Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can be purchased as granulated powder for cooking and baking and is commonly found in baked goods, desserts, toothpaste, sugar-free chewing gums and candies. Xylitol is also extremely toxic to your pets!
Ingestion of xylitol containing products by your pet can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, liver failure and even death. Signs of hypoglycemia may include weakness, vomiting or lethargy and can develop within an hour of ingestion. If untreated, these symptoms may progress to incoordination or difficulty walking, tremors, seizures, coma and may be fatal.
If you know or suspect that your pet may have ingested a product containing xylitol you should get to the emergency hospital right away! A presumptive diagnosis may be made based on a history of known or suspected ingestion in combination with signs of hypoglycemia. Blood work will also be performed to check your pet’s blood sugar and liver values.
Aggressive treatment is essential to effectively reverse any toxic effects of xylitol and prevent the development of severe problems.
If ingestion has occurred within several hours, vomiting may be induced to prevent further absorption of the toxin. If your pet has already developed clinical signs, treatment will be based on those symptoms and blood work results. Hospitalization may be required for blood sugar monitoring, dextrose administration, intravenous fluids, liver protectants, and any other supportive care. Blood work will be monitored frequently to make sure that blood sugar and liver function remain normal.
Dogs can recover from xylitol toxicity, but rapid diagnosis and aggressive treatment is imperative. If treatment is delayed or if your pet develops liver failure or a bleeding disorder then the prognosis for a full recovery is worse.
The best way to prevent this problem is to safely store all xylitol containing products out of the reach of your pets. Do not share any sugar-free foods with your pets and only use pet toothpaste when brushing their teeth, never human toothpaste. If you are questioning whether a product is safe for your pet, do not give it to them until you have consulted with your veterinarian.
In the event that your pet ingests something that you believe may be toxic, you may also call Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435.
Dr. Lindsay Porter, AERC