Xylitol is considered a natural sweetener that is commonly found in products that you may use everyday. These products can include sugar free gum, candies, mints, diabetic-friendly foods, oral care products, and even some prescription medications. It is also available in bulk form for baking purposes. Recently, xylitol has even started showing up in different brands of peanut butter. In humans, xylitol is known as a beneficial sweetener because it is low in calories, doesn’t cause an increase in blood sugar levels after ingestion and has some additional health benefits. Unfortunately for our furry four-legged friends, even a small amount of xylitol can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
When dogs eat xylitol, their body very quickly absorbs the sweetener and mistakenly thinks that they have eaten actual sugar. This causes the body to produce large amounts of insulin. This release of insulin causes a very dangerous drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that can occur within 10-15 minutes of ingestion. Generally, ingestions of greater than 0.1 grams/kg can cause this to happen — in a small dog that weighs less than 10 pounds this can equate to only ingesting ONE piece of sugar-free gum! Larger ingestions can cause issues with liver function, and in severe cases can cause liver failure.
Signs of xylitol ingestion can include:
- Even seizures
If you see any of these signs or even suspect that your pet has ingested xylitol, please seek veterinary care immediately. You should bring any available packaging with you to allow for better estimation of the amount of xylitol that was ingested. Your veterinarian may recommend calling an animal poison control center for additional information on the product that was eaten. Treatments may include induction of vomiting, hospitalization for supportive care and monitoring of bloodwork.