Manufacturers worldwide have been using Xylitol as a sugar substitute in products such as sugar-free gum for decades. Due to the growing popularity of Xylitol in the United States, the rate of cases of canine Xylitol toxicity has been more than doubling since 2004. While Xylitol is FDA approved for human consumption, small amounts of Xylitol can be fatal to dogs, and research is pending regarding Xylitol’s effects on other animals. Manufacturers use Xylitol in gum products such as Trident White Gum, Spry, Sparx, and Smint. Xylitol also is sold under various names as a household cooking ingredient.
How Much is Too Much? It had been previously reported that only large quantities of Xylitol would harm dogs. However, recent reports suggest that quantities as low as two sticks of Trident gum may cause serious health problems in a 20lb dog.
What Happens to Dogs? While Xylitol does not require insulin for metabolism, Xylitol triggers insulin production in dogs. The excess insulin causes normal blood sugar levels to drop rapidly (hypoglycemia). Clinical signs of Xylitol toxicity include depression, vomiting, imbalance, weakness, or depression. Seizures may result. Xylitol ingestion has also been associated with liver failure in dogs, but research on that subject is still pending.
Xylitol and Humans: Proponents of Xylitol for human consumption have boasted a number of health benefits including discouraging tooth decay, reducing plaque, avoiding sugar spikes, preventing osteoporosis, and even preventing ear infections. Dentists across the U.S. have joined the ranks of Xylitol supporters. For this reason, it is difficult to recommend against pet owners buying Xylitol products.
What Pet Owners Should Do: While you may think of a Xylitol product as a tasty treat while it is in your mouth, think of it as a pet poison while it is on your counter or in your purse. Always keep products containing Xylitol well out of reach of your pets (preferably in drawers, top pantry shelves, or medicine cabinets). The standard recommendation is never to feed your pet products containing Xylitol. However, we think it may be a little too complicated to ask people read all the ingredients in their gum and remember which ones contain which sugar substitutes. You may find it less complicated simply to not feed to your dogs and cats candy or manufactured products intended for human consumption. Even home baked goods from someone else’s oven may contain this sugar substitute. Sweets in general are bad for pet oral health. Dogs and cats get a thrill out of meat-flavored treats that were actually designed for them, so it’s best to stick with pet treats for pets.
If your pet consumes a product containing Xylitol, call Healing Springs immediately and arrange an emergency visit. Healing Springs is on-call 24/7/365 to see your veterinary emergencies (please reserve questions for normal business hours). Serious health consequences including seizures can develop as early as 30 minutes after ingestion. It may be appropriate to induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide. Healing Springs can administer a dextrose constant-rate infusion to control moderate to severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Healing Springs can monitor blood sugar values as your dog recovers. You may also want to request a screening for liver function if your dog has suffered a Xylitol toxicity.