Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in small quantities in certain fruit. Xylitol has gained recent popularity due to its sugar-free component, and is often found in diabetic snacks, foods, baked foods, and popular gums and candies. Unfortunately, there are variable amounts of xylitol in each product, and not all sources are disclosed (how many grams/piece).
Xylitol is a common sugar-substitute used in sugar-free chewing gum, breath mints, candies, and baked goods. It is also found in some smoking-cessation products like nicotine gum. Bulk xylitol can be purchased for cooking at home. Finally, it has dental plaque fighting properties and also found (in non-toxic amounts) in pet mouth wash and oral rinses.
Mechanism of action:
Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as causing liver damage to dogs. Cats and people do not experience this problem.
Signs of poisoning:
Within 10-15 minutes of ingestion dogs may develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and start vomiting, become uncoordinated or start staggering. Collapse and seizures may quickly follow. Rarely, these signs may not begin until many hours after ingestion.
Antidote and treatment:
Rapid decontamination (induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage) is warranted if your pet has not developed any clinical signs yet. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary to check a blood glucose. Further decontamination with activated charcoal is not normally recommended with xylitol poisoning, as activated charcoal does not reliably bind to xylitol. Further treatment includes intravenous dextrose (sugar) supplementation, IV fluids, frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels and liver values, liver protectants and in-hospital care.
Threat to pets:
Typically, the dose needed to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight (0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight).
- Chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22-1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint. Thus, to achieve a potentially toxic dose, a 10 pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum!
- The amount of xylitol typically found in most pet oral-care products is very small and, when used properly, is not expected to cause poisoning unless the dog ingests a very large amount.
Excellent when the ingestion is caught early and blood sugars are monitored frequently. Guarded if the dog has already begun to develop liver failure.