Is this true?
Well, confirming that is the easy part. Dr. Barchas randomly mentions Breathalyser Plus Water Additive as an example. When you check the ingredients, you indeed will find xylitol. If you do a quick search you'll find it is not the only plaque-reducing water additive for dogs that has it as an ingredient.
If you're a diligent dog owner, you also know that xylitol is toxic to dogs.
Here is what Dr. Mahaney says about xylitol:
Xylitol is a crystalline sugar alcohol used to replace sugar as a sweetener in various food products, including chewing gum and candy. Xylitol mimics sugar’s effect on the body, causing release of insulin from the pancreas and reduction in blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Dogs quickly absorb Xylitol from the digestive tract, causing a sudden and strong release of insulin with secondary hypoglycemia. A very small amount of Xylitol can potentially cause significant toxicity in dogs.
Don't the dog product manufacturers know this when we do?
And if they do know, why would the knowingly include a known toxin in their product?
Xylitol actually is one of the active ingredients in the plaque-reducing products.
It prevents the growth of bacteria that are behind dental disease.
So are you're going to end up with a dead dog but with very clean teeth?
Dr. Barchas has a strong opinion on the matter:
I unequivocally recommend that no dog owner use this, or any, product that claims to prevent plaque in dogs. In the best case, you’ll waste your money. In worse cases, the product will contain a known poison.
Should you then turn away from all and any plaque-reducing products?
Not all plaque-reducing products do contain xylitol. And some of them do seem to have clinical evidence that they do help prevent plaque.
One such xylitol-free product is Heatlhy Mouth, that is a product our vet is using; it also has a higher level of evidence of effectiveness.
Those products that contain xylitol seem to list it on the ingredients list. So all it takes is to read the product information before you use it.
Other side of the argument is that toxicity is a question of dosage.
While xylitol at 100 to 150 mg/kg causes problems, if the water additive is diluted as directed a dog cannot drink enough to get a toxic dose. It would take 20 ml of the concentrate per kg to start to approach the risk of toxicity.
That, along with the xylitol plaque-reducing activity, would explain how it made its way into dog dental products.
So perhaps the manufacturers are not out to kill our dogs.
Would I use a product containing xylitol for my dogs? No, I admit that I would not, however irrational my prejudice might be. There are other products to choose from.
Instead of rejecting oral care flat out, though, let's remain diligent about what products we use for our dogs.
If you're brushing your dog's teeth or using other means of keeping your dog's mouth healthy, great! If water additives are what has been working for you, just use your head.
Don't forget, dental disease is a serious health risk also!
What are your thoughts on the subject?
It's your dog's health,