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Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

What Is Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs?

Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol often used as a sugar substitute, poses a significant threat to dogs if ingested. Despite being harmless to humans, it can be toxic and even fatal to our furry companions. Known as birch sugar, xylitol is commonly found in various products, including sugar-free foods like baked goods, peanut butter, and candy, as well as medications, dental care products, and beauty items.

The danger lies in how xylitol affects blood sugar regulation, particularly in dogs. While both humans and dogs regulate blood sugar through insulin release from the pancreas, xylitol triggers a rapid and substantial release of insulin in dogs, leading to a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels known as hypoglycemia. Humans, however, do not experience any change in blood sugar levels due to xylitol consumption.

Moreover, xylitol can also cause liver damage and potentially lead to liver failure in dogs, though the mechanism behind this remains unclear and may depend on the amount ingested. While there haven’t been reported cases of xylitol poisoning in cats, experts caution against assuming feline immunity to its effects, emphasizing the importance of keeping xylitol products away from all pets.

If your dog ingests xylitol, prompt action is crucial. Seek immediate evaluation and treatment at a local veterinary emergency hospital to mitigate the risks and ensure your pet’s well-being.


Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs primarily stem from low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) and commonly include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness or loss of balance
  • Stumbling or lack of coordination
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Collapse or coma

The onset of hypoglycemic symptoms can occur as soon as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion but might also be delayed for up to 12 hours. If you observe any of these signs and suspect that your dog may have ingested xylitol, it’s imperative to contact your local veterinary emergency hospital without delay. Early intervention can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery for your pet.


Xylitol poisoning in dogs typically results from the accidental consumption of products containing this ingredient, which is present in various foods and household items. As a consequence, such incidents are relatively common among dogs. Identifying xylitol may not always be straightforward, so it is essential to check for terms like “birch sugar” or “artificial sweetener” in the ingredients list of a product. When in doubt, seeking information from the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center about a specific product is advised, especially if your pet requires treatment.

One prevalent cause of xylitol poisoning in dogs is the ingestion of sugar-free chewing gum, which dogs may discover while exploring a bag or purse. It is crucial to securely store all gum away from pets to prevent such incidents.

A mere 0.045 grams per pound (0.1 gram per kilogram) of xylitol ingestion is sufficient for a dog to experience hypoglycemia, while liver damage occurs at a higher dose ranging from 0.11 to 0.22 grams per pound (0.25 to 0.5 grams per kilogram). Considering that most chewing gums contain 0.2 to 1.0 grams of xylitol per piece, it becomes evident that even a single piece of gum can induce low blood sugar in a 20-pound dog. Furthermore, as few as 2 to 4 pieces of gum can lead to liver damage and failure in dogs.


If you observe your dog consuming a product containing xylitol or suspect such ingestion, it’s crucial to promptly take your pet to a nearby veterinary emergency hospital.

Upon arrival, the veterinarian will inquire about the incident in detail, making it highly beneficial to bring along the packaging (or remnants thereof) from the consumed product. To ascertain xylitol poisoning, the vet will conduct a thorough physical examination to evaluate your dog’s mental and neurological condition.

A comprehensive blood count, serum blood chemistry analysis, and urinalysis are likely to be recommended as part of the initial assessment. This includes monitoring your dog’s blood sugar levels and baseline liver values, which will require observation for the subsequent 72 hours to detect any potential liver damage.


Immediate treatment is imperative for dogs suffering from xylitol poisoning.

If your dog hasn’t displayed any poisoning symptoms and the ingestion happened within the last six hours, your veterinarian will probably induce vomiting.

Following that, efforts will be made to sustain your dog’s usual blood sugar levels, potentially through intravenous fluids supplemented with dextrose. Expect your dog to stay hospitalized overnight for close monitoring, with serial blood sugar checks. Additionally, your dog may receive medication to protect the liver.

Recovery and Management of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Timely diagnosis and proactive treatment play pivotal roles in managing xylitol poisoning in dogs. Hypoglycemia can precipitate seizures and coma, while severe liver damage may culminate in liver failure. However, the prognosis is highly favorable for dogs experiencing solely hypoglycemia, especially when promptly treated after xylitol ingestion.

Typically, dogs are hospitalized for observation spanning 12 to 24 hours. Subsequent bloodwork is conducted to monitor liver values for up to 72 hours post-xylitol ingestion. If the liver values return to normal within that timeframe, it indicates no lasting damage.

Prevention of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Preventing xylitol poisoning in dogs entails several key measures. It’s essential to scrutinize product labels diligently, specifically searching for xylitol listed as an ingredient. Exercise caution with products labeled as “sugar-free,” “no sugar added,” “diabetic-friendly,” “reduced sugar,” or containing “birch sugar.”

If uncertain about a product’s safety, err on the side of caution and refrain from feeding it to your pet. Notably, peanut butter is a common treat and medication vehicle for dogs; ensure to choose varieties safe for canine consumption.

Moreover, store all xylitol-containing foods and household items securely out of your dog’s reach. Dogs possess remarkable ingenuity and may find ways to access these hazardous items if left unattended.

Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs FAQs

What quantity of xylitol is harmful to dogs?

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can arise if a dog consumes as little as 0.045 grams (0.1 gram per kilogram) of xylitol. Liver damage can result from ingestion ranging from 0.11 to 0.22 grams per pound (0.25-0.5 grams per kilogram). This implies that even one piece of gum can induce xylitol poisoning in a 20-pound dog.

How long does it take for xylitol poisoning to affect my dog?

Xylitol is rapidly absorbed, so you may observe signs as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, or they could manifest up to 12 hours later. Clinical indicators of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, weakness, stumbling or loss of balance, lethargy or depression, tremors or seizures, and collapse or coma.

How do I know if my dog has xylitol poisoning?

If your pet has consumed a xylitol-containing product or if you suspect ingestion, seek immediate veterinary attention. Xylitol is present in various foods and household items including baked goods, chewing gum or mints, medications, oral hygiene products, beauty items, and more. Even if you didn’t witness your pet consuming xylitol directly, symptoms such as vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, balance issues, lethargy, seizures, collapsing, or a coma-like state indicate xylitol toxicity.

What is the most common serious illness related to xylitol exposure in dogs?

Ingestion of xylitol can induce hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in dogs, and at higher doses, it can also lead to liver damage and potentially failure. While the mechanism behind liver damage remains unknown, it can prove fatal if left untreated.

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