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What is Xylitol Poisoning?

Xylitol is found in many products that may be within the reach of our canine family members. Vitamins and sugar-free gum are just two of the products that contain this sugar substitute which is growing in popularity. The antibacterial benefits  (making it an attractive addition to dental products) and the use as a sweetener (fewer calories than regular sugars) have increased the household use, and therefore, increased the cases of toxicity in dogs. With xylitol, absorption by dogs is rapid and complete; symptoms of poisoning can be seen in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion. Symptoms can escalate to life-threatening, with complications as serious as liver failure a result. In some cases though, symptoms do not appear for a few days but are nonetheless just as dangerous. A veterinary visit for detoxification is absolutely necessary for pets who ingest products containing xylitol.

Xylitol is classified as a five-carbon sugar alcohol which has many uses. An additive in dental care products, baked goods, nicotine gum, vitamins and more, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs with symptoms ranging from lethargy to hypoglycemia. A dog who consumes xylitol must be seen by the veterinarian as effects can evolve to life-threatening proportions.

Xylitol Poisoning Average Cost

From 30 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning can be evident in as little as 30 minutes.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of control of bodily movements

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a very real danger with xylitol consumption. Symptoms of this effect can appear within 15 to 30 minutes but may be delayed up to 12 hours. Seizures and collapse are common. Recent studies have shown that liver damage is also a secondary complication that can occur; jaundice is a sign of liver issues as is the development of small purple and red spots on the skin (petechia). Other symptoms that may not be easily seen but can be life threatening include gastrointestinal hemorrhage and prolonged blood clotting time. The higher the amount of xylitol consumed per your dog’s body weight, the more toxicity will occur.

Types

Products containing xylitol include:

  • Nicotine gum
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental rinses
  • Candy
  • Baked goods like cookies and bread
  • Granulated powder for baking
  • Chewable vitamins
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Causes of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Xylitol is found naturally in fungi like mushrooms, berries, and lettuce. Though completely safe in humans and considered a good substitute for sugar, it is highly dangerous for canines.

  • Xylitol is absorbed into the bloodstream of dogs very rapidlly
  • Xylitol stimulates insulin release, which causes a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Hypokalemia (deficiency of potassium) and hypophosphatemia (low phosphate levels) cause further distress
  • Xylitol causes poisonous effects that lead to liver damage
  • Elevated liver enzymes can be evident 12 to 24 hours after your pet consumes a product containing xylitol
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Diagnosis of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

As soon as you are aware that your pet may have consumed xylitol, call the veterinarian immediately. In most cases of xylitol poisoning, the symptoms arise very early on. Your veterinarian may diagnose the poisoning right away based on the history you have provided and the clinical appearance of your dog. Because the symptoms can be Very severe within minutes, the course of action may be to stabilize your pet right away based on the signs of poisoning (low blood pressure, rapid heartrate, vomiting, lethargy) at the physical examination. Your pet will most likely be hospitalized right away and further diagnostic blood tests will be done during treatment in order to determine the level of toxicity.

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Treatment of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Supportive measures and the monitoring of levels to normal ranges are crucial to your dog’s treatment and recovery. Blood tests will indicate the blood sugar level and state of hypokalemia or hypophosphatemia if present. Treatment will depend on how much xylitol was consumed, the length of time that the xylitol has been in the system, your dog’s state of health before consumption, and the condition of his liver as a result. With liver issues, the veterinarian may see skin color changes in your dog because of bleeding under the skin (ecchymosis). Petechia, which is red and purple spots on the skin, can also indicate liver problems and coagulopathy (the impairment of clotting ability in the blood).

Intravenous fluid therapy will be administered and will help correct glucose, potassium, and phosphorous levels. Liver protectants, along with antioxidants, vitamins C, E, and K1 will be included. Antibiotics may be recommended as well. 

In the case of a severe coagulation complication, blood plasma or whole blood transfusions may be needed. In any case of xylitol poisoning, your dog will remain in the hospital until the veterinary team feels that the liver is functioning normally and all blood markers are at the levels they should be.

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Recovery of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

A dog who has ingested xylitol in any form will benefit the most from quick and aggressive treatment. Pets who receive fast therapy have the most positive prognosis. If the xylitol poisoning has led to complications like hyperbilirubinemia, which can mean impaired liver function, or coagulopathy, which is a disorder of the blood clotting process, the prognosis is guarded to poor. When your pet returns home from the hospital you will need to provide a quiet resting place, but one where you can keep an eye on him. Call your veterinarian if you have concerns about the progess of his recovery. Store any products and foodstuffs out of the reach of your dog. In addition, spread the word to your friends and family who are pet owners as they may not be aware of the dangers of products such as chewing gum and toothpaste.

Xylitol poisoning can be expensive to treat. To protect your dog and yourself in case of an accident or emergency, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Xylitol Poisoning Average Cost

From 30 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Xylitol Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Boxer

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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

She ate icebreakers gum but threw almost al of it back up

Dec. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Hello if this was sugar free gum that contain xylitol it can be very serious and would need to see your vet. If he threw it all back up, he may be just fine.

Dec. 28, 2020

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Bernedoodle

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7 months

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog ate a 5mg tablet of Melatonin today that contained Xylitol. He seems to be acting fine. It happened approximately 12 hours ago. He is just acting tired. Should I be concerned? I did not realize how toxic Xylitol can be to dogs and I have been panicking since I found out. He has not vomited, his stools are all normal, he has had energy for the most part, just a little lethargic still.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Xylitol can be quite toxic to dogs, as it causes a dramatic drop in blood sugar and sometimes liver failure. If you notice that your dog is vomiting, having diarrhea, or continues to be lethargic, then it would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Xylitol Poisoning Average Cost

From 30 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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