Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, is a natural sweetener found in small quantities in certain fruit and produced by processing the bark from birch trees or corncob remnants from ethanol plants. Xylitol is most popular for 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/product).
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 can be found in toothpaste, mouth wash and oral rinses. Due to its many other properties, xylitol may also be found in skin care products including, lotions, deodorants, and gels.
Mechanism of action:
Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as 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) is warranted if your pet has not developed any clinical signs yet. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary to check the pet’s blood glucose concentration. 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 (IV) dextrose supplementation, IV fluids, frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels and liver enzymes, 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 contain a wide variety of xylitol per piece of gum or mint. Thus, to achieve a potentially toxic dose, a 10 pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum in many instances!
Excellent when the ingestion is caught early and blood glucose is monitored frequently. Guarded if treatment is delayed or if the pet has already developed significant liver damage.