The BVA is warning dog owners of the dangers posed by the artificial sweetener Xylitol. Although not considered harmful to humans, the substance can trigger hypoglycaemia and cause liver damage in dogs.
The BVA is warning dog owners of the danger that the artificial sweetener Xylitol can pose to their pets. Although not considered harmful to humans, the substance is dangerous to dogs as it triggers a sudden release of insulin which causes a dramatic drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) and can lead to liver damage.
Xylitol is increasingly used as a sweetener in sugar-free chewing gum and other confectionary; it is used in dental hygiene products and is also found as an excipient in many medicines.
Of particular concern are the sugar substitute products that contain Xylitol which are used in home baking as well as in manufactured goods. Cakes, biscuits and other goodies made with it are toxic to dogs. Owners may not be aware of these dangers and may not associate clinical deterioration with ingestion of these foodstuffs.
Other animals such as ferrets and cats may be similarly affected and the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) is monitoring all referred cases with the aim of clarifying the situation in other species
BVA past president Nicky Paull said: “While most dog owners are now aware that foods such as chocolate and grapes can be toxic to their pets, few are aware of the dangers if their dog eats a cake or muffin containing Xylitol.”
Alexander Campbell, head of service at VPIS, said: “With the increasing number of products containing Xylitol on the market the VPIS recognises the extreme importance of raising awareness of the danger to dogs of ingesting this substance, particularly in the light of a case we handled the other evening which involved a dog eating a muffin made with this sugar substitute.
“This is yet another instance where a food or food additive deemed safe for human consumption proves to be dangerous for other species. Pets should really only be given foodstuffs formulated for them.”
Mr Campbell said the VPIS would like to see manufacturers of such products provide visible warnings and information on the packaging, and to inform the retail outlets they supply of the potential risks to animals.
The Pets and poisons: keeping your animal safe leaflet (produced by the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation and the VPIS as an easy reference guide to keeping pets safe from harmful substances) can be downloaded from the BVA AWF website or by requesting a copy from the foundation.