Sugar Free: Good for you, not for Dogs

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that it is now being added to many sugar-free products you might have in your own home. Not only is it hard to pronounce, but xylitol (Zy-le-tol) can be harmful to your dog. On the upside, cats and other species are not affected. In this article, we’ll give you a few examples of these items, how xylitol affects dogs and what treatment involves.

Products with xylitol include:

 
  • Candies, sugar-free gum and mints
  • Baked goods, baking mixes, sugar-free pudding
  • Jellies and jams, baking mixes
  • Chewable human vitamins
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications (i.e., nicotine gum, nasal sprays, gastrointestinal supplements, gas prevention drops, supplements for bone/muscle/joint health, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs[NSAIDs])
  • Dental hygiene products (i.e., toothpaste, oral rinses)

Don’t forget to check the list of ingredients for xylitol on the small packets of sugar replacement you may have purchased to sweeten your drinks, breakfast cereals and other foods.

Side effects

Xylitol causes an increase in insulin in dogs which can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This reaction can occur anywhere between 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. Signs to look for are:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures


Some dogs can also experience liver failure after eating xylitol. This can happen 12 to 48 hours after consumption. Even if a dog doesn’t experience hypoglycemia, liver failure may still occur. In addition to the signs mentioned above, vomiting and bleeding disorders may also be noted. Eventually death will occur if xylitol poisoning is left untreated.

Early treatment is key. Your veterinarian will induce vomiting and then follow up with supportive care to treat hypoglycemia and any signs of liver failure. Be sure to check our pet health resources for more information on keeping your pets safe from household toxins.