Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that’s used to sweeten sugar-free products like candies, gums, and baked goods. Xylitol is also found in various nonfood products such as toothpastes, sunscreens, other oral hygiene items, cosmetics, deodorants, and hair care products. Every product has different amounts of xylitol, so the amount of product ingested before reaching toxicity can vary greatly. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to xylitol, so even small amounts can cause life-threatening effects. Since it’s National Poison Prevention Week, we want to share information regarding xylitol toxicity in dogs.
Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
In most mammals, xylitol has no impact on insulin levels. However, xylitol in dogs occurs when this substance stimulates a fast, dose-dependent insulin release. When dogs eat xylitol, it’s quickly absorbed into their bloodstream, resulting in a powerful insulin release from the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that brings glucose from your pet’s bloodstream to their cells.
So, ingesting this substance or products containing xylitol by dogs can result in developing severe hypoglycemia, hepatic injury, or even liver failure. If left untreated, hypoglycemia leads to seizures and can be deadly. Ingestion of xylitol by your dog is a medical emergency, and you should get your pet to one of our veterinarians immediately. The concept by which xylitol can provoke liver failure in dogs is poorly understood.
Signs of xylitol toxicity in dogs can develop as quickly as 10 minutes to an hour after ingestion or might be delayed up to 18 hours if the xylitol is in a product that slows its absorption. Clinical signs include weakness, vomiting, seizures, depression, and coma. Your dog may start off slightly lethargic and then progress to being wobbly on his or her feet. It can quickly turn into hypoglycemic shock, which results in seizures, collapse, and coma. Signs of liver injury in dogs might not appear until 24-48 hours after ingesting xylitol. They include vomiting, depression, and icterus (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes).
A fast, aggressive treatment by your veterinarian is vital to reverse any toxic effects and prevent potentially severe problems effectively. If your dog recently consumed xylitol but has not developed any signs, your veterinarian can induce vomiting to avoid more absorption based on your dog’s blood glucose level. Further treatment will depend on the development of clinical signs. Since xylitol can provoke both low potassium levels and low blood glucose, we can perform blood work to determine whether these problems are treatable. If your dog is exhibiting any clinical signs, aggressive treatment to correct hypoglycemia and/or hypokalemia will be necessary.
In most cases, your dog will need hospitalization for intravenous fluids, blood glucose monitoring, and any other necessary supportive care. Also, blood work must be monitored frequently and for an extended period to ensure that liver function and blood glucose remain normal.
Fortunately, the prognosis is excellent for dogs that receive treatment before clinical signs develop. Dogs that form uncomplicated hypoglycemia that is quickly reversed also do well long term. If liver failure develops, patients might need prolonged treatment.
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Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!