Xylitol Poisoning

Xylitol Poisoning

Sugar Substitute Is Toxic To Pets

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Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in toothpastes, mouthwash, sugarless gum, certain cough medicines, children's chewable multi-vitamins and a variety of nut butters (such as peanut butter, sunflower butter; check the brand ingredients before feeding to pets). It can also be bought in bulk to use at home in baking, coffee, smoothies, or any other food to which sugar could be added. 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 Pet Poison Helpline.

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

Below are some of the symptoms associated with xylitol poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness 
  • Ataxia (uncoordinated movements) 
  • Seizures 
  • Coma 
  • Liver failure 

How Common is Xylitol Poisoning?

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The number of cases animal poison control centers handle has substantially increased. Since 2009, the Pet Poison Helpline(PPH), a 24/7 animal poison control center had more than 20,000 cases involving xylitol or products in which xylitol was suspected, with numbers increasing every year. According to the PPH, 99% of those cases involved dogs; 48% of those cases were referred to veterinarians for emergency care.

The rise is likely linked to the increasing amount of human foods and other products containing xylitol, according to the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline. The recent introduction of xylitol as an ingredient in some peanut butter brands, including Nuts ‘n More, Krush Nutrition, and P-28 Foods, can lead pet owners to unwittingly poison their dogs if they are baking homemade treats with these particular brands. It's important to read the ingredients prior to buying at the store. If you see "naturally sweetened" or "natural sweetener" promoted on the product, check the ingredients for "xylitol" or its chemical classification, "sugar alcohol."

Products with Xylitol

The Pet Poison Helpline has been working to identify products with xylitol as an ingredient. According to Dr. Ahna Brutlag, director of veterinary services and a board-certified veterinary toxicologist, these are some products to keep out of reach of pets as they are known to contain xylitol:

  • Sugar free shewing gum
  • Presciption medications in liquid or rapid melt formulations (i.e.Neurontin®, Abilify®, Allegra®, Discmelt, Mobic®, RioMet®, clonazepam, Emtrivia®)
  • OTC liquid, chewable, or fast dissolve/rapid melt medications (e.g. melatonin fast dissolve tablets, Allegra® Oral suspension)
  • OTC digestive aids (Beano®, select chewable antacids)
  • Dental/oral care products for people including dry mouth sprays
  • Nasal sprays
  • Nicotine chewing gum
  • Stool softeners
  • Barium liquid and pudding
  • Jell-O® sugar free pudding
  • Energy drinks
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Personal care products such deodorant, shaving cream, and personal lubricants

What to Do If Your Pet Ingests Xylitol

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If you suspect your dog has ingested a product that might contain xylitol, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-289-0358 immediately. The helpline's service is available 24 hours a day, every day.*

Prevent Xylitol Poisoning

Always remember that our some of 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 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.

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

*A fee is billed by Pet Poison Helpline. PPH is not affiliated with Nationwide pet insurance.