Veterinarians, pharmacists and pet owners all have a role
Though xylitol is a natural sweetener found in a wide variety of products intended for human use, veterinarians know it can be dangerous – and potentially fatal – to dogs if ingested. While veterinarians have been warning dog owners about xylitol toxicoses for years, it’s important for this knowledge to be shared with pharmacists as well.
Pharmaceutical products are a potential source of xylitol for dogs. For instance, the liquid form of gabapentin contains xylitol, although FDA-approved gabapentin capsules and tablets do not. A pharmacist also might use products containing xylitol when compounding medications if he or she doesn’t know to avoid using it.
We all play a role in protecting dogs from xylitol.
What can you do to prevent canine exposure to xylitol?
To protect our patients and pets, a united effort is needed among veterinarians, pharmacists, and owners or caretakers. Here are a few steps that can help:
Veterinarians: Write on your compounding prescription for dogs something like, “Canine / No xylitol” or “Do not use xylitol-containing products. These are toxic to dogs.”
Pharmacists: Do not use xylitol-containing products when compounding for canine patients, and contact the veterinarian if a prescribed product contains xylitol. The veterinarian may be unaware that this sweetener is in the particular product.
Owners or caretakers: When you pick up your dog’s medication at a human pharmacy, verify with the pharmacist that the medication does not contain xylitol. (And do not use peanut butter containing xylitol to help your dog take its medication.)
In dogs, xylitol stimulates insulin release that can result in severe, and sometimes deadly, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and causes liver damage that can result in bleeding problems and liver failure. Canines are the only species in which xylitol is known to be toxic. For more information, see Xylitol and Your Dog on the FDA website.
To establish a good line of communication with pharmacists, veterinarians can reach out to local pharmacies proactively with a collegial request for partnership in filling prescriptions for animal patients. The AVMA offers a sample letter for AVMA members to use to introduce themselves to area pharmacists and open a dialogue.