If you’ve never heard of xylitol, you’re not alone. But this sweetener is deadly to dogs, and it’s found in more products than you could ever imagine. Read on to find out what you need to know about xylitol and dogs.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute in many human products, including many dental products as it reduces the development of cavities and plaque.
Dogs who consume products containing xylitol can develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and seizures. In high doses, xylitol may cause liver failure. If a dog consumes large amounts of xylitol, he can even die.
Xylitol is found in sugar-free gums, candies, mints, breath strips, toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewable vitamins and supplements, liquid cold medications, laxatives and allergy medications. You might also find xylitol in sugar-free food products, including some peanut butters and other nut butters, ice creams, yogurts, gelatin desserts, jams, protein bars and more. For a list of products that contain xylitol, head to preventivevet.com.
“With the increasing use of xylitol as a sweetener in products, I would always be concerned with anything a dog eats that might be sweet to check to see if there’s xylitol in the ingredient list,” says Scott Fausel, medical director of VCA Sinking Spring in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.
Just 50 milligrams per pound of a dog’s body weight can cause problems. Some sugar-free gum products contain as much as 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) of xylitol per piece.
One of the scariest things about xylitol is you might not see any symptoms until the liver damage is advanced. At that point, it might be too late to help the dog. “They may not show signs unless it causes the sugar to drop (hypoglycemia),” Dr. Fausel said. “Patients can become weak and have tremors or seizures from low blood sugar.”
If you even suspect your dog might have ingested something containing xylitol, contact your vet, an emergency veterinary hospital or poison-control hotline immediately — don’t wait. Do not induce vomiting; wait for instructions from your vet or someone at a poison-control center. (Note: Charges apply when calling poison control.)
Your vet will treat your dog for xylitol poisoning even if you just suspect he consumed the poison. Depending on your dog’s symptoms and how much time has passed since he ate the xylitol, your vet might or might not induce vomiting. Typically, the dog is hospitalized, monitored and given supportive treatment depending on his symptoms. Prognosis and chances of survival increase if your dog is admitted to the hospital before any liver damage occurs.
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