Many people know about common things that are toxic to dogs such as chocolate and raisins, but fewer know about the dangers of xylitol ingestion in dogs. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is being put in more and more products, and can pose a fatal threat to your dog.
The two major effects of xylitol in dogs are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver toxicity. Low blood sugar might not sound like a true emergency, but it can lead to weakness, disorientation, and seizures. The blood sugar becomes low because the dog’s body reacts to xylitol like it would for a real sugar, by releasing insulin. When there is only xylitol in the system, rather than real sugar, insulin will lower the blood sugar to dangerous levels. The second effect is on the liver. It is not fully understood how, but xylitol can cause liver tissue to die. This often happens about 8-12 hours after exposure to xylitol. There are many different symptoms of liver failure, some of which are vomiting and diarrhea, disorientation, lethargy, bleeding disorders, and even death.
If your pet has had an exposure to a product containing xylitol it is important to bring them to your veterinarian for immediate treatment. The veterinarian will begin by making them vomit to try and minimize the absorption of xylitol. Continued medical monitoring is very important, to make sure the blood glucose is acceptable, and to treat it as needed with IV fluids containing sugar. Blood work should also be run to assess the liver, and if there are changes in liver numbers, supportive care may need to be given including hospitalization on IV fluids and medications.
The toxic amount in dogs is somewhere between 0.074 – 0.1 grams per kg of body weight. In one stick of gum there can be anywhere from 0.009 g – 0.3 grams, so far a small dog, even eating just one piece of gum can be life threatening.
Since it can be such a severe toxicity, it is important to read the labels on all products, as more and more products contain xylitol. Here is a list of some of the most common household products that can contain xylitol.
- Sugar-free gum, mints, and candies
- Packaged goods/baking mixes (jell-o, pudding, cake/cookie premixes, some ice cream and yogurt)
- Jams, syrups, condiments
- Flavoured drink powders
- Sugar free/low sugar chocolate
- Peanut butter and nut butter
- Dental products (tooth paste, mouth wash, etc.)
- Vitamins and supplements
- Athletic Clothing
If you think your dog has consumed something with xylitol, please contact your local vet immediately so they can begin treatment as soon as possible.