The Skinny on Xylitol

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that has become more popular in human baking and foods due to its low glycemic index (low-sugar). While we as humans can handle xylitol well, it can be very toxic to our dogs (it is still unknown at this time as to its effect on cats). When a dog ingests a product containing xylitol it can cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as well as the sudden onset of liver failure and can, in some cases be fatal. The problem with xylitol is that it is readily found in a lot of products around our home as well as in our bags and only a small amount can be toxic. Below is a short list of some of the many products that contain xylitol:

  • Chewing gum
  • Low-sugar/ sugar-free foods
  • Jam
  • Vitamins (chewable/liquid formulations
  • Energy/protein bars
  • Some peanut butter
  • Dental products (toothpaste)
  • Nasal sprays

If your pet ingests a product containing xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately as this is an emergency. Our treatment focuses on decontamination (may cause them to vomit) and then supportive care, monitoring blood sugar and liver values as well as trying to flush the xylitol from the system with IV fluid therapy. Frequent monitoring and liver support may be required for a short time or more long term.

Written by Dr. Tara MacKay, DVM