Dog owners are being warned that feeding their dog food that contains xylitol could prove fatal to beloved pets.
Xylitol is sugar alternative which is used in many foods as a natural sweetener. Pet owners are most likely to come across it in peanut butter, a food they may give to a dog as a treat.
‘In very small doses this ingredient can be very dangerous to dogs,’ a Pet Insurance Australia spokesperson warned.
‘The sugar-free trend has seen the increase in many products now containing xylitol rather than traditional forms of sugar.’
The spokesperson said over 2,000 cases of poisoning were reported in the past year, and while the figure also included other forms of poisoning, the number highlighted the importance of checking unsuspecting products.
‘In many cases, the cause of poisoning will not be confirmed due to the importance of treating the animal quickly to prevent death,’ she said.
‘Many vets will not wait to confirm the cause as rapid treatment is vital.’
She added xylitol poisoning could result even if the dog only consumed a minimal amount.
In particular she said pet owners who used peanut butter in home-made dog treats and training aids needed to be aware of potential dangers.
‘Some peanut butters are now switching sugar for xylitol, so we are urging all pet owners to double check the ingredients before feeding any human grade foods to dogs.’
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Dr David Neck, a spokesperson for the Australian Veterinarian Association, said xylitol poisoning can occur quickly and can cause hypoglycemia in dogs.
Symptoms may include; vomiting, lethargy, difficulty walking or standing, weakness tremors and uncontrollable shaking.
‘Severe hypoglycaemia will result in seizures,’ Dr Neck said.
‘The dogs will either present with seizures or they can present with liver failure.
‘These dogs may develop bleeding disorders but are generally incredibly sick. We don’t have much in the veterinary world to treat liver failure.
‘If a dog comes into the clinic with hypoglycaemia this can be treated with glucose infusions via an intravenous drip.’
Dr Neck said the reported dose for poisoning by xylitol is 100mg per kilogram of body weight.
The expert added part of the problem when treating dogs who’d been poisoned by xylitol was it was often difficult to know how much of the sweetener they had consumed as often products didn’t list the exact amount used.
His recommendation to all dog owners is to avoid all product containing the sweetener and to make sure your pet can’t access these.
If you suspect your pet has eaten any amount of xylitol it is important to seek veterinary treatment quickly.
Pets that receive quick treatment before symptoms start, can recover.