Find out why Xylitol is bad for your furry friend…
Xylitol is a common product used in the modern household, often as a dieter’s substitute for sugar or sweeteners in tea, coffee and baked goods. It can be found in many shop-bought goods, from sugar-free gum, sweets and toothpaste to mouthwash and baked goods.
For dogs, Xylitol can be extremely toxic, posing a serious health risk if swallowed – even in small quantities – Debbie Caknis of Zero Point Healing, a business that provides holistic healthcare therapies for animals.
While it is a naturally occurring substance consisting of sugar alcohol, and is popular among health fundis for its low-glycaemic index and lower-kilojoule count, it is not good for dogs.
Symptoms of Xylitol ingestion in dogs
Here’s Debbie’s advice on what to look out for and the steps to take if you think your dog may have ingested Xylitol, as well as when you are pretty sure they have done so.
Symptoms to watch for:
– Loss of coordination, collapse;
– Seizures (also known as ‘fits’);
– Weakness, extreme tiredness; and
While in humans, Xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas, in dogs it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream – resulting in a potent release. This can cause a fast and profound decrease in their blood-sugar levels (hypoglycaemia), an effect that could occur within 10 to 60 minutes.
As it takes only 100mg per kilogram of Xylitol to cause hypoglycaemia in a dog, for a Maltese poodle weighing just four kilograms, even a small amount of the substance could be fatal. And the higher the dose ingested, the higher the risk of liver failure.
Most dog lovers know that chocolate can be potentially lethal for dogs if consumed in large quantities. The image below from Preventativevet.com shows just how little sugar-free gum with Xylitol it takes to kill different sizes of dogs.
Watch out for sugar-free gum
One of the most common sources of Xylitol poisoning in dogs is sugar-free chewing gum. Each brand contains a slightly different amount, so depending on the brand, eating just a few pieces could be lethal to your dog.
If it has eaten gum, it’s important to investigate how much of the substance they have taken in and, also, to realise that the symptoms might only set in up to 12 hours later.
What to do if your dog eats Xylitol
If your dog is showing the above-mentioned or any other unusual symptoms, Debbie advises contacting your local vet immediately.
Do not induce vomiting or give your dog anything else orally, unless indicated by your vet or a pet helpline. The safest course of action is to get your dog to a vet quickly.
Fast and aggressive treatment is essential in reversing the toxic effects of Xylitol and of preventing the development of severe reactions. If no clinical symptoms are showing, your vet may induce vomiting in your dog to prevent further absorption.
If symptoms have already developed, the treatment will depend on current symptoms.
Because Xylitol can cause both low blood glucose and low potassium levels, your vet will need to run a series of tests to determine how to proceed.
Either way, your dog will need to be hospitalised for blood-sugar monitoring, dextrose administration, intravenous fluids, liver protectants and any other special care that your vet deems necessary.
The prognosis for dogs that have swallowed Xylitol can be good if they’re treated before symptoms develop, or if they’ve only developed uncomplicated hypoglycaemia – this can be rapidly reversed by your vet. However, if liver failure or a bleeding disorder has developed, the prognosis is generally poor.
In light of the seriousness of Xylitol poisoning in dogs, it is best to check all ingredients in shop-bought goods and to keep those containing Xylitol in high places where pets cannot jump up and reach them. Debbie also recommends using only a dedicated pet toothpaste on your dog’s teeth.