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This Popular Peanut Butter Ingredient Could Kill Your Dog

Posted August 24, 2015 in Dog Toxins & Poisons

Dog about to eat peanut butter

Ah, peanut butter—so yummy, but so unhealthy for you. Some peanut butter companies have tried to make peanut butter healthier by reducing the amount of fat within their peanut butter. Other brands are trying to cut out the sugar within their peanut butter to help reduce the glycemic index and calorie count. That means a few companies are replacing that sugar with a sugar-free substitute, xylitol.

What does xylitol in peanut butter mean for dog parents?
If you own a dog, you should be very careful buying sugar-free peanut butter containing xylitol as it can be poisonous to your dog! [Editor’s note: When in doubt, always be sure to check the ingredients list as some sugar-free peanut butter brands don’t say they’re sugar-free on the front of the label.]

Some specific brands that currently list xylitol as an ingredient include, but are not limited to:

Xylitol, a “sugar alcohol,” is a sugar-free substance used as a sugar substitute. While it’s a natural product (it’s naturally found in certain fruit in small amounts), and is totally safe for humans, it is very poisonous to dogs. Xylitol has gained recent popularity because it is sugar-free, reducing caloric intake in humans.

As an emergency, critical-care, veterinary specialist, I have yet to see a case of xylitol poisoning from peanut butter. So while I don’t want to blow it out of proportion, I want pet owners to be aware of this less commonly known source of xylitol, especially if you like to use peanut butter to fill your dog’s Kong!

NOTE: Xylitol is found in more common household or food products such as:

  • Candy, gums and mints
  • Diabetic snacks
  • Diabetic foods
  • Baked goods (e.g., muffins, cakes, etc.)
  • Dental products such as mouthwashes and toothpastes
  • Certain prescription human medications (e.g., gabapentin, a pain medication)
  • Certain prescription veterinary dental products
  • Chewable, sugar-free multivitamins or prenatal vitamins
  • Nasal sprays
  • Over-the-counter medications (e.g., melatonin)

When xylitol is accidentally ingested by dogs, it results in a sudden insulin release from the pancreas, which causes a life-threateningly low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). With large ingestions of xylitol, acute hepatic necrosis (severe liver failure) can be seen in dogs.

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.