Is Xylitol Poisonous To Dogs?

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is commonly used as an alternative to sugar in many human food products and medications. Lately, there has been an increase in its use, as we try to reduce our sugar consumption and the sugar tax was also introduced. It has 40% fewer calories than sugar and has virtually no effect on blood sugar levels in humans, thereby putting less strain on the pancreas and reducing the risk of type 1 diabetes.

HOWEVER, it is extremely toxic to dogs, even in very small quantities – it is estimated that just 50-100mg of xylitol per kilogram of bodyweight can be toxic. Sugar free chewing gum is typically very high in xylitol, containing as much as 1 gram per piece, so a 10kg dog would only need to eat one piece of xylitol gum to become seriously ill.

Why is xylitol toxic to dogs?

Usually within approximately 30 minutes of xylitol ingestion, there is a large and sudden release of insulin that results in a rapid drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This can cause seizures that can be fatal if left untreated.

As a slightly more delayed effect over the following 24-48 hours xylitol can also cause liver damage and potential failure. Some dogs seem to be more sensitive to this toxic effect on the liver than others, with the likelihood of liver damage being difficult to predict based on body wait and amount consumed - very careful monitoring through repeated blood tests is therefore needed.

What are the symptoms of xylitol toxicity?

Symptoms of xylitol toxicity typically include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation and difficulty walking
  • Collapse
  • Seizures/tremors
  • Coma

What products is xylitol found in?

As the use of xylitol becomes more common and widespread, it is important to be very careful about what you feed your dog. For example, some peanut butters contain xylitol so check the ingredients carefully or choose a doggy safe product. Keep your handbag securely closed – bag raiding is a very common cause of toxicities in general! Be aware that some human toothpastes contain xylitol, so stick to a dog toothpaste (they will prefer the taste as well). If you use a sweetener for baking then be sure to store it safely – this is quite a common way for dogs to ingest large amounts of xylitol.

What is the treatment for xylitol ingestion?

Treatment usually involves increasing the blood sugar level by giving intravenous glucose. Your dog’s blood sugar will need to be monitored closely for at least 12 hours, while the liver values will need to be monitored for longer, usually around 72 hours due to the delayed effect. The vet can give medication to help support the liver, but if it is very severely affected then this can be much more difficult to treat, and in some cases can unfortunately be fatal.

If you are worried that your dog may have eaten something containing xylitol then please contact your vet ASAP and be sure to keep the product packaging.

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XYLITOL: The Sweetener that is not so sweet for dogs

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is used in lots of human products including sugar-free chewing gum, sweets, baked goods, toothpastes and even some peanut butters.

Xylitol is highly TOXIC for dogs, causing a life-threatening drop in blood sugar (hypothermia) after only a small amount is eaten. For example, a single piece of sugar-free gum can be toxic for a 10kg dog. Hypoglycaemia can result in collapse and seizures.

Xylitol can also cause liver failure in dogs, that can be fatal.

Please be very careful when feeding dogs any human food product – check the label carefully and if in any doubt then do not feed it. Also remember to keep your handbag closed and out of reach of your dog!

If you are worried that your dog may have eaten something containing xylitol then please contact your vet ASAP and be sure to keep the product packaging.


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