You are probably familiar with the artificial sweetener Xylitol. It’s pretty common in lots of sugar free food products. But did you know that it is really toxic for dogs and somewhat toxic for cats? I spoke with local mom and veterinarian, Dr. Kristi Camp, DVM, to find out more.
Briefly tell us why Xylitol is dangerous for dogs. What about cats?
Xylitol is a “sugar substitute” that is extremely toxic to dogs for two reasons. It can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and can also cause severe liver damage or, in some cases, liver failure. Hypoglycemia can result in weakness, disorientation, tremors, and potentially seizures. Cats typically aren’t affected by xylitol like dogs are, but it’s still a good idea to contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about xylitol ingestion.
If my pet ingests a little bit by accident, how concerned do I need to be?
Even a small amount of xylitol can cause problems if ingested, so I suggest contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible should your dog eat a product containing xylitol. It is commonly used as a sugar substitute in sugar free products, such as gum, tooth paste, and peanut butter.
If my dog needs treatment, what does that look like?
As far as treatment goes, your veterinarian can induce vomiting if the patient is seen soon after ingestion occurs, which will ideally prevent absorption of the xylitol into the bloodstream. Hypoglycemia can occur within 30-60 minutes of ingestion, so acting quickly is extremely important. Beyond that, treatment would typically involve hospitalization for intravenous dextrose, IV fluids, and medications to protect the liver and gastrointestinal tract. Further testing is done to monitor electrolytes, clotting times, blood glucose, liver enzymes, and protein levels. The length of stay in the hospital can vary depending on the amount that is eaten and the size of the dog.
Can it kill my pet?
Because of the hypoglycemia and liver damage that it can cause, xylitol ingestion is absolutely something that can kill your dog if immediate action isn’t taken.
I’ve seen posts circulating on social media about sudden death and severe illness from Xylitol ingestion. Is this as serious as these posts lead me to believe?
Social media can be tricky sometimes in terms of knowing what to believe, but in this instance, it definitely is as dangerous as it’s made out to be. Just be mindful of the products that it’s commonly found in and make sure to keep those products out of reach of your furry family members.
For more information on Xylitol and its effects on pets, Dr. Camp recommends this website.
Dr. Kristi Camp is an associate veterinarian at the Kelsey Canine Medical Center in Collierville. She is a graduate of Christian Brothers University and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband Aaron have two rowdy boys, two Golden Retrievers, and a cat.