People food toxic to pets: Xylitol

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May 24, 2010
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What it's in: Xylitol is a common sugar-substitute used in sugar-free chewing gum, breath mints, candies, and baked goods. It’s also found in some smoking-cessation products like nicotine gum. Xylitol can be purchased in bulk for cooking at home, and because of its dental plaque fighting properties, nontoxic amounts can be found in some pet oral-care products.


Threat to pets: Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and can cause liver damage to dogs. Cats and people do not experience this problem. The typical dose needed to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight.

The average piece of chewing gum or breath mint contains between 0.22 to 1.0 gram of xylitol. Thus, a 10-pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum to achieve a potentially toxic dose.

The amount of xylitol typically found in most pet oral-care products is very small and, when used properly, these products aren’t expected to cause poisoning unless a dog ingests a very large amount.


Signs: Within 10 to 15 minutes of ingestion, dogs may develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), lose coordination, and start vomiting. Collapse and seizures may quickly follow. In rare cases, these signs won’t appear until hours after ingestion.


Treatment: Promptly induce vomiting or perform a gastric lavage. Administer intravenous dextrose (sugar) and fluids and frequently monitor blood sugar levels and liver values.


Prognosis: Excellent when the ingestion is caught early and blood sugars are monitored frequently. Guarded if the pet has already begun to develop liver failure.


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