The Dangers of Xylitol in Dogs
By Ashley Watson
Now that school is starting again, pets may experience some anxiety when kids go back to school. However, there’s a more serious back to school danger for pets. The ASPCA warns pet owners about leaving out backpacks with “enticing smells.” Many of the snacks we love are poisonous for cats and dogs, and one common sweetener—xylitol—can be particularly dangerous for dogs. Xylitol can be found in sugar-free products and in some brands of toothpaste because of the anti-cavity properties, and it doesn’t take a large amount to cause Xylitol Toxicosis.
Although it is perfectly safe for humans, xylitol ingestion has been known to cause liver failure and death in dogs. Find out what you can do to prevent this from happening and what symptoms to look for in this week’s post.
Why is Xylitol Poisonous to Dogs?
The ASPCA also reports that xylitol is absorbed slowly in humans, but in pets it is absorbed much more quickly and causes hypoglycemia, liver failure, bleeding, and death. It is just as dangerous in cats but not reported as often, most likely because cats do not tend to get into people food as much as dogs. A recent study showed that xylitol poisoning caused acute hepatic necrosis (liver failure) in dogs.
In the new findings, the ASPCA showed that some dogs developed “elevated liver enzyme activity within 12 to 24 hours after xylitol ingestion.” Most of the dogs that had liver failure were euthanized as a result. The report also states, “six of the eight dogs did not appear to develop hypoglycemia before the onset of the liver failure.” If your dog shows any symptoms of xylitol poisoning (or any type of poisoning), you should call your vet immediately.
Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicity
The ASPCA also reports that taking your best defense against the grave dagners of xylitol toxicity is to take your pet to the vet or emergency clinic immediately if you know the pet has ingested xylitol. Even if there’s no suspicion that your pet may have ingested xylitol, it is very important to keep an eye out for symptoms. The toxic effects happen very quickly, so there’s no time to check for xylitol with a blood test.
Here are symptoms to watch for:
- Any sign of hypoglycemia
As mentioned above, some dogs that develop liver failure may not show signs of hypoglycemia immediately after ingestion of xylitol, so if you notice any strange behavior, contact your veterinarian. Your pet may have gotten into human food without your knowledge.
What Are Toxic Levels of Xylitol in Pets?
The problem with xylitol is that it doesn’t take much to cause permanent damage or death in pets. The Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) reports, “dogs ingesting greater than 0.1 g/kg of xylitol should be considered at risk for hypoglycemia. At doses exceeding 0.5 g/kg, there is risk of liver failure and other more serious effects.”
It is estimated that even just one or two pieces of gum could result in toxic levels in a pet. A dog could easily ingest that much gum while no one is watching. It’s also important to note that there’s currently no treatment or antidote for xylitol toxicity.
The prognosis is good for owners who react quickly and get their dog to the vet ASAP. However, in dogs that develop liver problems or fall into a coma, the prognosis can be very serious.
As the number of products with xylitol increases, vets and the APCC advises pet owners to be extra cautious about keeping human food away from dogs and cats. At Pet Naturals® of Vermont, we want to help pet owners prevent xylitol poisoning in pets. In addition to asking your vet for tips, we find that sharing experiences and behavior tips with other owners can be a very effective way of keeping pets safe.
How do you ensure that your pet doesn’t get into foods that they shouldn’t eat? Please share your tips and stories with us on Facebook.