When Your Dog Gets Tricked Instead of Treated: Xylitol Poisoning

You may have never heard of xylitol, but we sure have. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in a wide range of commonly used products like toothpaste and sugar-free candies. While this substance makes brushing your teeth more pleasant, it is highly toxic to dogs. Before your little ones bring home their Halloween haul or Grandma arrives for Thanksgiving with a handbag full of breath mints, plan to protect your pets from a life-threatening accident. What do dog dads and moms need to know about this hidden household poison?

Why Is Xylitol Dangerous for Dogs?

Over 6,000 dogs experience xylitol poisoning each year. This fake sugar is more toxic than chocolate to pups.

When a dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it’s rapidly absorbed into their bloodstream. It then triggers the pancreas to release a significant amount of insulin. The sudden rush of insulin causes a drop in blood sugar, resulting in hypoglycemia and a dangerously low level of phosphate and potassium. This disruption to your dog’s system can cause liver damage, liver failure, and even death.

Xylitol’s destruction is quick. Your dog can go into hypoglycemic shock in as little as ten minutes, and most dogs experience toxicity symptoms within 30 minutes.

How Much Xylitol Is Too Much?

Any amount of xylitol is dangerous for pets. The equivalent of half of a sugar packet can cause hypoglycemia for a dog that is ten pounds or lighter, and about two packets can be fatal. Just under one and a half packets of xylitol are enough to cause hypoglycemia in a 30-pound dog. This is all to say that allowing your dog to access any products with xylitol is extremely risky.

Is Xylitol Dangerous for Other Pets?

As of this publication, studies show that xylitol is not toxic for cats, and there are not any cases of small companions like ferrets or rabbits being poisoned by this sweet substance. However, all pet owners should be cautious and not allow their furry friends to nibble on food or treats sweetened with xylitol.

What Products Contain Xylitol?

Many sugar-free products use xylitol as an alternative sweetener. While it can be found in gum, sugar-free candies, gummy vitamins, it’s not always listed as “xylitol” on the ingredients list. It can also be called “birch sugar” and “alcohol sugar.”

The most common household products that contain xylitol include:

  • Sugar-free candy and chewing gum
  • Breath mints
  • Mouthwash
  • Vitamins
  • Cough syrup
  • Sugar-free peanut butter
  • Sugar-free baked goods, ice cream, and other desserts
  • Toothpaste
  • Supplements

What Are the Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning?

The most common symptoms of xylitol poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Lethargy
  • Seizure
  • Collapse 
  • Trouble Walking

Dogs will often look drunk, out of it, and stagger around after consuming xylitol.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Experiencing Xylitol Poisoning?

If you suspect your dog has consumed a product containing xylitol, rub corn syrup or real maple syrup on their gums to try raising their blood sugar level. Then bring your dog into our office or an emergency vet ASAP. If you find wrappers or evidence of what your dog ate, take them with you.

How Can You Prevent Xylitol Poisoning?

Keep your dog’s paws off xylitol. Keep all sweets and dental products in a safe, secure location where your dog cannot get into them. If you’re expecting house guests for the holidays, be sure their luggage and handbags are securely kept away from your curious canine, and remind them of your human-food hand-out policy.

When brushing your dog’s teeth, never use toothpaste made for humans. Pet-friendly toothpaste is the only appropriate choice for brushing your buddy’s teeth.

Always read the labels of any products you give your dog. Sugar-free peanut butter is one of the most common culprits of xylitol poisoning in canines.

Have a Happy Howl-o-Ween and Thankful Thanksgiving

Keep your best buddy safe by keeping the candies out of paws’ reach. If you have questions about xylitol poisoning, we have answers. If you suspect your dog isn’t feeling well or is acting funny, give us a call immediately. Your quick action could save their life.

Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

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