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Xylitol poisoning

Overview

Xylitol is a common sugar substitute. It has risen in popularity due to the well-known effects of sugar on weight gain, diabetes and dental decay. It offers sweetness without the calories as well as other potential benefits.

However, for dogs, xylitol is deadly. 

Xylitol poisoning can cause:

1. Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

2. Liver disease (hepatic necrosis)

Low blood sugar

Signs of low blood sugar can occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours of ingestion and last over 12 hours. 

Signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

Liver disease

Signs of liver disease occur within 8-12 hours of ingestion. Dogs with liver disease do not have to experience low blood sugar first.

Signs include:

  • Off food
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Internal bleeding
  • Blood clotting problem

Causes

The estimated toxic dose of xylitol is 0.075-0.1g/kg (0.03-0.045g/pound).

Dog's Weight (kgs) Toxic Dose
5 0.5g
10 1.0g
15 1.5g
20 2.0g
25 2.5g

All candy and gum contain varying amounts of xylitol. For example, chewing gum can vary greatly in the amount of xylitol e.g. Orbit gum has 0.009g of xylitol but the strawberry mint flavour has 0.3g per piece.

Always bring in the packaging if unsure.

Dog mouthwash products

It is important to note that some dog mouth washes or oral care products do contain xylitol. These products have extremely low doses and demonstrate oral health benefits. It is important to follow the label directions on the bottle or packet to avoid problems. Poisoning tends to occur if a smaller dog consumes a larger dog’s dose, if the dog consumes a lot more than it should or it finds the bottle and chews it up while consuming the liquid.

Other products

Xylitol can also be found in

  • Human medications 
  • Dietary supplements 
  • Vitamins
  • Nasal sprays
  • Mints

Management

If picked up early (within 30 minutes), your veterinarian can induce vomiting to bring up the gum or candy. 

Treatment beyond this time usually involves fluid therapy with glucose for 24 hours, monitoring of blood liver enzymes and blood clotting tests for 2-3 days after. 

Prognosis

Pets that have high blood phosphorous levels or severe liver damage have a poor prognosis and may not survive.