Sugar substitute, Xylitol, a poisoning risk to dogs

Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance which is used as a substitute for sugar in a range of foods and drinks.

Unfortunately, Xylitol is also toxic to dogs even in small doses. Unlike in humans, it is quickly absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream which can cause the pancreas to rapidly release insulin. This results in a dog’s blood sugar quickly dropping, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Foods and drinks which can contain Xylitol include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Toothpaste, mouth wash and dental floss
  • Sweets and mints
  • Chewing gum
  • Chocolate
  • Baked goods
  • Ice-cream and yoghurt
  • Honey and sweeteners
  • Medications, vitamins and oils
  • Jams and sauces
  • Fruit juices
  • Drink powders and supplements

(This is not an exhaustive list and you should always check the packet of a product to see if it contains Xylitol).

Products containing Xylitol are often labelled as ‘sugar-free’ or natural and are therefore also found in many diabetic, weight-loss and health foods.

Toothbrush with toothpaste and tube on white backgroundSymptoms of Xylitol consumption may include:

  • Weakness or inability to stand/walk
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Racing heart
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Unconsciousness/collapse

There is a risk that a dog ingesting Xylitol can go into liver failure, no matter the dosage size. Therefore, if you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol you should see a vet urgently.

If your dog isn’t showing signs of poisoning, your vet will likely induce vomiting (if appropriate) to try and minimise the effects. Fluid therapy and activated charcoal can be used to reduce the impact of Xylitol and some dogs require liver support medication. Your dog’s blood glucose will be monitored until your vet is happy that it is within normal range for 24 hours.

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