Xylitol Poisoning

Sugar Substitute Is Toxic To Pets

Xylitol gum

Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in toothpastes, mouthwash, sugarless gum, certain cough medicines and children's chewable multi-vitamins. It also used in many baked goods and candies. This product is recommended for diabetics and those following a low-carbohydrate diet. However, xylitol is extremely dangerous to your dog.

How Xylitol Can Harm Your Dog

The effects of xylitol on your dog are immediate and can be very severe. Signs of toxicity can be seen in as few as 30 minutes, says the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Ingestion of any small amounts of the product will cause the rapid release of insulin in dogs and result in hypoglycemia, warns Dr. David W. Reinhard, a consulting veterinarian for VPI Pet Insurance. Hypoglycemia results in vomiting, weakness, and sometimes seizures. In some cases, xylitol poisoning can result in liver failure, Reinhard adds. As little as two or three sticks of xylitol gum could be toxic to a 20-pound dog.

In 2005, the ASPCA handled more than 170 cases of xylitol toxicity, up from only 70 the year before.

Below are some of the symptoms associated with xylitol poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness 
  • Ataxia (uncoordinated movements) 
  • Depression 
  • Decreased potassium 
  • Seizures 
  • Coma
Trident gum with xylitol sweetener

How Common is Xylitol Poisoning?

The number of cases animal poison control centers handle has substantially increased. In 2005, more than 170 pets were treated for xylitol toxicity, up from only 70 the year before. The rise is likely linked to the increase of xylitol in human foods, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

What to Do If Your Pet Ingests Xylitol

If you suspect your dog has ingested a product that might contain xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately. If your vet is not available, seek help from the the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680. The Hotline's service is available 24 hours a day, every day.*

Prevent Xylitol Poisoning

Always remember that our food is not meant for our pets. If you don’t know the ingredients of a specific food, don’t feed it to your pet. If you are often purchase gum and food labeled “sugar free,” be sure not to leave it out where your pet can access it. Following common sense safety with your food items could save you pet — and you — much suffering.

*A fee is billed by Pet Poison Helpline. PPH is not affiliated with VPI Pet Insurance.

If you liked this story, read about toxic meds and toxic foods that can seriously harm your pets.

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