Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol sweetener is popular for its low glycemic index but is known to cause hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis in dogs, is now found in several specialty peanut and nut butter brands. Nuts' n More, Krush nutirition and P-28 Foods all make peanut butter and nut based spreads containing the ingredient. Though xylitol has been popping up in all kinds of foods and dental products in the last several years, peanut butter is of special concern, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline and SafetyCall International. "First, dogs fed straight peanut butter as a treat or fed treats baked with xylitol-containing peanut butter may certainly be at risk for harm," she says. "Second, a dog that nabs the entire jar of xylitol-containing peanut butter and happily gorges on his or her treasure without anyone knowing could quickly become extremely ill. If this occurred during the day while the owners were not home, it's possible the dog could die before the people returned."
Brulag is urging pet owners to be vigilant about checking labels and looking for keywords that can indicate that a food contains xylitol. The most obvious thing to look for is the word xylitol itself. Something to check for is whether the packaging says "sweetened naturally" or that it uses "natural sweetener". Brulag says, " It's a common misconception that xylitol is an artificial sweetener - but it's not. Chemically, xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol so this is another phrase to look for. Because xylitol and other sugar alcohols are not technically sugar, they might also be found in products labeled sugar free or no sugar added.