TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners of the dangers of a common sugar substitute found in foods and other household items.

Xylitol is used in products like breath mints, toothpaste, sugarless gum and some peanut butter. The sugar substitute poses no threat to humans but can be deadly for dogs, according to the FDA.

“When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas,” the agency explained. “This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening.”

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, seizures, tremors, lower blood sugar and collapse.

Foods that can contain xylitol include:

  • breath mints
  • baked goods
  • cough syrup
  • children’s and adult chewable vitamins
  • mouthwash
  • toothpaste
  • some peanut and nut butters
  • over-the-counter medicine
  • dietary supplements
  • sugar-free desserts, including “skinny” ice cream

Pet owners are being told to check the label for xylitol in the ingredients of products, especially ones that advertise as sugar-free or low sugar.

If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately.