A beagle dog licks an ice cream cone at a shop in Mexico City that targets canine clientele, on April 9, 2017 ( AFP / Ronaldo Schemidt)

McDonald's ice cream does not contain sweetener that harms dogs

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Facebook posts claim that McDonald’s ice cream contains xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. But the claim -- which spread online in April 2022 as temperatures rose in the United States -- is false; McDonald’s says xylitol is not an ingredient in its ice cream, and nutritional information for the company's desserts confirms this.

"Mcdonald's has added Xylitol to their ice cream. Xylitol is deadly to dogs!" says an April 14, 2022 Facebook post.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on April 22, 2022

Similar posts -- the latest in a series of inaccurate claims about McDonald's restaurants and food items -- appeared on Facebook here and here.

Xylitol is a sweetener that is frequently used as a sugar substitute. Although it is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption, the agency says it "can be poisonous to your dog."

But McDonald's rejected the online rumors about xylitol and its ice cream.

"These claims are false. Our soft serve, found in our cones and other desserts, does not contain xylitol," a McDonald's USA spokesperson told AFP.

The sweetener is also not a listed ingredient in any McDonald's USA desserts.

Jose Arce, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, confirmed that the ingredient is dangerous to dogs.

"When dogs eat any product that contains xylitol, the xylitol gets quickly absorbed in the bloodstream, and it can cause a very quick and potent release of insulin from the pancreas and this can rapidly cause, a decrease in blood sugar, or hypoglycemia," Arce said.

"This can occur as fast as 10 minutes or within an hour, and if it's not treated quickly, you know, it can actually be very life-threatening," he added.

Although many ice creams do not contain xylitol, Arce says it is better not to feed it to dogs.

"Many dogs can be sensitive to dairy products, either because they're lactose intolerant, or they have food allergies and it can cause severe GI symptoms," he said, recommending alternatives such as homemade fruit smoothies, apple sauce or ice cubes.

The American Kennel Club also says pets owners should avoid giving ice cream to dogs, as it can cause obesity and other health issues.

Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club's chief veterinary officer, said small portions of ice cream that do not contain artificial sweeteners can be given to dogs if they have no underlying medical conditions such as pancreatitis or diabetes that could be aggravated by the treat.

However, Klein recommended alternatives such as frozen fat-free plain yogurt or frozen bananas.

"Xylitol can be found in a number of commonly used products, including sugarless gum, mints, candies, ice cream, and toothpaste, among others," he said, adding: "Since xylitol is used as a sugar substitute, it's found in many more products than people realize."

According to the FDA, xylitol goes by several names, "including wood sugar, birch sugar, and birch bark extract."

Veterinarians urge owners to check for these ingredients on food labels before giving anything to their pets, as several companies use these names interchangeably.

April 26, 2022 This article was edited to update the first paragraph.