The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Thursday that xylitol could cause dogs to fall severely ill if ingested, and, in some cases, kill them. This comes on the heels of several reports sent to the agency’s Center for Veterinary Medicine claiming that dogs had been poisoned by the artificial sweetener, as well as an increasing number of calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center regarding xylitol poisoning in dogs.
According to data from late 2015, the number of xylitol-related calls to the Animal Poison Control Center skyrocketed from 82 in 2004 to over 3,700 in 2014, while a separate set of data from the Pet Poison Helpline shows that xylitol calls increased by 15 percent in the current year. Xylitol, which can also be found in cough syrup, breath mints, sugar-free candies, and vitamins, is a perfectly safe substance to consume for humans, but dogs’ bodies metabolize the agent in a completely different way.
“In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas,” the FDA warned in its statement. “However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.”
Pet owners whose dogs may have ingested xylitol are advised to bring their pets to their veterinarian or emergency animal hospital, the FDA noted. Side effects may include vomiting, a severe and sudden drop in blood sugar, weakness, seizures, staggering, and a lack of coordination, and can take up to 12 to 24 hours to manifest.