Saturday, January 21, 2012

Xylitol In Dog Plaque-Reducing Products?

My first reaction to Dr. Barchas' article Warning: Some Canine Plaque-Reducing Products Contain Toxic Xylitol! was shock and confusion.

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 have 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 the 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.

Another 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?


At January 21, 2012 at 11:09 AM , Anonymous Shawn Finch, DVM said...

I had read an article by Dr. Khuly that said there were some dog water additives with xylitol-I can't believe that! Such a small amount of xylitol causes toxicity, that I do not think ANY level is safe! And there are so many better options-dogs don't even need their water sweetened! I hope this goes off the market soon.

Thanks for the info Jana! You always get to the bottom of dog health issues!

At January 21, 2012 at 1:51 PM , Anonymous Rumpydog said...

Holy Cow! I had no idea! Thanks for posting this and for linking up to the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop!

At January 21, 2012 at 2:04 PM , Blogger Kolchak Puggle said...

Even knowing the toxic dose of xylitol and knowing that *when used as directed* the product should be safe, I just can't get behind any product containing xylitol. Sure, I know it's dangerous, but a lot of dog owners don't. Imagine they see it as an ingredient on this product and think "Xylitol must be safe for Fido." What about the folks who think "If a few drops is good, a big squirt is better" or the ones where one person gives it in the morning and then it gets given by another person later, thinking it was forgotten? What about a dog who is already facing a kidney deficiency and the kidneys can't handle the added burden? With so many options on the market, I prefer to choose a product without xylitol.

At January 21, 2012 at 3:21 PM , Blogger Jana Rade said...

Hi Dr. Shawn, thank you for stopping by! It is a puzzling matter. But we live in a society where we put arsenic in our (and subsequently our dogs' food) and don't think all that much of it.

There was a study into the safety
of the above mentioned product, which concluded that throughout the study there were no noteworthy abnormal findings based on clinical blood chemistry. No adverse events were observed or reported and that all glucose samples from all treatment groups were within the normal range during the entire study.

(Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine,
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon; 2Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon; 3Worldwide BioMedEx Inc., Arva, Ontario, Canada.)

That said, I am staying away from xylitol for my dogs in any amount.

At January 21, 2012 at 3:28 PM , Blogger Jana Rade said...

Hi Rumpy dog! Good to see you here! Lots of things boil down to an simple act of reading the labels and/or products sheet. It is important to be diligent about what our dogs ingest.

At January 21, 2012 at 3:31 PM , Blogger Jana Rade said...

Hi Kolchak, you bring up a good point about people often thinking that if a small amount is good that larger amount must be even better. That is quite dangerous even with things that are normally good (such as vitamins).

Thank you for bringing up an important point to the discussion.

At January 23, 2012 at 7:53 AM , Anonymous Tom Booth said...

So glad I have come across this, I never knew! It's hard enough trying to fight natural conditions such as arthritis in dogs, and here we are putting toxins into our dogs! Awareness definately needs to be improved with this. Thanks for pointing this out to me and I'm sure many others.

At January 23, 2012 at 8:04 AM , Anonymous Shawn Finch, DVM said...

Me too! I will read the study - thanks! But I am with you - I just think xylitol is not a good idea for dogs period. Kol has good points too!

At January 26, 2012 at 6:45 AM , Anonymous Pamela said...

Actually, it's not just plaque reducing products that contain xylitol. Most toothpastes do also. Every toothpaste I've seen in even the better quality pet supply stories have it.

I've asked about it all over the internet and have never found a satisfactory answers. Thanks for the link to the Barchas article.

At January 26, 2012 at 2:28 PM , Blogger Jana Rade said...

Hi Pamela,

the toothpastes probably have it for the same reason the water additives do. If you check the response I wrote to Dr. Finch, there is a link to a study which was supposed to prove safety of low level dosages.

Fortunately, not ALL dog oral products do contain it, whether water additives or toothpastes.


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