Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Image of a container of xylitol.

There are an increasing number of cases of dogs getting sick from ingesting a common sugar substitute, xylitol. This substance causes no problems in people, but in dogs it can cause wild fluctuations in blood sugar, often leading to a severe hypoglycemia. It can also cause liver failure.

Xylitol is widely used as a sugar substitute since it is as sweet as sucrose but has only one–third of the calories. It is a naturally occurring alcohol found in some plant material. It is extracted from birch wood to make the commercial product.

The types of items where xylitol can be found is increasing. It is common in sugarless gum, mints, and candies. It can be found in some foodstuffs, such as baked goods. It is present in some toiletries, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and other oral care products, such as Crest White Strips. It is found in some over-the-counter medicines: nasal sprays, Flintstones Children's Vitamins, Beano liquid drops, and Nicorette gum. Some tube feeding formulas contain xylitol. Even some prescription medications, specifically Mobic oral suspension, Gabapentin oral solution, and Zegrid contain xylitol.

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning

Once a dog ingests xylitol, symptoms may occur in minutes to hours. At lower doses, hypoglycemia is common. You might notice the dog acting weak, staggering, unable to walk, or even seizing. At higher doses, it frequently causes liver failure. With this you may see a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice.

It does not take much xylitol to make a dog sick. Even one to two pieces of sugarless gum can cause disease in a small dog. The problem is that xylitol is not always listed as an ingredient on the label, or the amount of xylitol in the product may not be detailed. Often it is listed in "Inactive Ingredients," or "Other Ingredients," but sometimes it is grouped together with other compounds as "sugar alcohols", or it is not listed at all.

Veterinarians and veterinary pharmaceutical companies are well aware of this problem, so this is not the source of problems. Dogs become sick when they chew up people's food, toiletries, or medicine containing Xylitol; the other common method of toxicity is when people pick up medications at a human pharmacy for use in their dog. This may be in commercial prescription medications (especially liquids, as they are trying to improve the flavor for people by sweetening their product), or in compounded medications. Always ask the pharmacist to look in their references to see if xylitol is an ingredient in a medicine before giving it to your dog. They undoubtedly will not know this already since it is not an active ingredient and this problem does not occur in people. Always consult your veterinarian before administering any medications to your dog.

Source:

"New Findings on the Effects of Xylitol Ingestion in Dogs". Veterinary Medicine, Dec 2006' pages 791-797.

New to Clinton Hill Animal Clinic?

Sign-up to request more information!

Office Hours

Monday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Tuesday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Wednesday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Thursday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Friday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-5:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "To Dr Dendtler and Staff, I cant begin to tell you how impressed I am with the loving care you have given to my cat Baxter, before and after the much needed surgery. Baxter is so pleased with the outcome; he goes around purring all day."
    Thanks again. -Estelle P.
  • "Dear Pamella, We want to thank all of you so much, not only for the loving care and consideration you showed us last Thursday when we had to say goodbye to Gericho but also for all the years of check-ups and other crisis' that we went through with him. We know it was your good efforts that allowed him to live a full and vigorous 16 years that gave us so much pleasure. Please know that we have always found your staff to be so courteous and helpful all these years."
    Thank you. -Cathy W.
  • "Dear Dr. Dendtler, You were very thorough and caring in treating Buddy. You explained clearly how to protect my dog. I have been to many clinics but you are the best. You were very professional and compassionate. Buddy and I are very grateful. Thanks ever so much to you and your staff."
    John L.
  • "Hi Dr Dendtler, Thank you so very much for fixing my eye. I can see clearly now…I can see all obstacles in my way! Love Vernell R"
    Vernell R.

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles