What Is Xylitol & Why Is It Toxic to Dogs?


Yes, Xylitol Is Bad For Dogs

Most dog owners know there are certain foods that we as humans love, but are quite dangerous to our dogs.

Chocolate comes to mind immediately, but did you know that xylitol is bad for dogs?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Xylitol is present in many products and foods for human use, but can have devastating effects on your pet.

From newspaper to pillows, shoes, & slippers, it seems there’s nothing a dog won’t eat.

So how do you protect your pooch from getting a hold of xylitol? …Whatever that is exactly.

What Is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that may be found in many household products & foods.

According to Healthline.com, Xylitol is a type of sweetener called a sugar alcohol and is found in some plants.

It looks and tastes like sugar, but has 40% fewer calories. Good for humans, but xylitol is bad for dogs

Xylitol has been proven to have major dental health benefits – for humans, and is considered an excellent sugar alternative for people with diabetes.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) supports the use of xylitol and other sugar alcohols as non-cariogenic sugar substitutes.

In one study, using xylitol-sweetened chewing gum reduced levels of the bad bacteria by 27-75%, while it had no effect on the friendly bacteria.

According to the National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Xylitol also has other dental benefits – for humans, not dogs:

  • Increases absorption of calcium in the digestive system, which is good for your teeth and may also protect against osteoporosis.
  • Increases production of saliva. Saliva contains calcium and phosphate, which get picked up by the teeth and aid in remineralization.
  • Reduces the acidity of saliva, which helps to fight acid-driven degradation of tooth enamel.

So what makes xylitol so good for our smiles but bad for dogs health?

Why Xylitol Is Bad For Dogs

Over the past several years, with the rise in xylitol consumption by humans, you may have seen recent news stories about how bad xylitol is for dogs.

Some, like this recent story out of Alameda, CA. result in dogs that have died after eating products containing xylitol.

In both people and dogs, the level of sugar in our blood is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas.

In humans, xylitol is absorbed slowly and has no measurable effect on insulin production, but it’s different in dogs.

When dogs eat xylitol, their bodies mistakenly think that they’ve ingested glucose and start producing large amounts of insulin.

With us, xylitol doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas, with dogs it does.

And that’s what makes xylitol so bad for dogs.

When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly, which could result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol.

Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening to any dog ingesting xylitol.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Ingested Xylitol?

Take it from Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M at the FDA…

“Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures.”

“If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.”

“(A note to cat owners: The toxicity of xylitol for cats has not been documented. They appear to be spared, at least in part, by their disdain for sweets.)”

What Foods & Products Contain Xylitol?

Here is a list of foods & common household products containing xylitol:

Medications Containing Xylitol

  • Nasal sprays
  • Vitamins
  • Fiber supplements
  • Compounded medications
  • Cough drops

Dental Health Products Containing Xylitol

  • Toothpaste
  • Chewing gum
  • Breath fresheners
  • Dental floss
  • Mints
  • Dry mouth sprays
  • Mouthwash
  • Pet dental wash (huh?)

Personal Care Items Containing Xylitol

  • Baby wipes
  • Baby diapers
  • Nose & face wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover

Foods Containing Xylitol

  • Drink powder
  • Instant coffee
  • Chewing gum
  • BBQ sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Candy
  • Chocolates
  • Pancake syrup
  • Jam
  • Whey protein powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Pudding

A picture speaks a thousand words, so here you go, courtesy of the ASPCA: click to download the poster.

ASPCA xylitol poster

What Can You Do To Keep Xylitol Away From Your Dog?

Again, take it from Dr. Michael Miller at The Providence Veterinary Hospital & Clinic in Alameda – as referenced in the aforementioned Patch.com article.

“Keep a close eye on ingredient lists of household products. The sugar substitute xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and is being added to a longer and longer list of products, including chewing gum, breath mints, peanut butter and even nasal sprays.”
“It’s best to avoid xylitol completely and use other sugar substitutes. If you cannot avoid using products containing xylitol, then make absolutely sure they are stored safely out of reach of your pets.”

And more from Dr. Hartogensis:

  • Keep products that contain xylitol (including those you don’t think of as food, such as toothpaste) well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that some dogs are adept at counter surfing.
  • Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.
  • If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a vehicle for pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol.

We love our pets, they’re members of the family, let’s do our part and help keep xylitol off the menu, whether it’s planned or not.

Do you know any other foods or products containing xylitol, which could be bad for dogs?

Wayne NJ Dentist: Wayne Dental Arts office of Frank V. Maldonado, D.D.S.

We proudly provide all phases of General & Cosmetic Dentistry services for Wayne and the surrounding North Jersey communities of Franklin Lakes, Montville, Kinnelon, Oakland, Pompton Lakes, Pompton Plains, Towaco, Butler, Paterson, Lincoln Park, Pequannock, Little Falls and Fairfield.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Dental Patient News and has been republished here with permission. It has since been updated for accuracy & comprehensiveness.

Image Courtesy of the FDA on Flickr

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