I thought that the whole world knew by now that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, but I was at the dentist’s office recently and they were recommending multiple products including gum with xylitol. Xylitol is commonly found in chewing gum, but they were proudly advocating for using xylitol products for dental health.
I was shocked and asked both receptionists if they were aware that xylitol is very toxic to dogs and if they also warned people to keep these products out of reach of their pets. To my surprise, they both acted like this was the first they’d ever heard about it!
What I found is that xylitol is a sugar substitute that is used to help prevent cavities. In this is regard, many dentists will use dental products containing xylitol as preventive care for patients.
While I can understand that most people are not terribly responsible in caring for themselves (our current state is one that pushes a pill for every ill without personal responsibility), the least they can do is provide a warning label letting patients know to keep anything containing xylitol away from their pets.
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is derived from plants. It tastes like sugar, but it is lower in calories and does not cause tooth decay like sugar does. While xylitol is naturally found in many fruits and other plants, the amounts are too low to cause any concern over feeding to our dogs.
The concern arises in high concentrations of xylitol, which can be found in processed foods such as (list provided by Adored Beast) :
- Gum and breath mints – these are the biggest offenders!
- Peanut butter and jam
- Candy and chocolate
- Baked goods
- Maple syrup
- Sauces (BBQ sauce, ketchup)
- Personal care items – toothpaste, mouthwash, baby wipes, facial cleansing wipes, deodorant, body lotion
The article from Adored Beast sums it up best, so here is a quote:
In dogs, xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver injury.
In humans, when we eat something containing xylitol, our bodies absorb it slowly, so it doesn’t impact insulin or cause it to increase. However, when our dogs eat it, their bodies don’t metabolize it the same way. Instead, their pancreas thinks it’s glucose and releases insulin. This increase in insulin can cause blood sugar levels to decrease, AKA hypoglycaemia.
IMPORTANT: If you know your dog has eaten something with xylitol in it, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Head to the vet.
Signs of low blood sugar include:
Symptoms of low blood sugar can occur as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, but as long as up to 12 hours.
Xylitol can also injure your dog’s liver. The more xylitol a dog takes in, the higher the risk, especially to the liver. Signs of liver damage are:
loss of appetite
vomiting and/or diarrhea
yellowing of the skin
These symptoms can take up to a few days after ingestion to appear.
If you notice any of these signs, go to the vet right away!
When I return to the dentist next month, I plan on bringing a PDF handout so they can warn their patients in advance of the risk to their dogs. I don’t know if they’ll use it, but at least they will know better and can hopefully do better.