Xylitol is considered a naturally occurring alcohol used as a sweetener that is found in common products that you may use everyday. Xylitol can be packaged independently for baking, and found in sugar free gum, candies, mints, oral care products, and even some prescription medications. Recently, xylitol has even started showing up in different brands of peanut butter.
For humans, xylitol is known as a beneficial sweetener because it is low in calories, it doesn’t cause an increase in blood sugar levels, in addition to other 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 mistakes it for regular sugar. This causes the body to produce large amounts of insulin. The 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 weighing 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 weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremoring, or even seizures. If you see any of these signs or even suspect that your pet has ingested xylitol, please seek veterinary care immediately. Present any available packaging to your veterinarian for better estimation of the amount of xylitol that was ingested. Your veterinarian may recommend calling an animal poison control center for additional information about the ingested product. Treatments may include vomit induction, hospitalization for supportive care and monitoring of bloodwork.