The sugar alcohol substitute sweetener found in sugar free gum, candy, toothpaste, and some foods is toxic to dogs, causing hypoglycemia and liver failure.
According to a chart prepared by Dr. Carlye Rose, DVM, Diplomate A.B.V.P., xylitol pet poisoning cases reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. Most pet owners now understand the dangers of chocolate but many are unaware of how deadly xylitol is to dogs. According to Dr. Paula Terijaf of 30minvetconsult.com, on a consumption basis, xylitol is 100 times more toxic than chocolate.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar substitute sweetener that was introduced into the United States in recent years. It is being used increasingly in sugar free gums, candies, baked items, and other foods as well as in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. More and more products are using xylitol.
How Xylitol is Harmful to Dogs
Xylitol is absorbed rapidly into the dog’s bloodstream, causing a sudden release of insulin and subsequent drop in blood sugar which may be characterized by lethargy, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Higher doses of xylitol can also cause severe bleeding, liver failure, coma, and death.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reports that .22 grams per pound of body weight can cause hypoglycemia and 1.1 grams per pound of body weight carries risk of liver failure and death. To get this into perspective, a 10 pound Norwich terrier died after eating sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol, and the family found only one wrapper.
Dr. Eric Dunayer, veterinarian and toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center warns that symptoms can appear in less than 30 minutes or up to 12 hours after ingestion.
Any dog that is believed to have ingested a product containing xylitol should be rushed to a veterinarian immediately, even if symptoms have not appeared. Prompt and aggressive treatment increases chances for a better outcome.
Dr. Jon Rappaport of Petplace.com states that because cats are choosier about what they eat, accidental ingestion of xylitol is less common in felines and therefore its toxicity in cats has not been established. However, most cat owners don’t want to take chances.
Products Containing Xylitol
Although xylitol is often used in baking, sugar free gums, candies, toothpastes, and mouthwashes, pet owners need to take note that xylitol or its amounts may not always be listed as an ingredient in products or it may be listed as sugar alcohol.
Human toothpastes or oral hygiene products should never be used on dogs and pet owners should be careful not to leave any products that may contain xylitol in coat pockets or purses or anywhere else that it is in danger of tumbling out or becoming within reach of the dog. Many dog owners, as an extra precaution, won’t even use these products or bring them into their home.