Poison Prevention Week: Dogs

Xylitol: Safe for People, Deadly to Dogs

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar-alcohol found in many types of fruits and vegetables and used as a sugar substitute in many common products. Appealing to dieters because of its sweet taste and small amount of calories, Xylitol is also widely used by diabetics who must monitor their sugar intake. While it has been determined to be a safe product for human consumption, Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, for a ten pound dog, ingesting one piece of gum may be all it takes for the animal to suffer from hypoglycemia.

Xylitol Dangers for Dogs

Toxicity

In both dogs and humans, the pancreas controls the level of blood sugar through the release of insulin. When Xylitol is ingested by humans there is only a small release of insulin. 
However, when Xylitol is ingested by a dog:

  • The substance is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which stimulates the pancreas to rapidly release insulin
  • Shortly after ingestion, the animal will experience hypoglycemia, a sudden decrease in its blood sugar level
  • Without the proper veterinary treatment, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning

Signs of Xylitol toxicity develop rapidly, sometimes within 15 to 30 minutes following ingestion, but are usually evident within 1 to 2 hours. In some animals, toxicity may not show for up to 12 hours. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Liver failure

What to Do If Your Pet Ingests Xylitol

  • Contact their veterinarian immediately
  • Have product label of item ingested when they phone for help, if possible
  • Do not take steps unless directed by a veterinarian

Prompt veterinary care is essential in order to help an animal that has ingested Xylitol.  You may also

call the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) 

Do you have Products in your house with Xylitol?

Xylitol is found naturally in small amounts in many fruits, vegetables, and some trees, for example:

  • Raspberries
  • Plums
  • Corn
  • Birch wood  

As manufactured and used as an added ingredient, Xylitol is commonly found in many types of products, for example:

  • Medications:
    • Vitamins
    • Fiber supplements
    • Nasal sprays
    • Cough syrup
    • Throat lozenges
    • Sleep aids
    • Nicotine gum
    • Certain prescription drugs
  • Dental health products:
    • Toothpaste
    • Dental floss
    • Dry mouth sprays
    • Mouthwash
  • Food:
    • Sugar replacement to sweeten beverages, add to cereals and baked goods
    • Instant coffee
    • Ketchup
    • Pancake syrup
    • Peanut butter
    • Pudding
    • Ice cream
    • Drink powder
    • BBQ sauce
    • Chewing gum
    • Candy
    • Jam
    • Chocolates
    • Sugar free mints

Xylitol is even found in small amounts in some veterinary pet products, such as in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. When a veterinary product is found to contain Xylitol, it is important to follow the prescribed dose and to keep the product our of your pet’s reach to avoid potential poisoning

Steps to Prevent Xylitol Poisoning

1.Clients should be advised to check the product labels of items being brought into the home, watching for alternative names on the product list, including:

  • Birch sugar
  • E967
  • Meso-Xylitol
  • Xilitol
  • Xylit
  • Xylite
  • Xylo-pentane-1,2,3,4,5-pentol

2.When products are found to have Xylitol as an ingredient, make sure that they are put away so pets can’t get to them.

3.When Xylitol ingestion is caught early and the animal receives veterinary treatment right away, the prognosis for outcome is better. However, since even a small quantity of Xylitol can be deadly, it is important to advise clients that if they suspect their pet has ingested even a tiny amount of Xylitol that they seek veterinary help immediately.

To Your Pet's Good Health,

Dr. Barry

Sources:

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm244076.htm

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/03/24/dangers-of-xylitol-for-pet-dogs.aspx