A sugar substitute called xylitol can be lethal for pets. Xylitol use is increasing and with it, xylitol poisoning in pets is increasing. In 2014, the Poison Pet Helpline had 2,700 cases of xylitol poisoning.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener. It is a sugar alcohol and is widely used as a sugar substitute.
Xylitol is found in berries, oats, plums, and many other fruits and vegetables, but commercially it is extracted from corn, birch wood, hardwood, and other woody fibrous plant materials.
While you might think natural is good, xylitol is not safe for your dog.
What Foods Contain Xylitol?
Xylitol is becoming increasingly popular. Anything labeled as sugar-free usually contains xylitol.
Xylitol is commonly used in:
- Sugar-free gum
- Breath mints
- Some Peanut butter
- Baked goods
- Children’s vitamins
- Some Ice Creams
- Kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes
Many other products contain it, as well. You can see a list of products containing xylitol at Preventive Vet.
To be on the safe side, you should check the ingredients of anything sweet before you feed it to your dog.
Why Is Xylitol Toxic to Dogs?
Humans can consume xylitol without a problem. Dogs, on the other hand, could die if they eat too much.
This is because of a hormone called insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your blood. It is released when your blood sugar is high and brings it down to the normal level.
Xylitol doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin in humans, but it does in dogs.
Thus, when xylitol enters a dog’s bloodstream, insulin is released and causes a rapid decrease in the dog’s blood sugar.
Also, high doses of xylitol can cause liver failure.
Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning
The symptoms of xylitol poisoning are the symptoms of low blood sugar. They begin to show within 15-30 minutes of consumption.
Xylitol poisoning causes:
If you suspect your dog has eaten xylitol, you should visit your vet.
Because xylitol poisoning develops so rapidly, your vet won’t confirm your diagnosis before starting treatment.
How Much Xylitol Is Too Much?
50mg of xylitol per pound of your dog’s body weight (100mg per kilogram) can cause low blood sugar in dogs.
The more xylitol the dog has consumed, the higher the risk of liver failure.
What to Do If Your Dog Consumes Xylitol?
If your dog eats something containing xylitol, even if it’s just a small amount, call your vet immediately. Don’t wait for the symptoms to show up.
Don’t try to induce vomiting unless your vet instructs you to.
How to Prevent Xylitol Poisoning?
If you use products containing xylitol, keep them out of your pet’s reach. Check the ingredients of the foods you give your dog.
Many kinds of toothpaste contain xylitol, so only brush your dog’s teeth with toothpastes made for dogs.