Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener commonly found in many chewing gums, sweets, foods, oral rinses, toothpastes and supplements. It exists naturally in fruit and vegetables (in low concentrations) and is a normal intermediary metabolite in glucose metabolism. It is also popular in people with diabetes or on low-carbohydrate diets. Xylitol may be listed in the ingredients list of a product by its food additive code E967.
Xylitol is poisonous to dogs; the amount of xylitol found in different products is very variable, but even 1-2 pieces of gum may be enough to cause toxic effects in a small dog. Clinical signs of xylitol poisoning may be rapid in onset or delayed. Xylitol has two main toxic effects: it induces the release of insulin in the body resulting in low blood sugar and can also cause liver damage.
The clinical signs of xylitol poisoning can include:
- Signs of low blood sugar (lethargy and weakness)
- Liver damage
The prognosis is good if the low blood sugar is treated promptly. Prognosis is more guarded in dogs that develop severe signs such as coma or convulsions or those that develop liver toxicity. Not all dogs that eat xylitol develop liver failure.
If your dog has eaten xylitol – contact your vet immediately.