The Sweet Killer

Sugar-free is never the best for our dogs. We often look for sugar-free items which help with the waistline since these products still taste sweet despite the lack of sugar. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many ‘sugar-free’ products, and this sweetener is deadly for dogs or cats.

In humans, xylitol imparts a sweet taste to food and is safely used in many products, dogs, however, respond with very low blood sugar when they eat foods sweetened with xylitol. Liver failure is also a problem associated with xylitol, and it does not take a lot of artificially sweetened food to cause significant problems.

The toxic dose of xylitol in dogs is 75 mg of xylitol for every kilogram of body weight of the dog. In a 30 kg Labrador retriever this equates to 7 sticks of sugar-free gum. In a 5 kg Poodle as few as one stick of the same gum can cause toxicity. It is not just gum which can be the problem, specific sugar-free peanut butter is sweetened with xylitol, some children’s vitamins can be a problem, and oddly enough, some beauty products including face creams, shampoos and makeup have xylitol.

The takeaway message is to keep our dogs away from sugar-free products, and if an accident happens where one of these products is eaten, then an emergency trip to the veterinarian is warranted to prevent serious illness.

Written by Dr. David Kerr, DVM