Thursday, July 31, 2008

Xylitol (sugar substitute) Danger for Dogs‏

LARHIndy76 recently shared a heart-wrenching story about how he lost his dog to xylitol poisoning. Here's a quick definition of xylitol from its Wikipedia entry: "Xylitol, also called wood sugar or birch sugar, is a five-carbon sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute. It can be extracted from birch, raspberries, plums, and corn and is primarily produced in China."

Our dog died this morning from Xylitol poisoning. Xylitol is a 5 carbon sugar alcohol derived from birch, raspberries, and corn. It is used as a sugar substitute in lo-carb, sugar-free, and diabetic products. It is completely non-toxic to humans. However, it is very toxic to dogs. This is a new problem because xylitol has only recently begun being used in America. It has been used in Sweden and Finland since the 1960?s. However, it is fast becoming the number one sugar substitute in this country because of its health benefits. I want to make people aware of the danger it posses to their dogs. Initially it can cause potentially fatal hypoglycemia and can lead to liver failure. It does not take much to cause these effects. The hypoglycemia was first noted in 2003 in dogs that got into their owner?s purse and ate sugar free candy or Trident gum that contained xylitol. In 2004 animal poison control made the connection between xylitol consumption and liver failure. There is no antidote. The reaction can take place as quick as 30 minutes. My 60 lb. Shepard/Lab mix ingested ½ cup in a cake he dug out of the garbage. This was 10x?s the known toxic level for a dog his size. We began treatment within 24 hours, but he died just over 48 hours after consumption anyway.

As a new puppy-dad, this really got to me. Here's some information on xylitol to help all of you pet-parents stay informed:

Xylitol Toxicity:
A Warning to All Dog Owners

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used in sugar-free products such as gum and candy, as well as for baking and is used in the production of certain low-carbohydrate products now on the market.

As early as the 1960's, experiments indicated a link between the ingestion of xylitol and hypoglycemia in dogs. However, it has only been recently that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has begun to receive reports of xylitol toxicosis in dogs. It is believed that this recent rise is likely due to the increased use of products containing xylitol in the United States.

Effects of Xylitol Ingestion

In both humans and dogs, the levels of blood sugar are controlled by the body's release of insulin from the pancreas. In human xylitol ingestion does not cause any significant changes in insulin levels or, therefore, blood glucose. However, in dogs, xylitol causes a fast release of insulin, which results in a rapid decrease in blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

Clinical Signs

Clinical signs of xylitol toxicity can develop in as few as 30 minutes after ingestion. Clinical signs may include one or more of the following:

* Vomiting
* Weakness
* Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
* Depression
* Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)
* Seizures
* Coma
* Liver dysfunction and/or failure


After ingesting a xylitol-containing product a dog may receive one of more of the following treatments, depending on the amount of time that has lapsed since the ingestion occurred. The induction of vomiting is recommended if performed very soon after ingestion of the xylitol-containing product but before clinical signs develop. Frequent small meals or an oral sugar supplement may be used to manage dogs that have not yet shown clinical signs. Following the appearance of clinical signs intravenous dextrose can be used to control hypoglycemia. It may also be necessary to treat the patient for low potassium levels (hypokalemia), if indicated. Treatment should be continued until the blood glucose levels return to normal levels.

For more information on this and other poison control questions the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 888-426-4435 or on the web at

Source: Knowles Animal Clinic

For more information and links, visit the xylitol Wikipedia page.


jan said...

It's good to let people know about this. It is such a common product and seemingly harmless. It is especially dangerous for tiny dogs.

Daniel said...

Thanks for sharing an informative post with all. Best part of internet- we can know such facts and avoid mishaps. Keep posting. Great Work!!!