Xylitol: A Hidden Holiday Danger for Pets
What do the fruitcake you made for your diabetic great-aunt Betty, the pack of gum in your stocking, and the plate of holiday cookies that your neighbor dropped off have in common? All of them may contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol, a dangerous and deadly substance for dogs. Xylitol is becoming more and more commonly utilized, which makes it important for pet owners to be on the defense.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is found in items such as sugar-free gum, baked goods, and oral hygiene products. In people it is absorbed very slowly so there are no ill effects. In dogs, however, the substance is absorbed within 30 minutes, causing the body to release a large rush of insulin. This results in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar. Besides this, Xylitol can also have severe effects on the liver.
What You Need to Know About Xylitol
Very little Xylitol need be ingested to result in serious consequences. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center suggests that dogs that have ingested greater than 50 mg of Xylitol per kilogram of body weight should be treated. A piece of sugar-free gum may contain upwards of 1000 mg and a cup of baking Xylitol contains 190 grams! In short, one piece of gum is enough to drop the blood sugar of a 20 pound dog. Scary.
Pets that have ingested Xylitol will often vomit then become very lethargic and weak. These signs may not occur for up to 12 hours. Diarrhea, collapse, and seizures are also commonly seen.
What to Do if Your Dog Ingests Xylitol
If you suspect that your dog has ingested any Xylitol at all, contact a veterinarian immediately. When treated early, the prognosis for complete recovery is very good. Dogs that are not treated right away or that develop liver failure have a much poorer prognosis.
Interestingly, it is not really clear if Xylitol affects cats in the same way it affects dogs. To date there are no reported cases of Xylitol toxicity in cats, but it is probably best to exercise caution and avoid exposure.