Dogs Xylitol – A Dangerous Poison for Your Dog

Published on October 31st, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


Xylitol A Dangerous Poison for Your Dog

Recently “sugar free” and dietary products have become more and more popular, it is a way for ‘us humans’ to reduce our calorie intake and lose weight. One of the most common sweetening agents on the market is xylitol a dangerous poison for your dog, which is a naturally occurring fruit sugar alcohol that is found in many different fruits and vegetables. It is extracted from birch trees, corn fiber, hardwood trees and other vegetable material and it is also found in plums, berries, lettuce, mushrooms and some trees. When it is extracted, it is manufactured into a white powder that looks and tastes like sugar.

This substance is commonly used in sugar free chewing gum, dental products, chewable vitamins and nicotine gum, as well as being used as a substitute for sugar in baking. Because xylitol is very low on the glycemic index, it is useful for diabetics or people who are on a low carbohydrate diet. It contains about two thirds of the calories of sucrose, but is tastes just the same.

It has been found that xylitol helps to reduce the formation of plaque, inhibits the development of cavities and even stimulates the production of saliva.

Although swapping sugar for xylitol can be healthy for humans, it can be very dangerous for our canine friends. This substance is incredibly harmful to dogs, so make sure that you take the necessary steps to safeguard your pets!

The Danger of Xylitol for Dogs

Xylitol is a dangerous, toxic substance for dogs and they should never be exposed to it. Why is this sweetener so toxic for canines? The first reason is because xylitol has an impact on insulin, which is a hormone released by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Normally when we eat a meal the sugars absorbed into our blood will stimulate insulin production, pushing glucose into our cells thereby allowing them to function.

However xylitol does this process at an accelerated rate – which can be dangerous for dogs. The xylitol will push more sugars into the blood stream so that they cannot be used by other cells, which will create a state of hypoglycaemia. When your dog is suffering from low blood sugar they can faint or experience a seizure.

Another dangerous aspect of xylitol is the way that it affects the liver. It will cause damage to the liver, so that the organ cannot perform many of its normal functions. The amount of damage caused to the liver will depend on the dose consumed.

It doesn’t take a lot of xylitol to cause a very serious reaction in your pet. More than 0.1 grams can cause an acute life threatening case of low blood sugar within 10 or 15 minutes. Any larger dosage can result in liver failure.  If untreated, this type of poisoning is very likely to be life threatening.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe

In order to avoid xylitol poisoning in your dog, make sure that you do not give them any scraps or people food with this sweetener in – such as sugar free or dietary food or any baking where you have used a sweetener. Xylitol is used in many different products so if anything is advertised as being “sugar free” you should keep it away from your pet.

Xylitol can also be found in toothpastes, mouthwash, cough syrup, foods such as pudding and gelatine, mints and multivitamins. It might also be called sorbitol, malitol or sugar alcohol.

Instead of giving your dog human food, it is much safer to give them a treat that has been designed specifically for dogs.

What are the Symptoms to Watch For?

How do you know if your dog has consumed xylitol? These are some of the serious symptoms that you should watch out for:

  • Acting tired and lethargic
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Malaise
  • Jaundice
  • Coma
  • Droppings that look black and tarry

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Xylitol?

If you think that your dog has eaten xylitol, you should call your vet as soon as possible. If you get your dog to the vet quickly, it is possible to treat them. A serious drop in blood sugar can be treated with an intravenous drip of glucose. However, without this treatment your dog could start to have seizures or could even die. This type of poisoning could also lead to liver failure, which is more difficult to reverse.

Your first thought might be to induce vomiting on your dog because you want to help them get rid of the toxic substance that they have eaten. However do not do this unless you have been directed to do so by your veterinarian. As your dog is already hypoglycaemic, inducing vomiting can actually make the situation worse.

There has not been an antidote developed yet for xylitol poisoning in dogs, the only treatment is through sugar supplementation, IV fluids and drugs to protect the liver. The sooner you get your dog to the veterinarian and the faster and more aggressive the treatment, the better chance they have of recovering quickly. Your vet will do their best to reverse the toxic effects of the poison and prevent the development of any potential problems.

Your dog will very likely require hospitalization, so that the vet can monitor their blood sugar, intravenous fluids, liver protectants, administration of glucose and other care. Your vet will want to monitor the blood work of the pet, to ensure that liver function and blood sugar are remaining normal.

If your dog is treated very early, there is a good chance of recovery. However if the poisoning is not treated right away there is a chance of liver failure or a bleeding disorder. If the dog goes into a coma, there is not much chance of recovery.

Xylitol is a serious danger for dogs – so this is why it is so crucial to keep products containing xylitol away from your pets and to bring your dog immediately to the vet if these symptoms arise.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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