Sharing a bite of a sugar-free cookie with your dog may seem like a loving gesture. After all, it’s only a nibble. But, what’s hiding inside the artificial sweetener in that cookie–in lieu of real sugar–may surprise you.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a dentist approved artificial sweetener that may reduce the occurrence of cavities, but make your veterinary bills skyrocket. The sugar substitute can be found in sugar-free gum, sugar-free candy, home baked goods and commercially prepared sugar-free treats.
How does xylitol affect pets?
When eaten by the family pet, xylitol triggers insulin production and a rapid drop in blood sugar levels, according to the British Veterinary Association.
This erratic behavior of body functions can then cause loss of coordination, depression, seizures and liver failure in as little as 30 minutes after eating the xylitol sweetened food, according to Dr. Eric K. Dunayer, a consulting veterinarian in clinical toxicology for the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center.
How much xylitol does it take to poison my pet?
Depending on the amount of artificial sweetener consumed, some pets make take up to 12 hours to show symptoms of xylitol poisoning.
According to Doctors Foster and Smith, five pieces of xylitol sweetened chewing gum can cause liver failure in a 10lb dog. Just one or two pieces of the gum can cause hypoglycemia in a 20lb pet.
What to Do if Your Pet Eats Xylitol
If you know your pet has consumed sweets containing xylitol, contact your veterinarian for guidance immediately.
At the veterinarians office, vomiting may be induced to rid the pet of undigested foods containing xylitol. The veterinarian will closely monitor the pet’s glucose levels, give intravenous fluids, test liver functioning and start a treatment of antibiotics.
Pet Poison Hotline Information
If you live in a remote area, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Hotline at 1-800-213-6680. Both phone services charge a fee for guidance.
In 2005 The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center recorded over 170 incidents of xylitol poisoning.
Sources and Suggested Further Reading:
American Veterinary Medical Association, “Sweetener xylitol can be toxic to dogs”, American Veterinary Medical Association
Heart of Minnesota Great Dane Club, “Poisonous Items – Pain Relievers, Rat Poison, Artificial Sweeteners “, Heart of Minnesota Great Dane Club
Jennifer White, “Vets Warn Dog Owners About Dangers Of Artificial Sweeteners”, K9 Magazine
British Veterinary Association, “New Study Says Artificial Sweeteners are Harmful for Dogs”, British Veterinary Association
Dana Farbman and Dr. Eric Dunayer, “Animal Poison Control Chat Transcript “, ASPCA
American Veterinary Medical Association, “Cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs rise”, American Veterinary Medical Association
VetInfo, “Top 10 Things That Can Poison Your Dog”, VetInfo
Doctors Foster & Smith, “Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs”, Doctors Foster & Smith