Xylitol – ABCs of poisons

Xylitol – ABCs of poisons

Sugar substitutes and sweetening agents are growing in popularity due to their possible beneficial effects for people including weight loss, diabetic control and tooth decay. Xylitol is a particularly common sugar substitute but unfortunately it can be deadly to dogs.

Xylitol can be found in a range of sugarless products including:

– Chewing gum

– Breath mints

– Sweets

– Cough syrup

– Oral hygiene products (toothpaste and mouthwash)

– Dietary supplements

– Desserts including ice creams

– Spreads including peanut butter

– Any baked good (cakes, muffins, cookies, pastries, etc) where xylitol is substituted for sugar

– Bulk packs for cooking purposes

When a dog eats xylitol, the pancreas releases large amounts of insulin. Over the next 10-60 minutes, the dog’s blood sugar (glucose) levels start to fall and they are at risk of a hypoglycaemic crisis from the low blood sugar levels. In some cases, xylitol absorption is slow and symptoms may not develop for 12 or more hours.

Signs of poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, wobbliness, collapse and seizures. Prompt recognition of these signs and the provision of first aid measures can be life-saving.

If a large dose of xylitol is ingested, liver failure may occur over the following 12-24 hours. This can be life-threatening even with intensive veterinary care.

Given the severe consequences of xylitol poisoning in dogs it is best to avoid feeding any xylitol-containing product to your dog. If bulk xylitol powder or xylitol products are in the house, keep them well out of reach of pets. Check your peanut butter does not contain xylitol if you use it as a treat for your dog or to hide medications in. Only use oral hygiene products on your dog that are designed for pets (no human products). Some veterinary dental products do contain xylitol but if used at the correct dose poisoning is not expected to occur.

If you suspect your dog has eaten a xylitol containing product, phone the Animal Poisons Helpline on 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ) or your vet immediately, even if your pet looks well.

Our poisons specialists will perform a risk assessment to advise if veterinary attention is needed and, if your dog has symptoms of poisoning, first aid advice can be provided prior to you transporting your pet.

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