Most dog owners know the dangers of foods like chocolate and onions for their furry family members, but Xylitol is quickly rising to the top of the “doggie danger foods” list. And the chances are good that you probably have a product that contains it in your medicine cabinet or purse right now!
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener made from sugar alcohol that’s widely used as a lower-calorie substitute in everyday food products and OTC medications. It’s sometimes listed as “sugar alcohol” on food labels and ingredient lists.
While considered safe for humans, xylitol can be deadly for dogs – even if ingested in small quantities.
Why is it Dangerous for Dogs?
In both dogs and humans, blood sugar levels are controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, xylitol doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas, but it’s the complete opposite effect for dogs.
When a dog eats something containing xylitol, the xylitol is absorbed into its bloodstream, which can result in a quick release of insulin from the pancreas. This quick release of insulin can lead to a rapid and profound decrease in blood sugar levels — a condition known as hypoglycemia. The effects of xylitol poisoning in dogs can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating something that contains xylitol, and if left untreated, hypoglycemia can quickly become life-threatening for dogs.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten something that has xylitol in it, we recommend taking your dog to the nearest 24-hour emergency pet hospital for evaluation ASAP!
What Items Might Contain Xylitol?
Because xylitol has anti-cavity properties for human teeth, it’s commonly found in sugar-free gum, mints, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. Since it’s also considered a good sugar substitute for diabetics, Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free baked goods such as cookies and muffins.
Products that May Contain Xylitol:
- Children’s Chewable Vitamins
- Peanut Butter
- Mouth Wash
- Sugar-Free Chewing Gum & Candy
- Breath Mints
- Diabetic and Sugar-Free Baked Goods
- Throat Lozenges
- Hard Candies
- Certain Medications Such as Nasal Sprays
- Protein Bars
Make sure you regularly check product labels of household items and foods that may contain xylitol and keep them safely out of your pet’s reach! There’s a great list of 700+ xylitol-containing products on PreventiveVet.com that offers specific product brand names to keep an eye out for. Also, it’s important to note that other sugar-free substitutes such as sorbitol, maltitol, stevia, saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and erythritol are not poisonous to dogs, but your pet might get diarrhea from large amounts.
How Much Xylitol is Considered Dangerous for Dogs?
Because it’s such a strong stimulator of insulin release in dogs, it takes just a small amount of xylitol (0.1g/kg) eaten by a dog to cause hypoglycemia. The folks over at PreventiveVet.com put together these images below to give you a visual of just how small an amount of xylitol is dangerous for dogs.
What are the Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning?
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include:
- Staggering that looks like he’s “walking drunk”
- Trembling or tremors
- Racing heart beat