Brian Foster

Xylitol: How a handful of sugar free gum landed my dog in intensive care

Brian Foster
Xylitol: How a handful of sugar free gum landed my dog in intensive care

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is safe for humans but toxic to dogs.  When a dog ingests xylitol it signals the pancreas to release insulin, LOTS of insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar, in this case rapidly. Depending on how much xylitol is ingested and how much your dog weighs his blood sugar can drop dangerously low (hypoglycemia) resulting in the following signs:

·         Vomiting

·         Weakness

·         Incoordination/difficulty walking or standing (walking like he’s drunk)

·         Depression/lethargy

·         Tremors

·         Seizures

·         Coma

In severe cases liver failure can follow hypoglycemia.

What should you do if you suspect your dog has eaten a product containing xylitol?

·         Don’t wait for clinical symptoms

·         Take your dog to your veterinarian, if after hours take him to the emergency clinic.

o   Time is of the essence in successfully treating this toxin

o   If you have a package of the ingested item bring that too

What will my vet do for my dog?

·         Calculate the approximate amount of xylitol ingested

o   The amount varies greatly from brand to brand

§  It might take 10 pieces of one brand of gum to intoxicate your dog, but only 2 pieces of another brand

·         Run lab work to check your dogs blood sugar and potassium levels

·         If  ingestion is very recent, and your dog is not yet symptomatic your vet may induce vomiting

o   It can be dangerous to induce vomiting in a dog who is already showing symptoms

§  The gag reflex may be suppressed increasing the chance of aspiration

·         This can produce life threatening pneumonia

o   If blood glucose or potassium are abnormal or clinical symptoms are already apparent hospitalization is required to provide treatment

What is the prognosis for my dog after he has eaten a product containing xylitol?

·         It depends on the amount ingested and how soon your seek veterinary care

o   Small amounts causing a moderate decrease in glucose will likely do well with supportive care

o   Large amounts, especially if care is not sought until severe signs are present (seizures, unable to walk) may develop liver failure as well as hypoglycemia and die.

What other products contain Xylitol?

·         Xylitol is becoming a popular sugar substitute and is routinely found in:

o   Toothpaste

o   Sugarless candy

o   Sugarless bakery products

o   Some brands of peanut butter

How can I prevent my dog from being intoxicated with Xylitol?

·         Read labels carefully – if a product contains xylitol keep it out of reach of your dog

·         Don’t use peanut butter to hide pills in, unless you are sure it is xylitol free

Where can I get more information about xylitol? has information on xylitoland many other toxins that can threaten the health of your pet.


Dr. Janet McKim, VCA West Ashley