Q: You’ve mentioned many times in your column that dog owners can keep their pets occupied by stuffing peanut butter into toys. Recently, I read that some peanut butter contains Xylitol, an artificial sweetener you’ve reported is harmful to dogs. How dangerous is it?
– L.D., Buffalo Grove, Ill.
A: It’s true that some newer peanut butter products contain Xylitol. Dr. Justine Lee, an emergency veterinarian and critical care specialist, as well as a toxicologist, in St. Paul, Minn., concurs that Xylitol is toxic to pets.
Some sugar-free gum, mints, mouthwash and toothpaste also contain the sugar substitute. Some cookie recipes call for Xylitol. As far as anyone knows, Xylitol is not dangerous to people, but in dogs, it can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemic shock) and even liver failure.
While the dosage and the pet’s size will determine if a dog becomes ill, Lee says it’s best to keep products containing Xylitol out of the house all together, as some dogs are keen to sample strange items, like toothpaste.
Most dogs love peanut butter, and working to extract this treat from inside a toy offers a kind of occupational therapy, especially for dogs who are home alone or easily bored.
Krush Nutrition peanut butters contain Xylitol, and the company responsibly offers a warning to dog owners on its website. Nuts ’n More peanut butter spread also contains Xylitol. However, most peanut butter products don’t contain Xylitol. Still, it’s a good idea to check the ingredient list before you buy.
Q: Years ago, I heard that Febreze was dangerous to pets. I heard nothing more until a few weeks ago, when I began reading warnings online to avoid using Febreze. Can it harm pets or not?
– B.C., Minneapolis
A: “You can safely use Febreze around pets,” Lee says. “What you read is an Internet urban myth; it’s simply not true.”
Years ago, shortly after Febreze, a household odor eliminator, hit the market, it was implicated as the cause of illness and death in some pets. This claim was never substantiated, however, and Procter & Gamble teamed up with the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center to determine that Fabreze was safe. Nothing has changed.
Q: When we put Sammy, our 9-month-old terrier mix, outside, he wreaks havoc on our yard, constantly digging holes. He even chews on my plants. I’ve caught him in the act, rubbed his nose in it and swatted him with a rolled up newspaper, but nothing works. He has plenty of toys outside. Can you offer a cure?
– M.P., San Diego
A: Sammy sounds like a perfectly normal young, energetic terrier, and he doesn’t need a cure. You, however, need to understand what terriers are all about.
Do you want Sammy outside because he’s no better behaved inside? If so, see a dog trainer or certified dog behavior consultant for assistance.
Another option: Create a place in the yard (perhaps within fencing) where Sammy can play. Use interactive toys that dispense food, such as Busy Buddy or Kong toys (available at pet stores). Some owners even create a terrier pit to bury the toys.
Do keep in mind that a backyard is not a baby sitter. There’s nothing wrong with simply not allowing Sammy outside without supervision. Instead of worrying about what he does “wrong” out there, make sure he does right by keeping him otherwise occupied. Dogs don’t connect the crime with the punishment.
Swatting Sammy with a newspaper or rubbing his nose in the flowers he has destroyed teaches him nothing, except to distrust you.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to petworld@steve dale.tv. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.”