Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs: Sugar Free but Deadly
You may not even have heard of xylitol but with this common sugar substitute sweetener becoming more and more common, xylitol poisoning is a very real risk. This common pet poison can even be deadly. Only a tiny amount needs to be eaten.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a common sweetener that is used in sugar-free foods. Unfortunately, while safe for us, xylitol is incredibly toxic to dogs. Much more so even than cats, although there have been some reports of xylitol poisoning in cats too.
Xylitol poisons our dogs by triggering a large release of insulin. This results in a very rapid dropping of their blood sugar levels, often within 30 - 90 minutes of being eaten. It can though take up to about 18 hours depending on what exactly was eaten. Its effects then last for around 24 hours or longer.
Why is it dangerous?
A very low blood sugar level can lead to seizures, coma and death. That is not all though because xylitol poisoning in dogs can also cause irreversible liver damage if an even larger amount is eaten (and the dog lives for long enough for this damage to take place).
Initial signs of toxicity all relate to the low blood glucose levels and include weakness, lethargy, in-coordination, vomiting, an increased breathing rate. This then quickly progresses to seizures, collapse, coma and death. If liver failure occurs later then jaundice or yellowing of the gums, vomiting, diarrhea and inappetence are just some things that may be seen. By this stage we have a very sick dog.
But where will you find xylitol? Well, as manufacturers attempt to cut down the amount of sugar in their foods, xylitol is becoming more and more common.
What food contains xylitol?
Xylitol is found in a large range of products. For a long time sugar-free gum would have been the main concern but now xylitol can be found in anything from sugar free baking, ice creams and yogurts, sugar free sweets, gum and chocolate, some peanut butters, honeys, artificial sweeteners, various sugar free condiments and sauces as well as protein bars and powders. That's a lot of foods that have the potential to be dangerous. To make matters worse, xylitol is also found in some skin care creams and cosmetics, in toothpastes and mouthwash, in human medications and supplements and it may even be present in some active wear clothing.
To make matters doubly worse, depending on where you live xylitol may not even be on the ingredients list. It may instead say "sugar alcohol", of which xylitol is one possibility. Anything labeled "sugar-free", "natural sweeteners" or "no added sugars" should have the ingredients double checked.
To then make matters tripley worse, the amount of xylitol in a product doesn't have to be stated which can make it impossible to know for certain whether or not a dog has eaten a dangerous amount or not. Given how dangerous this pet poison can be it would then have to be assumed that a toxic dose had been consumed and treatment started. Better unnecessary treatment than risking death.
Want to know what other poisonous foods you need to be aware of? Check out:
How much xylitol will kill your dog?
So how much needs to be eaten? Well the answer is not a lot. In fact not a lot is more than enough, the real answer is a scarily tiny amount.
Lets say your dog is 10kg or 22lb. They would only need to eat 1g of xylitol to suffer low blood sugar and 5g to also suffer from liver failure. To put this into perspective a single piece of sugar free gum can contain 1g - 1.5g of xylitol. 1.5 tablespoons of xylitol-containing peanut butter also contains about this amount.
A 60 pound (27kg) Retriever would only need to eat a tiny 3 grams! That's not much when you might have a 500g bag in the cupboard or use 2 cups to make a cake. There may be up to 1.5g in a single piece of gum (enough to poison a 20kg dog) and 22 grams of xylitol containing peanut butter may be more than enough to poison a 10lb (4.5kg) dog.
The risk is very real. If there is any chance your dog has eaten something containing xylitol take them straight to your vet. Because it works so quickly, any delay could be deadly.
If you want to learn about the other common pet poisons you need to be aware of then check out my other videos all about the top poisonous foods for dogs and cats as well as the poisons in the house and garden linked below.
If you have any questions then please leave me a comment below and remember to sign up to my newsletter to get health tips and advice delivered straight to your inbox (there may even be a free gift too!).
Our Pets Health. Because they're family.