Alternative sweeteners are all the rage these days, and it only makes sense given what we know about the dangers of too much sugar. Reducing the amount of sugar in our diets can lead to a plethora of health benefits, including weight loss, better blood sugar control, and reduced risk of tooth decay.
The sugar substitute known as xylitol fits the bill when it comes to healthy sugar substitutes, and it can be found in a variety of sugar-free foods and personal care items. Although it’s a natural product that’s safe and even beneficial for human consumption, it can pose a deadly threat to our pets. Xylitol toxicity is a serious concern that should not be overlooked by any pet owner.
Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
At this time, it’s unknown whether xylitol is toxic to cats; however, it’s known to be highly toxic to dogs and can result in the following conditions:
- Hypoglycemia – The canine pancreas doesn’t recognize xylitol and confuses it with real sugar, causing blood sugar levels to drop rapidly. This can cause vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and collapse. Symptoms of hypoglycemia typically begin within 30 minutes to a few hours of ingestion and can last for up to 12 hours.
- Hepatic necrosis – If enough xylitol is consumed, damage to the liver can occur. The exact cause of this is unknown, and not all dogs will experience hypoglycemia prior to hepatic necrosis. Internal hemorrhage, inability to clot blood, and acute liver failure (followed by death) can result.
How Much is Too Much?
The toxicity of xylitol depends on the size of the dog and how much was eaten. In general, it takes about 0.03 to 0.045 grams of xylitol per pound of dog to produce a hypoglycemic effect. For reference, a typical piece of sugar free chewing gum can have anywhere from 0.009 to 0.3 grams of xylitol per piece.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Pet owner awareness is important when diagnosing xylitol toxicity in dogs. If you know or suspect your dog has eaten something poisonous, call us immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to xylitol toxicity, and the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the chance of a full recovery. If possible, bring along the packaging of the product your dog has eaten to help your veterinarian determine how much your pet has consumed.
Play it Safe
Xylitol can be found in a wide variety of sugar-free products, including gum, peanut butter, baked goods, candy, cough drops, toothpaste, mouthwash, and more. Always read the label, and make sure anything containing xylitol is stored securely. Educate everyone in the home about the dangers of xylitol poisoning in dogs, and make sure everyone takes the proper precautions.