Xylitol is a sugar alcohol found in berries, plums, corn, oats, mushrooms, lettuce, and trees that is used as sweetener that gives many sugar-free foods their sweet taste. Xylitol is manufactured into a white powder that looks and tastes similar to sugar. It’s about as sweet as sucrose but only contains about 2/3 the calories.
Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs
When a dog eats something containing xylitol, it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This rapid release of insulin results in a profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of ingestion. There is not antidote for xylitol toxicity.
Symptoms of xylitol intoxication include:
- Loss of coordination
What is the treatment of xylitol toxicity?
First, if the dog ate the sugar-free gum or other food containing xylitol within the past two hours, the veterinarian will take measures to prevent the body's absorption of any additional xylitol. To prevent the dog's body from absorbing additional xylitol, the vet will usually induce vomiting in the dog and/or give the dog a charcoal-based fluid to adsorb the stomach contents.
Second, a dog with xylitol poisoning will receive supportive care to manage the effects of the xylitol. Treatment usually consists of a dextrose (sugar) intravenous drip to raise the dog's blood sugar levels and the injection of intravenous fluids for at least 24 hours.
Xylitol also affects the dog's liver, causing permanent liver damage in some dogs and possibly triggering liver failure in others. Additional treatment and monitoring is often required to help manage the effect of xylitol on the dog's liver. Liver enzyme and blood clotting tests are monitored for 2 to 3 days along with blood levels of potassium and phosphorus. Elevated blood phosphorus levels often has a poorer prognosis for the dog.
Xylitol can frequently be found in:
Here are a few of the more popular brands that contain xylitol: