Why is xylitol toxic to dogs?

Xylitol is a common sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs in even small amounts, furthermore it can be fatal. Its regularly found in sugar-free chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, vitamin supplements and in just a small handful of peanut butter brands.

In 2016, there were more than 250 reported cases of xylitol poisoning in the UK and most of these were down to dogs getting their paws on chewing gum. Sadly at least one of these dogs died. However, there has been many more cases of xylitol poisoning in the UK which has gone unreported.

Prevention Is Key

All human food should be kept out of the reach of dogs, but people need to be particularly vigilant around products containing xylitol.

Always make sure that no packs of chewing gum are left lying around the home or kept in pockets and handbags which your dog can get access to.

Xylitol can cause hyperglycaemia, (low blood sugar levels) because a dog’s pancreas will confuse it for real sugar, and it then releases more insulin.

Thereafter, insulin then removes the real sugar in the body, leading to plummeting blood sugar levels. Another reaction to xylitol is liver failure, which is even more serious, that said, it’s not known what causes this to happen.

How much xylitol is dangerous to dogs?

Products can have widely varying levels of xylitol in them, but it only takes a small amount of the substance to cause serious harm.

Depending on the concentration of Xylitol and the size of the dog, it might only take one stick of chewing gum to be toxic and make your dog critically ill.

What should I do if my dog has eaten xylitol?

  • If you suspect that your dog has eaten something containing xylitol, you need to get him/her to the vets straight away as it can be absorbed into the blood stream rapidly.

  • If a drop in blood sugar levels is prevented or brought under control quickly, the prognosis is good.

  • However, a delay in veterinary intervention can cause further complications, irreversible damage and increase the likelihood of xylitol poisoning becoming fatal.

Note: Make sure that, whenever possible, you take the packaging of the product that your dog has consumed to the vets.

What are the symptoms of xylitol poisoning?

  • Signs of poisoning can be rapid or delayed, but you should never wait for symptoms to appear before seeking veterinary help; because this can put your dogs life at risk.

  • In most cases, symptoms will start to appear within half-an-hour, but it can take up to 12 hours to develop in some cases.

Symptoms can include:

Vomiting

Lethargy

Disorientation

Collapse

Seizures and tremors

Coma

How is xylitol poisoning treated?

If you get to the vets early enough then your vet may be able to induce vomiting to get the product out of your dogs system. This will greatly reduce the chances of any serious damage.

  • After this, your dog is likely to be put on a sugar intravenous drip to regulate blood sugar levels and kept under close monitoring for two to three days.

  • If the liver is affected, the condition is far more serious and will normally require specialist life-saving treatment.

Is xylitol dangerous to other pets in the household?

Xylitol can be toxic to other animals so you must keep all products containing it, and all other human food, out of the reach of all pets in the household.