FDA Issues Warning On Sugar Substitute

Stewart Gasper

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Stewart Gasper

Although it is obvious, it never hurts to carefully monitor the feeding of our pets. Now, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one must be particularly careful with a common sugar substitute found in numerous products.

The warning focuses on xylitol, a type of sugar alcohol that is sometimes found in sugar-free foods. Although the substance is safe for humans, it can be poisonous to dogs. In recent years, the FDA has received reports of dogs poisoned by eating foods that contain xylitol.

Many of the poisonings occurred when dogs ate sugar-free gum, but xylitol can also be found in other foods or consumer products, such as sugar-free candy, sugar-free ice cream (fat-free) pastries, toothpaste, syrup for cough and some peanut creams.

When dogs eat xylitol, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and causes a rapid release of insulin, the hormone that helps sugar enter the cells. This increase in insulin can cause blood sugar levels in dogs to plummet to life-threatening levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. In humans, xylitol is not dangerous, because it does not stimulate the release of insulin.

Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking or standing, seizures and coma. They usually appear within 15 to 30 minutes of consumption, and deaths have occurred in just 1 hour.

To protect your dog, the FDA recommends checking food labels for xylitol, especially if the product is advertised as sugar-free or low-sugar.

This also applies to non-food products, such as toothpaste, that a dog could try to eat.