Dog Owners Beware: Always Watch out for Products with Xylitol
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
I had a terrifying moment yesterday. We returned from the Run Fur Shelter 5K/10K races that I wrote about in yesterday’s blog, I had let the dogs out of their kennels, taken them outside for potty breaks, and then brought them inside. All of the water I had consumed after the race caught up with me and I rushed into our powder room, recklessly tossing onto our living room side table a handful of things that I had brought in from my husband’s truck as I ran to avoid what he calls a “third grade emergency” situation. Those things that I dropped onto the table were my iPhone, ear buds, running armband/phone holder, and three samples of a drink mix called Slender Sticks.
As I washed my hands I had a panicky thought, remembering Jackson’s mostly dormant bad habit of stealing and destroying things from that side table when he wanted to get my attention. I say mostly dormant because every now and then he surprises me by snatching up my book or a magazine to get my attention. I know his motivation is purely attention seeking because he does not touch anything else that is not his in the entire house, and he only does it with my things and when I am home. These days, now that he is six years young, he only does this about twice a year and I always imagine a twinkle in his eye when he does it, like, “Look, Momma, I’m still your naughty puppy!”
I burst out of the bathroom and around the corner into our living room to find him standing in the middle of the room, both suspicious and innocent at the same time. He looked startled as I came into the room in a rush and ran to the side table. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I saw that my things were untouched and that he had not consumed or touched the three samples of Slender Sticks beverage flavor packets that I had received as samples from the health food store that was sponsoring the event. I had not looked at the ingredients but I knew I did not want him eating any powdered energy drink mixes.
I felt goosebumps on my arms as I looked at the packets and saw the first ingredient in them: Xylitol. I nearly cried with relief that he had not chosen that day for his semi-annual foray into his previous puppy antics.
There have been plenty of blogs and articles about the extreme dangers of Xylitol when consumed by dogs. As defined on WebMD, “Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables.” When consumed by dogs, Xylitol can cause extreme and deadly hypoglycemia or liver failure. Dogs who consume products with Xylitol should be taken to the vet immediately. As a result, I have been on Xylitol patrol for years, carefully making sure that the kids do not leave gum or candy anywhere the dogs can reach it and generally banning it from our home.
Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gum and candy, toothpaste and mouthwash and other sugar-free products. If you are on social media you may have seen frequent warnings about at least one brand of peanut butter with it, terrifying all dog owners who rely on peanut butter for giving medicine or simply treating their dog from time to time. It is even in at least one nasal spray and a skin care product called Micellar Water. You can also buy it in a large bag like sugar; when I saw it in the local health food store I shuddered at the thought of that being in a dog owner’s pantry where it could be knocked over and spilled.
My dogs are generally well-behaved and do not snatch up things left behind on our side tables anymore now that we have grown out of puppyhood. This is both a blessing and a curse; because they are grown up dogs and not crazy puppies we can be lazy and leave things on the table like the remote control or a magazine, but just one product like the Slender Sticks that I brought home from the 5K could be deadly if one or both dogs decided to break into naughty puppy mode.I am hyper vigilant about making sure Xylitol containing products are nowhere near my dogs and am appalled that I forgot to look at the contents of those samples before so casually tossing them down within reach of my dogs.
Yesterday was a reminder to check all labels, particularly if something is labeled “healthy” or “sugar-free” or low in calories, and that you cannot be lazy and toss things down where your dogs can reach them without thinking. Thankfully nothing happened, but it was a scary reminder of how differently our dogs process some of the things that we humans can consume. I personally avoid fake sugars as much as possible; I would rather go without or just use normal sugar, and the Xylitol trend is one trend in sweeteners that cannot go away fast enough for this dog owner, because we must always watch out for products with this ingredient.