Peanut Butter and Xylitol Dangers for Pets

A dog drinking from a spoon

Have you ever been wondering how to get that medication into your pet, and reached for a jar of peanut butter? You’re not alone! Peanut butter – perhaps for its stickiness and for its general yumminess to dogs – is a common “tool” used among pet owners to give pet medication.

But did you know that certain brands of peanut butter contain a substance that can kill your dog? Sadly, it’s true. A sugar substitute called xylitol is being used more and more often in peanut butter, and it can spell really bad news for your dog or cat.

We’ll explore the hazards of xylitol and which products – in addition to peanut butter – to look out for in your home.

What is Xylitol?

Originally discovered in 1891, xylitol is a chemical compound that is found in fruit and vegetable fibers. Today, it is manufactured from hardwood trees and corn cobs.

Xylitol first became popular during World War II when sugar was scarce. It has risen in popularity in two main areas for people: weight loss, since it has far fewer calories than sugar, and in oral health, since it can prevent mouth bacteria from producing acids that damage teeth.

Xylitol Toxicity

When certain animals consume xylitol, it generates a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This in turn causes life-threateningly low blood sugar, the basis for Xylitol toxicity.

The first signs of xylitol toxicity can occur from 15 minutes to several days after ingestion. Vomiting is usually the first sign. Dangerously low blood sugar levels can result in symptoms such as weakness, trembling, seizures, and collapse. In large doses, Xylitol consumption can cause a large scale die off of cells in the liver (necrosis) and severe liver failure. This health crisis may ultimately cause death.

Because dogs are so clever at getting into things they shouldn’t and aren’t generally picky about what (and how much) they eat, they are the usual victims of Xylitol toxicity. Cats are just as susceptible to the insulin release and hypoglycemia that follows, but they rarely eat enough Xylitol to cause liver failure and the more severe symptoms.

Not Just Peanut Butter

Which peanut butters contain xylitol? At present, 5 brands. They are:

  • Go Nuts, Co.
  • Krush Nutrition
  • Nuts ‘N More
  • P28
  • No Cow (Previously D’s Naturals)

Although peanut butter was perhaps the first product to gain national attention in the media as containing Xylitol, there are now over 700 products that contain the substance. Before you go tearing through your house to find which of your products contains Xylitol (and we believe you should), let us give you a head start.

  • Peanut and other nut butters
  • Chewing gum
  • Sugar free breath mints
  • Sugar free candy
  • Vitamins, especially children’s vitamins
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste
  • Jello and puddings
  • Ice cream
  • Nicotine gum
  • Nasal spray
  • Energy drinks
  • Digestive aids (Beano)
  • Prescription suspensions/ syrups/ melts
  • Over the Counter liquid suspensions
  • Makeup and cosmetics
  • Body and face care

Treatment of Xylitol Toxicity

If your pet ingests Xylitol, it’s an emergency. Bring them in to see us immediately. We are open 24 hours a day to assist your pet.

Treatment will depend upon how much xylitol your pet consumed, and when. If possible, bring us the wrapper that the product came in, as it can help us determine exactly how much your pet ate.

Treatment may include:

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us. We’d be happy to answer any pet health related questions. Increasing xylitol toxicity awareness is one way Barton Height Animal Hospital can help keep your pets healthy and happy for years to come.