Xyl­i­tol can cause poi­son­ing in dogs

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XYL­I­TOL is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sub­stance that is widely used as a su­gar sub­sti­tute.

Chem­i­cally, it is a su­gar al­co­hol, and found nat­u­rally in berries, plums, maize, oats, mush­rooms, let­tuce, trees, and some other fruits. Com­mer­cially, most xyl­i­tol is ex­tracted from maize fi­bre, birch trees, hard­wood trees and other veg­etable ma­te­rial. Al­though it has been used as a su­gar sub­sti­tute for decades, its pop­u­lar­ity has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally in the last few years due to its low gly­caemic in­dex and den­tal plaque fight­ing prop­er­ties. Prod­ucts that con­tain xyl­i­tol in­clude su­gar-free gum, can­dies, breath mints, baked goods, pud­ding snacks, cough syrup, chil­dren’s chew­able or gummy vi­ta­mins and sup­ple­ments, mouth­wash and tooth­paste.

Xyl­i­tol is safe for use in hu­mans but ex­tremely toxic in dogs. In both hu­mans and dogs, the level of blood su­gar is con­trolled by the re­lease of in­sulin from the pan­creas. Xyl­i­tol does not stim­u­late the re­lease of in­sulin from the pan­creas in hu­mans. How­ever, when dogs eat some­thing con­tain­ing xyl­i­tol, the xyl­i­tol is quickly ab­sorbed into the blood­stream, re­sult­ing in a po­tent re­lease of in­sulin from the pan­creas. This rapid re­lease of in­sulin causes a rapid and pro­found de­crease in the level of blood su­gar (hy­po­gly­caemia), an ef­fect that oc­curs within 10-60 min­utes of eat­ing the xyl­i­tol.

If left un­treated, this hy­po­gly­caemia can be life-threat­en­ing. At higher doses, xyl­i­tol also causes liver fail­ure. Symp­toms of xyl­i­tol poi­son­ing de­velop rapidly, usu­ally within 15-30 min­utes of in­ges­tion. Signs of hy­po­gly­caemia may in­clude vom­it­ing, weak­ness, lack of co­or­di­na­tion, de­pres­sion, lethargy, tre­mors, seizures and coma. If your dog has eaten prod­ucts con­tain­ing xyl­i­tol, you should con­tact your vet­eri­nar­ian im­me­di­ately. Vom­it­ing should not be in­duced un­less ad­vised by your vet­eri­nar­ian. If you per­son­ally use prod­ucts con­tain­ing xyl­i­tol, make sure they are stored safely, out of reach of your pets.

The tox­i­c­ity of xyl­i­tol for cats and other species is not doc­u­mented at this time, al­though there has been some con­cern that other non-pri­mate species (eg, cats, fer­rets, etc) may re­act to xyl­i­tol in a sim­i­lar man­ner as dogs.

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