Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off

May 22, 2016 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

Your six-month-old puppy, Hoover, will eat anything that isn’t tied down. Like many dog owners, you know chocolate can be dangerous to your pooch. But you may not know that if Hoover sticks his nose in your handbag and eats a pack of sugarless chewing gum, the consequences could be deadly.

 

Sugarless gum may contain xylitol, a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol. Xylitol is present in many products and foods for human use, but can have devastating effects on your pet.

 

But gum isn’t the only product containing xylitol. Slightly lower in calories than sugar, this sugar substitute is also often used to sweeten sugar-free candy, such as mints and chocolate bars. Other products that may contain xylitol include breath mints, baked goods, cough syrup, children’s and adult chewable vitamins, mouthwash and toothpaste.

 

Why is xylitol dangerous to dogs, but not people? In both people and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This rapid release of insulin may result in a profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening.

 

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, collapse and seizures.

 

If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.

 

Here are a few reminders to keep you dog healthy and safe:

 

  • Keep products that contain xylitol well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that some dogs are adept at counter surfing.
  • Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.
  • If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a vehicle for pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol.

Dogs and Xylitol

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