Hi Dr. B,
My friend told me that some artificial sweeteners are poisonous to dogs. Is this true?
Your friend probably was referring to recent reports regarding the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is very popular in Europe, and its use is increasing in the United States. It is used in gums, candies, and some low-carbohydrate diet foods. It also is sold as a powder for home use.
In people, xylitol is touted to have a number of health benefits, such as prevention of cavities. But it most definitely is poisonous to dogs.
In dogs, xylitol has been associated with two problems: dangerously low blood sugar, and liver failure. Either of these problems has the potential to be fatal. Dogs should not allowed access to products containing xylitol. Any dog who ingests xylitol should be taken to a veterinarian immediately, because severe toxicity can occur within 30 minutes.
I have not encountered any reports of feline toxicity from xylitol. However, this may be because cats generally aren’t attracted to sweet foods, which makes xylitol exposure less likely. To be safe, I strongly recommend that cats not consume the product.