that we have uncovered is at FIVE! The five companies (in alphabetical order): (1) Go Nuts, Co., (2) Hank’s Protein Plus Peanut Butter, (3) Krush Nutrition, (4) Nuts ‘N More, and (5) P28. While these are “specialty butters” that are mostly sold in nutrition stores and online (currently), the subtle presence of xylitol in these butters highlights the importance of reading ingredient labels on products you bring into your home, and share with your pets. Please don’t assume that things which are safe for you are also safe for your pets. As you’ll see below, this can be a very dangerous assumption with xylitol!
Is Xylitol Safe For Dogs?
Xylitol is a sweetener that’s gaining in popularity because of its dental benefits for people as well as its suitability as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes. Because of its ability to help prevent cavities and tooth decay and its low glycemic index, xylitol is proving to have some good dental and other health benefits for people. Unfortunately, while xylitol appears to be perfectly safe for people, it is extremely dangerous for dogs — even in small quantities.
- Ingestion of as little as 0.1 gram (g) of xylitol per kilogram (kg) of body weight (0.1 g/kg) can cause a rapid and dangerous drop in a dog’s blood sugar (a condition called “hypoglycemia”). Hypoglycemia can show as staggering, appearing disoriented, collapse, weakness, and seizures.
- Just slightly more than that, approx. 0.5 g/kg xylitol ingestion, can lead to debilitating, and sadly often deadly, destruction of a dog’s liver cells.
These quantities, or toxic doses, are based on the data that the animal-specific poison control hotlines have collected from reported cases*. To highlight that these are reported cases is important, because not every case of toxicity makes it to the vet, and not everyone that does go to the vet is called into the animal poison control hotlines. So the actual toxic doses could be even lower, and dogs with certain pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, hepatitis, and others) are likely to be even more sensitive to the toxic effects of xylitol.
|Example dog size||Quantity of xylitol ingested to reach 0.1g/kg toxic dos – hypoglycemia||Quantity of xylitol ingested to reach 0.5/kg toxic dose – liver failure|
|10# (4.5g) Yorkie||0.45 grams (0.001 lbs)||2.3 grams (0.005 lbs)|
|30# (13.6kg) Border Collie||1.36 grams (0.003 lbs)||6.8 grams (0.015 lbs)|
|70# (31.8kg) Labrador||3.8 grams (0.007 lbs)||15.9 grams (0.035 lbs)|
Table 1: Demonstrating just how little xylitol it can take to cause problems in three differeng size dogs. “Does not take into account possible pre-existing medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, hepatitis etc) which could make a dog more susceptible to xylitol toxicity. © 2015 Preventative Vet
*Sources: New Findings On The Effects Of Xylitol Ingestion In Dogs from ASPCA-APCC 2006; Acute Hepatic Failure And Coagulopathy Associated With Xylitol Ingestion In Eight Dogs from ASPCA-APCC 2006, published in JAVMA (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006; 229:1113-1117)
Make Sure To Read Ingredient Labels
With the gaining popularity of xylitol as an ingredient in a growing number of products (incl. gums, mints, chewable vitamins, ice creams, common supplements, and many others – see this list of over 700 products that contain xylitol!) highlights how important it is to read ingredient labels, as well as the danger of assuming that what’s safe for you, or even your children, is also safe for your pets.