Xylitol Toxic to Dogs

Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol, obtained commercially from wood sugar (xylose) that is used as a sugar substitute. Xylitol is also naturally occurring sweetener found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, mushrooms, and it can be extracted from corn fibre, birch, raspberries, plums, and corn.

It is used as a sugar substitute in many low-carbohydrate and diabetic products now on the market. Xylitol is completely non-toxic to humans, but it is very toxic to dogs.

Xylitol can cause potentially fatal hypoglycemia and can lead to liver failure in dogs. It does not take much to cause these effects. Since 1960's, experiments indicated a link between the ingestion of xylitol and hypoglycemia in dogs.

In both humans and dogs, the levels of blood sugar are controlled by the body's release of insulin from the pancreas. In humans xylitol ingestion does not cause any significant changes in insulin levels or, therefore, blood glucose. However, in dogs, xylitol causes a fast release of insulin, which results in a rapid decrease in blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

Clinical signs of poisoning with xylitol can develop in as few as 20 to 30 minutes after ingestion and may include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Uncoordinated movements (ataxia)
  • Decreased Potassium (hypokalemia)
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Liver failure

Since dogs ingesting significant amounts of gum or candies solely or largely sweetened with xylitol may develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, and these signs can develop quite rapidly, it is very important that pet owners seek veterinary treatment or help from Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

If that is not possible for some reason or if your veterinarian consider it necessary, you should induce vomiting in your pet at home by using 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), the same solution used for the cleansing of cuts and scrapes that can be found at your local drugstore. Generally, 3% Hydrogen Peroxide is very effective, producing vomiting in about 10 to 15 minutes after dosing; once it has “fizzed”, it breaks down into water and oxygen and is quite harmless. The typical dose for inducing vomiting is about 1 ml per pound of body weight. Do not exceed 45 ml or 3 tablespoons, and never force H2O2 or any other liquid into your pet’s mouth, because he or she may accidentally inhale it, which could lead to pneumonia.

Frequent small meals or an oral sugar supplement may be recommended to manage dogs that have not yet shown clinical signs. After the appearance of clinical signs intravenous dextrose can be used to control hypoglycemia and some other treatments may also be necessary until the blood glucose levels return to normal levels.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The induction of vomiting is usually recommended if performed very soon after ingestion of the xylitol-containing product but before clinical signs develop.

Offer your pet a slice of bread with milk before giving H2O2 or small amount of moist pet food, as having food in the stomach can make vomiting a little easier. Vomiting should not be induced in animals exhibiting tremors or other neurologic signs, or with ingestions of certain substances such as caustic chemicals, oils or other items that could damage the gastrointestinal tract or become inhaled.

Please do not use any other “home remedies” such as salt, mustard, or ipecac because they could actually result in potentially serious complications such as sodium poisoning or cardiac arrhythmias and they are not reliable means of getting pets to vomit.

The Animal Poison Control Center advises pet owners to avoid offering their animals food meant for human consumption, and to be especially diligent in keeping candy, gum or other foods containing chocolate or xylitol out of the reach of pets.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the local Animal Poison Control Center for animal poison information.


Copyright © Maya Gavric, entrepreneur, consultant, freelance writer, web developer, artist and marketing coach has been working, researching & reporting on the Internet for years. Her numerous articles offer valuable insight and tips on wide variety of topics. In recent times she has paid particular attention to knowledge management on the Internet, exploring how our attention to hot issues might best transform current situation into better practice. 

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