Can Dogs Eat Xylitol?
Until recently, I'd never heard of xylitol. It turns out, though, that it's a common sugar substitute. It's also referred to as 'sugar alcohol'.
If a product is sugar-free, there's a high chance it contains xylitol. This chemical is naturally found in fruit, is sugar-free and supposedly protects against cavities. Despite being completely safe for humans, xylitol is lethal to dogs.
Xylitol poisoning in dogs will lead to two huge health problems:
- Hypoglycemia (fatally low blood sugar level)
- Acute Hepatic Necrosis (liver failure)
- Abnormal Mentation
- Acute collapse
- Black-tarry Stool
- Clotting Problems
- Jaundiced Gums
- Racing Heart Rate
- Walking drunk
Food that contains xylitol:
- Baked goods
- Chewable sugar-free multivitamins
- Chewable sugar-free prenatal medications
- Diabetic foods
- Diabetic snacks (e.g., gums)
- Medications (either over the counter like melatonin or prescription like gabapentin)
- Nasal sprays
- Toothpaste (in large amounts)
If your dog has eaten chewing gum, for example, don't panic. First, check the ingredients list. However, if xylitol appears as one of the first 3-5 ingredients, it's probably poisonous.
If there's xylitol, you need to work out if they've eaten a toxic amount. If your dog has, they will most likely start to experience xylitol poisoning.
Watch out for sugar-free chewing gum - several brands contain xylitol, ranging from 2mg/piece to 1g/piece. It's sometimes hard to calculate if the company doesn't disclose how many grams are in each piece, so be careful your dog doesn't have access to any.
- For dogs, any food with more than 0.1g/kg of xylitol is toxic. Anything containing more than 0.5g/kg can result in liver damage, or worse, failure.
- Any other similar-sounding ingredients, e.g. sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, are safe. Any other sugar-free products like stevia, saccharin, sucralose or aspartame are also okay for dogs.
If you're sure your dog has ingested a poisonous amount of xylitol, take them to your vet immediately. Watch out for symptoms of xylitol poisoning. Even a relatively small amount is toxic, so you need to work out how much your dog has eaten.
Your vet might do the following treatments:
Emesis - They might induce vomiting after checking your dog's blood sugar level. If it's normal and your dog ate the xylitol within a few hours, this will probably be the treatment they choose.
Usually, they use activated charcoal after inducing vomiting; however, it's not reliable with xylitol. It's supposed to prevent your dog's body from absorbing any remaining toxins, but in this case, your vet will probably skip this step.
IV Fluids - If your dog is hypoglycemic, then IV fluids are essential. It will contain sugar supplementation; your dog might have to stay on these fluids for at least 12-18 hours until they can self-regulate their blood sugar level. If they require this treatment, your dog will be immediately hospitalised.
Monitor - Your vet will monitor liver enzymes, electrolytes and blood sugar levels.
Liver Protectants - If your dog has eaten enough xylitol to be toxic to the liver, they will use liver protectants. Examples include SAMe, milk thistle and n-acetylcysteine.
Your dog might be prescribed these drugs for several weeks with frequent check-ups at your vet to be safe.
If you're unsure, contact your vet. They can help you work out whether the level of xylitol toxicity in your dog is poisonous or not.
If they have poisoned themselves, you need to take action quickly to reduce the risk of severe damage.