Xylitol: A Poisoning Danger for Pets

You may never have heard of xylitol before, but it’s likely in your home right now. It’s one of the most common and dangerous pet poisons out there! Below, your Westminster, MD veterinarian tells you more about xylitol toxicity in pets and how to keep your animal friend from harm.

What Exactly is Xylitol?

Xylitol is an artificial sugar used as a substitute sweetener in many candies, gums, toothpastes, certain baked goods, and other products. It’s okay for humans to consume, but it can prove highly toxic to our animal companions. Dogs are the pets that veterinarians see xylitol poisoning in most commonly, but that may simply be due to our canine companions’ tendency to eat any morsels they find. Xylitol can also poison cats!

How Much Does it Take to Poison My Pet?

One of the reasons xylitol is so dangerous is because it doesn’t take much to start causing serious problems. For a small pet weighing under 10 pounds, only a stick or two of xylitol-sweetened gum can cause poisoning. Eating an entire pack of gum sweetened with the sugar substitute can prove deadly!

What are the Symptoms?

Xylitol “confuses” your pet’s pancreas—the pancreas mistakes xylitol for real sugar—and the organ releases insulin in response. This causes a sudden and dramatic drop in blood sugar, resulting in symptoms like lethargy, spasms, vomiting and diarrhea, disorientation, and seizures. If a pet isn’t treated quickly, they can slip into a coma or die.

Xylitol can start to cause symptoms in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion by your pet. That’s why it’s important to rush your pet the emergency room if you know or suspect that they’ve eaten something sweetened with xylitol.

What’s the Treatment?

Activated charcoal may be given to slow the poison’s absorption in your pet’s stomach. Vomiting may need to be induced in order to rid the system of the toxin remaining in your pet’s gut. As a pet recovers from xylitol poisoning, they may require supportive therapies like fluid replacement or oxygen supplementation to return to full health.

How Do I Prevent Poisoning?

It goes without saying that you’ll want to prevent xylitol poisoning rather than treat it. Do so by storing all sweets—chocolate, candies, gum, baked goods—where pets can’t reach, and don’t let them gain access to toothpaste or other sweetened products.

Learn more by calling your Westminster, MD vet.

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