Xylitol & Dogs – Warning for Pet Owners!

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

Xylitol & Dogs: Consumer Alert

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used in many sugar-free products, including gum, candy, and baked goods. It has been marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar because it has fewer calories and does not cause the same blood sugar spikes.

However, what many people do not know is that xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, and can cause serious harm, even in small amounts.

In this blog, we will explore the dangers of xylitol for dogs, the signs of xylitol poisoning, common foods it is found in and what to do if you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is often used as a sugar substitute. It is commonly found in sugar-free gum, candy, and baked goods, as well as some oral hygiene products including toothpaste & mouthwash. Xylitol has a similar sweetness to sugar, but with fewer calories and a lower glycemic index.

Why is Xylitol Harmful to Dogs?

While xylitol may be safe for humans to consume, it is highly toxic to dogs. When a dog ingests xylitol, it triggers a rapid release of insulin, which causes a sudden drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).

This can lead to a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and even death.

Examples of Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

There have been many reported cases of xylitol toxicity in dogs, with some of the most severe cases resulting in death. In one case, a small dog ingested just two pieces of xylitol-containing gum and experienced seizures, liver failure, and ultimately died.

In another case, a dog ingested a sugar-free cake that contained xylitol and became severely hypoglycemic, leading to hospitalization and intensive care.

The artificial sweetener Xylitol can cause major health problems, including death if ingested by a dog.

How Much Xylitol is Dangerous for Dogs?

Even a small amount of xylitol can be dangerous for dogs. As little as 0.1 gram of xylitol per kilogram of body weight can cause hypoglycemia in dogs. This means that a single piece of sugar-free gum, which may contain 1 gram of xylitol, can be toxic to a small dog weighing 10 pounds or less. The higher the amount of xylitol ingested, the more severe the symptoms will be.

What Products Contain Xylitol?

Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gum, candy, and baked goods. It is also used as a sweetener in some peanut butter brands, which can be particularly dangerous for dogs as many pet owners use peanut butter as a treat or to administer medication.

Xylitol is also found in some dental products, such as toothpaste and mouth rinse–which can be dangerous if a dog accidently ingests these products.

Xylitol dogs
Here are common foods that can contain xylitol and shouldn’t be given to dogs.

Here are common foods that can contain xylitol and shouldn’t be given to dogs:

  • Sugar-free gum (Ice Breakers have been said to contain more xylitol than others)
  • Peanut butter / Nut butter
  • Mouthwash / toothpaste
  • Pudding
  • Syrups
  • Jams
  • Chocolate
  • Chewable multivitamins
  • Sugar-free mints / Sugar-free candy

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it can help you know what foods might contain xylitol.

What Are the Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs?

The symptoms of xylitol toxicity can vary depending on the amount of xylitol ingested and the size of the dog. Some of the most common symptoms of xylitol toxicity include:

  • Lethargy / decreased movement
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination, staggering
  • Weakness
  • Collapsing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect that your dog has ingested xylitol, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

What To Do If Your Dog Ingests Xylitol

If you suspect that your dog has ingested a product containing xylitol, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to xylitol toxicity, and prompt treatment can be lifesaving.

Xylitol poisoning in dogs
Effects of xylitol poisoning can set in as quickly as 10-60 minutes after a dog ingests xylitol. This will depend on a variety of factors including the type of product ingested.

Your veterinarian may induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to help prevent absorption of the xylitol, as well as provide supportive care such as intravenous fluids and glucose monitoring.

How is Xylitol Toxicity Treated in Dogs?

There is no “cure” or “antivenom” type solution for xylitol poisoning. Often a vet will try to induce vomiting but be aware that you should NOT try this on your own. In some cases, vomiting can actually make the problem worse.

The treatment for xylitol toxicity will depend on the severity of the symptoms.

In mild cases, the veterinarian may induce vomiting to remove the xylitol from the dog’s system. They may also administer activated charcoal, which can help to absorb the xylitol and prevent it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

In more severe cases, the dog may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids and glucose to stabilize their blood sugar levels.

Preventing Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

The best way to prevent xylitol poisoning in dogs is to keep all xylitol-containing products out of reach. This includes sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, and oral hygiene products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

It is also important to read product labels carefully and to be aware that xylitol may be listed under other names, such as birch sugar or xylite.

As pup parents, it’s on us to understand which foods might contain xylitol. Because unfortunately, our dogs can’t read ingredient labels.

Xylitol may be a popular sugar substitute for humans, but it is important for dog owners to be aware of the dangers it poses to their pets. Xylitol toxicity can be serious, and even life-threatening, so it is important to keep all xylitol-containing products out of reach of dogs.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested xylitol, seek veterinary care immediately. With prompt treatment, many dogs can make a full recovery.

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