dogs eating trash

Beware of Sugar Substitutes in Prepared Foods

Did you know that dogs and cats are not little people in furry suits? They’re like us in a lot of ways. They snuggle, play, and talk to us, sometimes more than other people. Maybe that’s why we keep them as pets rather than, say, cockroaches or earthworms. Don’t assume too much. There are species differences that can lead to trouble.

People food – especially the processed kind – can blindside you and your dog. A sugar substitute called xylitol is rapidly growing in popularity. It can show up in the most unexpected places.

Dogs love peanut and almond butter. Sticky and tasty, they’re great in food-dispensing toys, for hiding pills, and for teaching a dog to touch a target stick. Before sharing an appetizing glob with your best friend read the label. Nuts ’N More is just one brand that’s sweetened with xylitol. Others are likely to follow.

There are good reasons for people to consume snacks that contain xylitol. Beyond our enjoyment of sweet foods and chewing gum this food additive is actually healthy for us. It helps prevent cavities and tooth decay and it promotes remineralization of enamel. Xylitol is good for those of us with teeth we want to keep and for folks with diabetes or who may be pre-diabetic. Found in some brands of chewing gum, including Dentyne Ice, Orbit, and Trident White, xylitol is dangerous for dogs. Some candy, mints, and chewable vitamins have it too, along with a few prescription medications including Neurontin liquid and some generic brands of alprazolam, clonazepam, and mirtazapine.

Veterinarians are serious about xylitol toxicity because it can drive down blood sugar and cause hypoglycemic seizures in dogs. If your pupster eats enough food with xylitol or raids your supply of sweetened gum she can suffer liver failure. Pets suspected of ingesting xylitol need medical attention ASAP. Waiting for convulsions is a bad gamble.

Kitties, on the other hand, suffer no consequences from eating xylitol, although they’re less interested in sweet junk than their canine cousins. Cats look cool without having to chew gum or pop breath mints. Be proactive: read food labels carefully and pet-proof your home.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.