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Posted on 08-12-2015

Pawsitively Helpful Pet Tips

with DR. DEB

"Xylitol in Peanut and Nut Butters"

Xylitol is a common additive in many human foods as a sweetener popular for its low glycemic index.  We've previously discussed the toxicity of this natural sugar alcohol sweetener when ingested by dogs and cats causing dangerous low blood sugars and liver damage.

Xylitol is now also being found in several specialty peanut and nut butter brands.  NUTS 'N MORE, KRUSH NUTRITION and P-28 FOODS all make peanut butter and nut-based spreads containing the ingredient.

Though xylitol has been popping up in all kinds of food and dental products the last several years, peanut butter is a special concern, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline and SafetyCall International.  "First, dogs fed straight peanut butter as a treat or fed treats baked with xylitol-containing peanut butter may certainly be at risk for harm, " she says.  "Second, a dog that nabs the entire jar of xylitol-containing peanut butter and happily gorges on his or her treasure without anyone knowing could quickly become extremely ill.  If this occurred during the day while the owners were not home, it's possible the dog could die before people returned."  Peanut butter is also a commonly used treat to disguise pet medications.

Presently, only P-28 FOODS PEANUT SPREAD has provided the concentration of xylitol found in its product to Pet Poison Hotline.  For this product, Dr. Brutlag created this guide to help owners understand how much of the spread could be dangerous to their pet:

Pet's weight in pounds                         Potentially toxic dose of P-28 Foods Peanut Spread

10#                                                      0.8oz

25#                                                      2.0oz

50#                                                      4oz

75#                                                      6oz

Brutlag is urging pet owners to be vigilant about checking labels and looking for keywords that can indicate that a food contains xylitol.  The most obvious thing to look for is the word 'Xylitol' itself.

Something to check is whether the packaging says "sweetened naturally" or that it uses a "natural sweetener".  Brutlag says, "It's a common misconception that xylitol is an artificial sweetener--but it's not.  It's normally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, so if you see those terms, look deeper to see if xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol, so this is another phrase to look for."

Because xylitol and other sugar alcohols are not techincally sugar, they might also be found in products labeled "sugar free" or "no sugar added".

While it seems unlikely that xylitol will become so mainstream that it begins to replace sugar in most foods, it's very likely that more products will contain it, which Brutlag says has been the trend for several years.

Thank you to DVM360 and Katie James for the above information.

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