Why the Sweetener Xylitol is Harmful to Your Dog

Sweetener xylitol toxic to dogs

Your canine companions may eagerly wait to gobble up any stray morsel of food (or anything else) that hits the floor, but as a pet parent, you must avoid the temptation to allow it. There's a chance that food could contain xylitol, which can be toxic and even life-threatening to dogs.1,2

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in many common human food products such as candy, chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash and some sugar-free foods. Xylitol is also used in pharmaceuticals such as chewable vitamins, throat drops and throat sprays.

Signs of xylitol consumption

According to the Animal Poison Control Center, dogs ingesting more than 0.1 g/kg (0.1 g/2.2 lbs.) of xylitol could develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and liver disease.2 Although the xylitol content of foods varies widely, this means that as few as one or two sticks of some xylito-containing gums can be toxic for all sizes of dogs.

If your dog has accidentally eaten a product containing xylitol, the FDA says some of the warning signs that may appear within minutes include:

  • Vomiting,
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of coordination
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Please note that some dogs that ingest xylitol may not develop problems such as low blood sugar for up to 12 hours.3

What do I do if I think my dog has eaten something with xylitol in it?

If you suspect your dog has ingested a product containing xylitol, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may want to examine your dog and run blood tests to determine if you dog has decreased blood glucose levels and / or elevated liver enzymes.

Prevention

To reduce the possibility of accidental consumption, keep all foods (especially low-calorie or diabetic foods containing xylitol), candy, gum, dental products, drugs and medications safely stored out of your dog's reach. An upper kitchen cabinet is a good place to keep foods from even the most inquisitive of dogs.
Be sure to keep bags, purses, coats and any other clothing or containers well out of his reach as well. A dog explores with his nose, so any open bag or pocket is an invitation for him to stick his head in and check it out.

1 http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm244076.htm
2 Dunayer EK, Gwaltney-Brant SM. Acute hepatic failure and coagulopathy associated with xylitol ingestion in eight dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:1113-1117.
3 (APCC Database: Unpublished data, 2003-2006)

Related Pet Care Articles

  • Having trouble with your dog's bad behavior? Learn how to effectively discipline your dog with this helpful list of do's and don'ts.
  • Learn the proper technique and supplies you can use to clean your dog's ears, including some tips to make it as smooth as possible for him.
  • From daily exercise to routine grooming, learn some helpful everyday dog health care tips to keep your pup healthy and happy.
  • Socializing an older dog is usually more challenging than socializing a puppy. Learn how to overcome the challenges to safely socialize an adult dog.
  • Check out this list of accessories you should consider getting for your senior dog to help care for him in his golden years.
  • Read about how to keep your dog safe on a boat, so that you both can enjoy a day out on the water.