Think you already know everything you need to know about Xylitol? Time to re-think this…

In case you haven’t read my back posts on this (here’s the first and here’s another), Xylitol is a natural sweetener sourced from the birch tree. It’s a perfectly healthy substitute for sugar—unless you happen to be a dog…

…in which case your inability to break down this naturally occurring compound means that your blood sugar will drop dangerously after ingesting seemingly minute quantities, triggering seizures. Even one “sugar-free” cupcake can bring upon your demise. If the canine you ingests slightly larger amounts (let’s say two of these cupcakes) your liver may even fail.

Though some countries (most notably the birch-tree haven of Finland) have been using Xylitol since the 1970s, US consumer product manufacturers have only recently gotten in on the action (primarily the result of its favorable pricing relative to other sugar substitutes).

Despite the outcry of a small but vocal group of animal healthcare advocates (foremost among these the ASPCA’s poison control unit), more and more manufacturers continue to accept Xylitol’s emergent charms.

In my last post on this subject I railed against Flintstones and Starbucks. Both brands had recently changed their formulas to include Xylitol in several of their products. (Flintstones in some of their kids’ vitamins and Starbucks in some of their mints.) Neither brand went out of its way to warn its clientele of the change.

This was especially problematic for me as a result of my former allegiance to Flintstones as a reasonable canine multivitamin alternative. I was left to ponder how to reach all of the clients to whom I’d once advanced Flintstones as a safe and effective product for their pets.

So you see, the problem with Xylitol is not merely its presence in products (gums, candies, Jello, cupcakes, etc.). The dilemma it poses lies also in the insidious nature of its exposure when owners don’t realize that human-oriented products they once used safely for their pets (or exposed their pets to accidentally) are no longer safe.

When Fido snarfed up a couple of Tic-Tacs in the past you didn’t flinch, right? You certainly didn’t call the vet to determine the toxic dose of Xylitol and whether immediate medical treatment was necessary. But now that Tic-Tacs now contain Xylitol, will you know to worry? (Ed. Note: Tic Tacs no longer contain Xylitol, according to their website.)

Kudos in this Xylitol awareness department go to the manufacturers of Trident gum. Though many Trident products contain this ingredient, it says so boldly. Not so with the newest loser product to adopt Xylitol: Rescue Remedy.

You heard that right. This bach flower extract-containing product we often recommend to soothe our dogs’ high-strung souls has succumbed to the Xylitol dogpile. No longer can I safely recommend Rescue Remedy now that its pastilles contain the ingredient. Though its other products have reportedly not yet been tainted by this sweetener’s potentially dog-toxic effects, I can no longer trust the manufacturer to keep its products Xylitol free without fair warning.

Thanks for this news goes to Nancy Freedman-Smith of the Gooddogz blog. Her personal experience with rescue Remedy pastille poisoning led her to call for a boycott on all its products until the manufacturer rescinds its use of Xylitol or applies warning labels to its products á la Trident.

Some might say that I make a mountain of a molehill on this subject.  Some manufacturers have. After all, they say, other countries have used Xylitol for decades, reportedly without experiencing the same canine-toxic effects our American dogs have.

But if our culture has come to accept that some products not intended for dogs are nonetheless safe, and if our culture is one that exposes its canine family members to more consumer products like these (whether accidentally or on purpose), then all of us who claim a vested interest in our families’ health certainly have ample cause to warn an unsuspecting public of its dogs' very real risks…

…and you would think that these vested parties would include the manufacturers of these Xylitol-containing products, too.

 Tic-Tac and Rescue Remedy brand managers: Are you listening?

Image: tic-tac-man :) by gigaman