Xylitol, an alternative sweetener found in sugar-free gums, toothpaste, and other products is now being marketed as birch sugar or wood sugar. Beware of letting your dog ingest these products as, yes, xylitol can be very dangerous for canines. Remember, dogs, especially young ones, will often eat almost anything. Toothpaste may not be in your diet plan, but your dog may want to try it. Dogs often, as well, get into chewing gum.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It is a very popular alternative sweetener because it has other desirable properties besides simply tasting sweet. You may have heard, for instance, about its antibacterial properties, which explains its use in toothpaste and mouthwash. It may be found in many products intended for human consumption or human use, including:
- breath mints
- cough syrup
- flavored lip balm
- various otc medications*
- dietary supplements (gummy vitamins)
- sports drink mixes
- protein shakes
- peanut butter and nut butters
- pudding snacks
- pie filling
- sugar-free jams, preserves, and syrups
- sugar-free ketchup, barbecue sauce, and other condiments
- ice cream (Skinny Ice Cream contains xylitol)
- sugar-free cake mixes
Chewing gum brands that use xylitol include Trident®, Icebreakers®, Stride®, Orbit®, and Pure®. Spry® chewing gum, marketed as a dental defense product, contains particularly high levels of xylitol, around a gram per piece. That is about three times as high as other sugar-free gums.
Xylitol may also be found in products you’d never expect, like shampoo, deodorant, moisturizers, facial cleansers, and more.
Why Is Xylitol Dangerous For Dogs?
Xylitol is not dangerous to humans but it is very dangerous to dogs. The problem is insulin. When we eat sugar, it stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. Xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin in humans. However, in dogs, the ingestion of xylitol can cause a large release of insulin that is too rapid. This over-large insulin response can cause the dog’s blood sugar levels to decrease too much and too quickly, within 10 to 60 minutes after ingestion. The hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that results can be life-threatening. Deaths have occurred in as little as one hour after ingestion of xylitol!
Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
- decreased activity
- lack of coordination
If you think your dog has eaten something containing xylitol, take him or her to your vet or to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately, even if you do not yet see symptoms. They may not occur for up to 12 to 24 hours.
Remember that your dog may like to try a taste of toothpaste or other things you may not expect. Check foods and products in your house for xylitol listed on the label and keep these out of reach of your dog.
Also, it is good to brush your dog’s teeth, but use toothpaste meant for dogs and cats. Do not use human toothpaste on your dog.
As above, xylitol is now being listed as birch sugar or wood sugar, so beware of these terms as well. It is a natural sugar alcohol that is found in many fruits and vegetables, but it is particularly abundant in birch trees.
Most Common Cause of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
The most frequent cause of xylitol poisoning in dogs is chewing gum. FDA has received numerous reports of xylitol poisoning in dogs due to chewing gum.
Xylitol may not be as dangerous for cats, but this is probably due to their dislike of sweet foods and their lesser (although not completely absent) potential for dietary indiscretion (that’s a euphemism for eating strange things). The FDA warns that xylitol is dangerous for ferrets, as well.
* medications containing xylitol
- Oral liquid prescription products (for example Children’s Allegra Oral Suspension®)
- Oral disintegrating medications (commonly referred to as “Meltaway”) such as alprazolam.
- Cough drops
- Chewable and gummy multivitamins, chewable and gummy supplements
- Stool softeners
- Nasal sprays
- Other medications and supplements include clonazepam, mirtazapine, toviaz, melatonin gabapentin and many more 1MEDVET’S EMERGENCY TEAM. “Other Sources of Xylitol to DOGS: Sources of Xylitol to Dogs: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs: CANINE Xylitol Toxicity |.” MedVet, 27 June 2019, www.medvetforpets.com/important-sources-xylitol-dogs/.
|↲1||MEDVET’S EMERGENCY TEAM. “Other Sources of Xylitol to DOGS: Sources of Xylitol to Dogs: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs: CANINE Xylitol Toxicity |.” MedVet, 27 June 2019, www.medvetforpets.com/important-sources-xylitol-dogs/.|