Can Dogs Eat Xylitol?
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener often found in lollies, chewing gum, desserts, yogurt and peanut butter, among many other things. Ingestion of Xylitol in dogs can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures and liver failure. Always check ingredients before giving anything to your dog that may contain Xylitol.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute – it tastes sweet, but its chemical make-up means that it contains fewer calories than sugar, corn syrup, and other traditional sweeteners. It also cannot be used as an energy source by oral bacteria, meaning it is less likely to promote the formation of cavities. Not surprisingly, these characteristics have led to xylitol being included in a long list of sugar-free human products.
Never give a food to a dog unless you are 100% sure that it does not contain xylitol.
Dogs and people can both taste the sweetness of xylitol, but the as distinct species, react very differently to it once it heads further down the gastrointestinal tract. Humans slowly absorb xylitol into the blood stream, while in dogs the process occurs at a much faster rate. A dog’s body reacts to this influx of xylitol by secreting large amounts of insulin, which can quickly (often in less than 30 minutes) cause blood sugar levels to drop to potentially fatal levels.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) include:
• dullness or confusion
A dog who survives the initial effects of xylitol can still be at risk. The chemical can damage the liver to such an extent that over the course of a few days, the dog may go into liver failure. Symptoms of acute liver failure typically involve a combination of the following:
• abdominal pain
• loss of appetite
• yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes
Some dogs also develop a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) that causes blood clots to form in dangerous places while paradoxically also leading to abnormal bleeding and bruising.
Treatment for xylitol poisoning involves inducing vomiting if the exposure has occurred within the last couple of hours, then normalising and supporting blood sugar levels until the risk of hypoglycemia passes. Dogs need to be monitored for the development of liver failure for at least three days after xylitol exposure and appropriate therapy initiated if necessary.
Xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs and should never be included as part of their diet. If ingested, xylitol can cause lethargy, lack of coordination, vomiting, and potentially seizures. If you think that your dog has eaten xylitol, take them to the vet immediately, as it reduces blood sugar levels, which can then lead to liver failure, so quick action is essential.
And it doesn’t take much xylitol to cause problems in dogs. The equivalent of one or two pieces of sugar-free gum can be enough.