Xylitol is a common sugar substitute used in sugar-free gum and candy, baked goods, toothpaste, and more. It has become increasingly popular as people become more aware of the dangers of too much sugar in their diet. For humans, it doesn’t affect blood glucose levels, so it’s often used in foods made for people on a diabetic or Ketogenic diet. The FDA has also approved xylitol for preventing tooth decay, so it’s often used in dental care products for that reason.
Why Xylitol is Dangerous for Dogs
Xylitol is a known cause of hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose levels, in dogs. Within 30 minutes of consuming xylitol, a dog’s pancreas will begin to secrete huge amounts of insulin, which causes muscles and fat tissues to use too much blood glucose.
This results in hypoglycemia, a deadly condition that affects the dog’s neurological system, causing seizures and possible even death. Other symptoms include shaking, stumbling, sudden blindness, confusion, and lethargy.
Xylitol can cause acute liver failure in dogs within 72 hours of ingestion. And it doesn’t take much either. It only takes a few pieces of sugarless gum to make a dog gravely ill.
What to do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten Xylitol
If your dog eats even a small amount of xylitol, veterinary intervention is required immediately. It can reach maximum levels in the bloodstream in as little as 30 minutes. The vet will offer intensive supporting care and provide IV fluids to flush the xylitol out of your dog’s body.
Your vet will also the dog’s liver enzymes for signs of liver damage and keep a close eye on his blood sugar levels, providing glucose when needed. Around the clock veterinary care will be required until the dog’s condition stabilizes.
Obviously, the best thing to do is to keep products containing xylitol out of the reach of your dog. Simple mistakes like leaving a purse with sugarless gum in an accessible location could mean death to a dog, or at least a panicked and expensive run to the emergency veterinary clinic.