Xylitol is an odorless, colorless chemical present in candy and sugarless chewing gum. Its sweet taste is why most pets are attracted to Xylitol filled products. Unbeknownst to the pets, their curious attitude and their want for more lands them into more trouble than they could ever imagine.

Xylitol poisoning in pets is now becoming more frequent and severe than any other type of food poisoning in cats and dogs. Ingestion of this chemical leads to seizures, hypoglycemia, liver failure, or even death. In fact, its effects are said to be worse than those pets experience from chocolate poisoning.

As a pet owner, you must stay informed about everything that poses a danger to your pets so that you are better able to protect them. Here, you will learn everything about Xylitol poisoning and the risks and challenges it poses to your pet.

What is Xylitol Poisoning?
Xylitol is a type of alcohol extracted from birch bark, plants, or fruits and late used in different human foods as artificial sweeteners. Xylitol is preferred more because it allows people to enjoy taking sweet-tasting foods without having to worry about increasing their calorie counts.

Over time, it has become increasingly inexpensive to produce Xylitol. Besides, more people are looking to consume products with artificial sweeteners in their quest to keep their calorie levels down. For this reason, more companies are making products using Xylitol as a sweetener instead of using sugar.

Other than sweetening products, Xylitol is also great for killing bacteria in the mouth, it prevents tooth decay and helps preserve moisture levels in skincare products. It also has a cooling effect that helps alleviate nasal and oral congestion.
The fact that manufacturers are finding more uses for Xylitol means that it can be used in more products at home. Typically, this can pose even more danger for your pets, seeing as they share the same space with you and are always around the same xylitol-rich products.

Products that contain Xylitol include candy, nicotine gum/sugar-free gum, baked products, mints, grapes and raisins, coffee, nasal sprays, and selected beverages. The chemical-based compound may also be present in chocolate, skincare products, chewable sugar-free supplements/vitamins, in toothpaste, and even in mouthwash.

The term sugar-free in any product should raise an alarm as something that might contain Xylitol. It is, therefore, prudent to keep it far away from your pets. While Xylitol isn’t the only artificial sweetener used in most human foods, it is quite common. This explains why numerous emergency calls to the vet tun out to be a case of xylitol poisoning.

Why is Xylitol Dangerous to Pets?

  • Xylitol is entirely harmless when ingested by humans but can be deadly if ingested by a dog, even in small amounts.
  • Xylitol is dangerous to pets because their digestive system isn’t well equipped to process and break down the chemical.
  • Xylitol poisoning happens pretty fast in pets where you’ll notice unusual behavior within about 10 to 15 minutes after ingestion.

In tiny amounts (about 50mg per pound of dog weight), Xylitol can have mild and short-lived symptoms in your pet, which include, liver damage or liver failure and lack of consciousness. Tiny amounts of Xylitol inside your pet’s system can prompt their body to release more insulin. This ultimately means that there will be less sugar in the pet’s blood, and, as a result, not enough energy to remain active or conscious.

If ingested in larger quantities (over 250mg), it can bring about long term symptoms such as racing heart, vomiting, sleepiness, staggering when walking, coma, jaundice, severe liver damage, and death. If you notice these long term symptoms on your dog or cat, it has been about a day or two past xylitol ingestion. This means that urgent medical attention is necessary to avoid further damage.

What to do When you Suspect Xylitol Poisoning in Pets
The moment you notice any of the above symptoms, call the vet immediately. Note that the earlier you are able to figure out that your pet is suffering xylitol poisoning, the better their chances of survival. This because you can get them treated as soon as poisoning occurs.

If you see the pet licking on something that contains Xylitol, don’t speculate or wait until you see signs of poisoning. Go to the vet’s and have the dog or cat checked and treated before any damage occurs.

Do not try to force the pet to vomit, as this will only make matters worse. Instead, it’s advisable to find something sweet or sugary and offer the pet to eat. Pancake syrup and Karo syrup are excellent sugar sources.

Once you get to the vet’s office, they will try and make the pet vomit. This provided not much time has passed since the pet ate the products containing Xylitol. The vet nurses will closely monitor your pet and take several blood samples and glucose readings.

If it has been a while since ingestion, the vet will introduce glucose straight into your pet’s system intravenously. They will conduct thorough blood work to make sure that the pet’s electrolyte levels remain in check.
If liver failure has already occurred, the vet will offer treatment such a vitamin K and plasma transfusions to help reverse the damage and restore normal organ function. If necessary, the vet may give you a one to two week prescription of S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe). The role of this drug is to help protect the liver and allow it time to repair itself.

How to Protect your Pet From Xylitol Poisoning
It’s obvious, you cannot protect your pet from something you know little or nothing about. The first step towards protecting your pet from xylitol poisoning is to, therefore, inform yourself more about Xylitol. Learn about where Xylitol is found, how it’s used, and what adverse effects it can have on your dog or cat.

Carefully read the labels of any products you buy for yourself or for the pet to see if they contain Xylitol as an ingredient. Scour through your kitchen and your bathroom to find out which products pose a risk of xylitol poisoning.
Decide whether you should discard the products that have Xylitol in them or keep them locked inside a high cabinet too high up for the pet to reach.

Ask your kids, visitors, or anyone else who spends a significant amount of time around your pet not to share human food with your pet. Remember that most human foods are toxic to pets. Instructing everyone to avoid giving the dog human food eliminates any chance of them experiencing xylitol poisoning or any other type of poisoning from taking food made for humans.

Xylitol poisoning may not be as severe in cats as it is in dogs. If you have dogs as pets, you should do everything in your power to make sure they come to no harm. Responsibility for your pets begins with you. It is your job to make sure that they remain safe from injury and even more, safe from any kind of poisoning.

Even as xylitol poisoning cases increase, you needn’t worry as most cases aren’t severe enough to lead to death. But, to stay on the safe side, it is imperative to always have your vet’s number on speed dial just in case your dog needs immediate medical attention due to a xylitol poisoning emergency.

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  • Sarah is the managing editor and a frequent contributor at Creature Companions. Sarah is originally from sunny Florida, but has lived in Cyprus, China and Northern Ireland from 2009-2018. She currently resides, with her husband, Derek, in the City of Love, Philadelphia. Sarah is passionate about helping pet parents create a healthy lifestyle through preventative healthcare and positive enrichment for a long, vibrant life of their four-legged friends. She's had pets (mostly dogs) and has been writing about pet-focused topics, advice and trends since 2012.

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