What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural occuring substance which tastes sweet, it is found in berries, mushrooms, oats and other fruits. It is commercially obtained from birch tress, hardwood trees and other sources.

Xylitol due to its sweet taste and low glycemic index is used as sugar substitute in sugar-free products like biscuits, drinks etc.

It also has dental cavity fighting properties hence is used in toothpastes, chewing gums and other dental products.

Why is xylitol dangerous?

In both dogs and humans, blood sugar levels are very important in the normal functioning of the body. Pancreas maintains the blood sugar levels in body by releasing insulin as and when required and maintain proper blood sugar level.

When xylitol is ingested by humans it does not impact the release of insulin from the pancreas but in dogs its the opposite. Xylitol in dogs results in rapid release of insulin by the pancreas leading to a rapid decline in blood sugar level in dogs causing hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia often leads to death in dogs.

What all items have xylitol in them?

Xylitol is found in the form of a white powder that looks and tastes similar to sugar.

Example products include

  1. Sugar-free gum
  2. Sugar-free Candy
  3. Cool Breath mints
  4. Sugar-free Baked goods
  5. Cough syrup
  6. Mouthwash,
  7. toothpaste.

Xylitol is also found in nasal sprays, pain relieving pills and sleep pills.

Why is xylitol so famous in human food?

Xylitol has 2 benefits :

  1. It is as sweet as sucrose but has 1/3rd of calorie to that of any sucrose-containing food.
  2. It has low glycemic index.

What is the Glycemic index?

The Glycemic index is a ranking of foods basis degree to which they increase blood sugar level. Xylitol has a low Glycemic index.

Since Xylitol has low-calorie count and low Glycemic index hence it us used in food which are supposed to be sugar-free or low calorie.

What to do if dog swallows xylitol?

If your dog ever digests anything which has xylitol in it then you should immediately rush to a vet since 30 mins of xylitol toxicity can be life-threatening in dogs.

How much xylitol is poisonous?

The dose which can cause hypoglycemia is 100mg/Kg of dog. Greater the quantity of xylitol consumed more the risk of hypoglycemia and liver failure in dog.

Dog Breed/ WeightQuantity of Xylitol ingested to reach hypoglycemia level (100mg/Kg)Quantity of Xylitol ingested to reach liver failure level (500mg/Kg)
Labrador (31.8 Kg)3.18 grams15.3 grams
Yorkie (4.5 Kg)0.45 grams2.3 grams

What are the symptoms of xylitol poisoning?

Following are the symptoms of xylitol poisoning (will show withing 15-30 mins of consumption):

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in walking
  • Lack of motor skills (improper walking )
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

In serious cases where xylitol consumption was high, the dog might die of liver failure caused by hypoglycemia.

Is there any antidote for xylitol?

No. There is no antidote for xylitol. Xylitol can only be treated by IV fluids and liver protectant agents.

What is the treatment for dog xylitol poisoning?

Your vet will need to check the symptoms of xylitol in dog before deciding upon the line of treatment.

Scenario 1:

The dog has not yet shown any signs or symptoms of xylitol consumption as yet, hence the absorption of xylitol in dog has not yet happened or is currently happening.

Line of Treatment: Since no symptoms of xylitol toxicity has shown yet hence the vet will try to induce vomit in dog to avoid further absorption of xylitol in dog.

Scenario 2:

The dog has started showing symptoms of xylitol toxicity, means xylitol absorption has already happened in dog.

Line of Treatment: Since xylitol absorption has happened, the doctor will perform supportive care like:

  1. Giving IV Fluids
  2. Giving Liver Protecting Agents
  3. Administer Dextrose
  4. Constant monitoring of blood sugar and liver function.

The dog will need hospitalization for at least a day and will need supportive treatment till the symptoms of poisoning go away and the dog stabilizes.

If your dog has consumed high amount of xylitol and the absorption has happened then the dog might die of liver failure. Dog will require supportive treatment for 72 hrs before you can say that dog is safe.

How can I prevent this problem?

If you use product which has xylitol then please keep them out of the reach of your dog.

Don't use human toothpaste to brush your dog's teeth. Keep human medicines out of reach of your dog.

Reference Articles:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20473849 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26691320