By:  Dodr-calloway-156ris Calloway, DVM

Recently, I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of articles on various social media sites about xylitol and its danger to dogs.  I have had several friends and family forward me articles asking if they were true.

Unfortunately, the articles are true.  Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs (and ferrets!).  Deadly, actually.

Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener found in many human products:
-Chewing gum
-Breath sprays
-Sugar Free Candy
-chewable vitamins and other nutritional supplements
-cough drops/lozenges
-baked goods (especially low carb/low sugar varieties)
-peanut butter and other nut butters
-baby wipes and diapers!
-drink powders
-BBQ Sauce, Ketchup, pancake syrup and other condiments
-protein powder
-Lip Balm/Lipstick and other makeup (even foundation)
The worst thing?  Its in some products manufactured specifically for pets.  A trip to my recent pet supply retailer revealed that a few brands of drinking water additives and dental sprays sold for pets contain xylitol!  The lesson there is buyer beware.  Read all labels carefully.

So what exactly happens?  Well, there are two phases.

The first phase causes life-threatening hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.  Even though xylitol is low calorie in people, in dogs it somehow manages to trick their pancreas into producing insulin.  It essentially causes an insulin over-dose, which in turn causes extremely low blood sugar.  Symptoms include seeming “drunk”, wobbly, sleepy, and can progress to seizures and coma.  You may also see vomiting during this phase.  This usually happens minutes to hours after ingestion.  In some cases where dogs have ingested gum this can occur up to 12 hours later.

The second phase is liver failure.  This happens 12 hours to 3 days after ingestion occurs.  This phase can still occur even if your dog does not suffer from low blood sugar.  In fact, you are MORE likely to see this occur if your dog does not get low blood sugar.   The signs you may see for this phase are very non-specific.  Lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea are usually what you see in this phase, but you may see signs of more severe liver failure: yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin (jaundice) or urine that is very dark yellow or orange.

Sometimes during the second phase we can also see problems with the blood’s ability to form clots.  You may see bloody stool or vomit, bruising anywhere on the body, petechiation (small dots of blood on the skin surface), red/bloody urine, or unexplained bleeding anywhere.

So, what do you do if your dog eats something with xylitol in it?  GET TO THE VET. NOW.  It’s worth the cost of the emergency fee to have a professional make your dog vomit and remove as much of the xylitol as possible.  Your vet will probably also run blood work and  start your dog on IV fluids +/- IV dextose (sugar) if your dog gets low blood sugar.  It may seem expensive to do this, but it’s actually far cheaper than treating your dog after he’s already in liver failure and has a poor chance of survival.

Read all labels carefully and try not to purchase products that contain xylitol if your dog is the type of dog who chews on things.  Use trash cans with lids and baby locks on cabinets if you have a super-motivated dog who routinely gets into things.  I have noticed that I also have to be very watchful when my kids are brushing their teeth (they always seem to want to offer the dog their tooth brush).

If you are unsure if a product has xylitol after your dog has eaten it, you can either go to your vet, or you can call animal poison control (there is a fee).

Please leave any comments or questions below!