A Closer Look at Xylitol and Pet Poisoning

Xylitol looks just like white, granular table sugar, but with fewer calories, it’s a great alternative for some people. Popular with dentists, diabetics, and healthy trendsetters, this sugar substitute can be used in recipes and drinks just like regular sugar. What’s more, this plant alcohol derivative actually has many health benefits for humans.

However, while all this sounds great for us, xylitol can be extremely dangerous to dogs. Fortunately, all it takes is a little knowledge and awareness to keep your furry companion out of trouble and avoid a potentially deadly pet poisoning situation.

Common Products

This sugar alcohol occurs naturally in all sorts of things like plums, berries, mushrooms, and even trees. On the glycemic index, xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like glucose does, but it can cause a pet poisoning if ingested by your dog. Xylitol can be found in the following common products:

  • Sugar-free gum, candy, or breath mints
  • Baked goods that use xylitol instead of sugar
  • Dietary supplements
  • Cough syrup
  • Vitamins
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Nasal spray
  • Laxatives or digestive aids
  • Allergy medications
  • Prescription medications

Why Does it Happen?

We know xylitol isn’t safe for dogs, but why? Because it’s absorbed immediately into a pet’s bloodstream when eaten. This sends the pancreas into overdrive making insulin and causes a severe drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Seizures and liver failure are common side effects in dogs.

What to Do

Quick thinking and emergency medical care are required to prevent life-threatening injuries or death. Symptoms can surface within 30 minutes and last longer than 12 hours. This can be an incredibly stressful and confusing time for owners who don’t know exactly what their dog ingested. Vomiting, loss of coordination, and collapse often precede immediate veterinary intervention.

Treating a Pet Poisoning

The severity of symptoms and presence of organ damage depends on how much xylitol was consumed. Depending on the type of product, dogs can either suffer symptoms of hypoglycemia or liver failure. Because of this range, we must try to determine the amount of toxin in an animal’s system.

Since there’s no antidote for xylitol poisoning, our experienced veterinarians will treat this type of pet poisoning in the following ways:

  • Induce vomiting
  • IV fluids
  • Medication to protect the liver
  • Sugar supplementation

Blood work helps us determine the right course of action to reduce effects and prevent further damage.

Preventing a Pet Poisoning

One of the most common culprits of xylitol poisoning comes in the form of something generally perceived as innocuous: peanut butter.

Dogs love peanut butter, and it’s a healthy occasional treat for them. However, many brands now include xylitol to sweeten up their spreads. To be safe, always choose raw peanut butter that’s unsalted and unsweetened. Also beware of “lite” peanut spreads.

Dogs exposed to xylitol can still live long, happy lives provided they receive immediate treatment. We urge you to contact us with any questions or concerns. Our team is always here for you and your pet!