Raise your hand if youâve ever fed peanut butter to your dog.
I know I have.
As a veterinarian, Iâve even recommended it from time to time. Maybe to disguise a sneaky tablet, or even to make that food-dispensing toy last a little bit longer for dogs needing an extra level of challenge. Â And I know a lot of people incorporate peanut butter into yummy homemade doggy treats too.
The bad news is that peanut butter CAN kill your dog.
This is because more and more manufacturers are putting an ingredient called xylitol in their peanut butter.
And Iâm scared.
This ingredient is pretty harmless to humans, and I hear has many benefits, like keeping teeth healthier - but itâs really dangerous to our furry pals.
So What on earth is Xylitol
This stuff has been used in sugar-free chewing gum for years, and is now making itâs way into many more foods because its popularity as a natural sugar substitute is increasing. Â Some of the places it can be found include candy, desserts, beverages, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Oh, and peanut butter.
In dogs, xylitol has two deadly effects:
- It causes blood glucose to plunge dramatically, leading to life-threatening hypoglycaemia
- It causes liver failure.
So why does the blood glucose drop when a dog ingests xylitol?
Itâs normal for insulin to be released in response to an increase in blood glucose after a meal. Â It happens to all of us (except some diabetics), and allows the extra glucose in the bloodstream to be taken up by the body for energy or storage. In dogs, xylitol tricks the pancreas into thinking it is glucose, leading to a massive release of insulin into the bloodstream that is not needed…
Because xylitol is a dirty rotten liar and is not glucose at all, the insulin release is totally inappropriate and causes a precipitous drop in blood glucose (hypoglycaemia). Â This can be deadly.
When dogs ingest larger amounts of xylitol, they are more likely to go into liver failure. Â No one knows exactly why this happens, but I have sadly seen its disastrous consequences. Â A very special little dog called Charlie did not survive his experience with xylitol. Â His heartbreaking story was the catalyst for this post, and I hope it helps to spread the word about the dangers of xylitol.
What are the Signs of Xylitol Toxicity?
Dogs that eat something containing xylitol will usually vomit.
Hypoglycaemia can develop within just 15 â 30 minutes. Â This might manifest as weakness, disorientation, tremors, loss of coordination, inability to rise from lying down, or seizures.
With larger doses, the signs of hypoglycaemia may not be seen at all, or may occur 24 â 48 hours after ingestion. This delayed hypoglycaemia is more likely to be due to liver failure than having anything to do with insulin secretion.
As liver failure progresses, dogs often become jaundiced. They can also lose their ability to produce clotting factors crucial for blood coagulation. This leads to signs of bleeding such as petechiae (red spots) on mucous membranes (e.g. gums), bruising, and blood in the faeces.
These signs can develop anywhere from 2 to 72 hours after ingestion of xylitol.
How Much Xylitol is Toxic?
Dogs can develop dangerous hypoglycaemia from as little as 50 mg/kg. Â This equates to just half a gram of xylitol for a 10 kg (22 pound) dog. Â Higher doses are usually required to cause liver failure, but death can result from hypoglycaemia alone.
Chewing gums sweetened with xylitol may contain 1 - 2 grams per piece. Â This means a single piece of this gum could be lethal.
Some peanut butter brands that currently contain xylitol are Nutsân More, Krush Nutrition, and P28. Â At the time of writing the P28 brand is the only one to have released data regarding amount of xylitol in their product. Â Around 50 grams of P28 peanut butter could cause toxicity in a 10 kg (22 pound) dog.
I Think my Dog ate some Xylitol. What Should I do?
What is the Treatment for Xylitol Toxicity?
If it is early enough that no signs of poisoning have developed, your vet may induce vomiting. Â The goal is to remove any xylitol from the system that hasnât yet been absorbed. Â Other methods of decontamination such as gastric lavage are sometimes appropriate.
Your dog may need to stay at the veterinary clinic for treatment or observation. Â Dogs that have ingested a low dose of xylitol should be monitored for signs of hypoglycaemia for at least 12 hours, and more likely 24 hours.
If hypoglycaemia has developed, your vet will use intravenous fluids (a drip) that contain dextrose to keep blood glucose within a safe range while monitoring this regularly. Â This can usually be followed with small frequent meals and continued blood glucose monitoring. Â Blood tests for liver damage may need to be performed as well.
The aggressive treatment and continual monitoring required mean that xylitol toxicity can be a costly situation. Â Unless your dog is showing signs of liver failure, the prognosis is usually good as long as he/she is receiving appropriate treatment and supportive care in a veterinary clinic. If liver failure occurs the prognosis is less favourable.
Prevention is Better than Treatment
We should never assume that something perfectly safe for humans is also safe for our furry family members. Â Always check labels for the word xylitol. Â If somethings says it is naturally sweetened, this could also indicate the presence of xylitol so is another red flag. Â If youâre not sure about something, either donât feed it to your dog, or call your veterinarian or pet poisons line first.
Did You Like This Post?
I have adapted this post on the dangers of xylitol from my upcoming FREE EBOOK - Doggy Danger - A Guide to Common Poisons in the Home. Â When itâs all shiny and finished, this informative E-book will hit the inboxes of every awesome person on my mailing list*. Â Itâs easy to subscribeÂ here.
Iâm really excited about this one, so sign up and get your paws on a copy!
*Edit: Doggy Danger now available, check it out!
I first read this with such surprise - Iâd never heard of this in Peanut Butter - but the brands we buy are natural and organic and they just are peanuts and oil - so i suppose its down to reading the labels, trusting the brand, and doing the research! Pretty scary though that they can add these things in to foods… Thanks
Charlie, my pitt and I have a scoop or 2 of peanut butter ice cream everynight. Oh so good. This definitely puts a crimp in our time at night. đ
If the peanut butter doesnât include xylitol in the ingredient list then you and Charlie donât need to worry about this problem đ
Having said that, I would save peanut butter icecream as an occasional treat for Charlie anyway, as the sugar and dairy products etc arenât that good for dogs.
I donât give my dog Ginger peanut butter, but she does love to eat peanuts. I guess peanuts would be safe, nothing added.
Yep itâs the added xylitol in the products that is toxic. Peanuts alone will not have this effect. Thanks for visiting!
Peanuts can also be deadly.
Do you mean in terms of the fat content leading to pancreatitis? Iâve not heard of any toxicity in dogs caused specifically by peanuts, but Iâd be really interested in more information.
None of those artificial sweeteners are good for anybody. I never heard of any of those peanut butter brands which is good. We like ours natural anyhoo. I hope more dog owners learn about this.
Hi Cathy, Thanks for visiting, and I totally agree with you!
The important distinction with xylitol is that, despite itâs artificial-sounding name, itâs a natural sugar alcohol. Itâs found in a lot of things that say they are ‘naturally sweetenedâ, so people can be tricked.
This is so crazy! I personally donât use any sugar substitutes and I definitely donât give them to my kitties. I have seen elsewhere that Xylitol has a similar effect in cats though cats are less likely to get a hold of it. This is a really important message!
Thanks Robin. A recent lecture I attended by someone from ASPCA animal poison control said there were no reported cases in cats at that stage, but I agree with you, itâs not worth the risk!
Mr. N wonât eat peanut butter but I agree itâs important to check labels!
Yes, absolutely. Thanks for coming by đ
I had heard about this!!! So scary!!!!
Yes! Thanks for visiting đ
Thanks so much for this info, Dr. Jo! I knew Xylitol was toxic to dogs, but never knew exactly what mechanism of action it had on the body. Scary stuff. Like Amy said, so many homemade dog treat recipes contain peanut butter, so this is really important to be aware of. Iâll definitely be sharing this!
And as always, love your illustrations!! đ
Thank you so much Camille!
Thankfully not many peanut butters have xylitol in them - yet, but itâs certainly always worth checking the label.
I really appreciate you sharing đ
Xylitol is a dangerous ingredient thatâs for sure, love the informative post and your illustrations as always!
Thank you Tracy!
Interestingly there are no reported cases of toxicity in cats, but we just donât know.
Hi Jo - are any of these brands available in Australia or are they US brands? No matter where you live though I think itâd just be safer - for pups AND humans - to stick to the peanut butters that are 100% peanuts only. There are a couple of brands now available in the supermarket so theyâre not difficult to find (and Iâve never understood why peanut butter needs sugar anyway!)
At this stage Iâve only been able to find US brands, but I think itâs only a matter of time, and Iâll be watching closely. What are the brands you use? I have a feeling the ones Iâve always bought are chock full of sugar - I never bothered to check! A lot of us could probably be much more deliberate about our food choices, for both our pets and ourselves!
Hi Jo, Iâve tried ‘Kraft Natural Peanut Butter (100% Nuts)â but prefer ‘Mayverâs Peanut Butter (Natural nâ Smooth)â both of which are available at Woolworths. I cook with mine which is why I stick to the smooth version but Iâm sure the crunchy would be fine too đ
Fantastic, thank you so much for sharing Judy đ
By no means an exhaustive search on the question of Xylitol in Australian PB products, but, there was a recent post from Kraft stating that there is not. https://www.facebook.com/kraftnuts/posts/1467960140173532
Still an important topic, and food additives are always something to be on look out for (humans and dogs alike). Thanks for the post!
Thanks so much Bradley! Australia-specific info seems to be pretty difficult to obtain online. Might have to spend some time checking out the supermarket shelves!
Great post!! There are like 1 million Pinterest posts on yummy dog treats that contain peanut butter so this information is really useful. I donât really give the pups peanut butter much but when I do it is the natural kind.
I actually think this tastes really good myself too. Last week all three of us shared a teaspoon full of natural peanut butter straight outta the tub! đ
lol Amy! Did you all lick the same teaspoon?
I love peanut butter too - but itâs gotta be crunchy đ