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AVMA Backs Legislation Promoting Xylitol Pet Safety Requirements


Press release: AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently issued its full endorsement of the Paws Off Act of 2021, which would require food containing the sugar substitute xylitol to include a warning label specifying its toxic effects. Xylitol is a substance that is highly poisonous to pets, especially dogs.

Xylitol, the artificial sweetener used in everyday products, is frequently not listed on the ingredient label, making it difficult for pet owners to keep track of what items are dangerous to their pets. Most often found in sugar-free gum and breath mints, xylitol may also be present in vitamins, cough drops, sugar-free desserts, mouthwash, toothpaste and other household items. The Paws Off Act would help inform pet owners about the products that contain the artificial sweetener in order to keep their pets safe.

Representatives David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives with Representatives Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) joining as original cosponsors.

“Ensuring pet owners are aware of the products and household items that pose a threat to their pets is a critical component of animal welfare,” said Dr. José Arce, AVMA president. “Despite the deadly harm xylitol presents to dogs and other pets, it is frequently not listed in the ingredient label in products we use on an everyday basis. We must enact the Paws Off Act of 2021 to inform the public about which products contain the artificial sweetener and the poisonous effect it has on our pets. The AVMA applauds Representatives Schweikert, Stanton, Waltz and Grijalva for championing this necessary legislation in Congress.” 

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) animal poison control center, xylitol poisoning calls have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. In 2005, 201 xylitol-related calls were registered compared with 6,760 registered in 2018.

“With roughly 50 percent of American households owning one pet or more, it is vital that families be informed of the dangers many basic items and products can pose to their animal’s lives,” said Rep. Schweikert. “Late surveys conducted by the FDA have shown that an overwhelming majority of pet owners are unaware of the existence of this toxin in their everyday items. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to heighten awareness around this chemical, so that pets may remain protected.”

“As a pet owner, I know they often eat things they’re not supposed to,” said Rep. Stanton. “Table scraps are usually harmless, but some common household products that are safe for their owners—like candy and toothpaste, which both may contain xylitol––can be lethal for dogs. I’m proud to introduce the Paws Off Act to improve labeling practices and help families keep this toxic substance away from their pets.”

The AVMA is the nation’s leading representative of the veterinary profession, speaking for more than 97,000 member veterinarians who care passionately about protecting animal health, animal welfare, and human health. Informed by its members’ unique scientific training and knowledge, the AVMA advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and support the crucial work of veterinarians nationwide. 

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