Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Have you ever heard of xylitol? It’s one of the most common pet poisons out there, and you probably already have a few items at home that contain the toxin! Below, your Lafayette, LA veterinarian tells you more about xylitol and how to keep your animal friend safe.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is an artificial sugar often used in candies, gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and other items. It’s safe for humans to consume, but highly toxic to our animal companions! Dogs are most commonly affected, but that may be simply due to their tendency to eat things they shouldn’t—cats, too, can be poisoned by xylitol.

How Much Results in Poisoning?

It only takes very small amounts of xylitol to start causing health problems. As little as a stick or two of gum sweetened with xylitol can poison a pet who weighs 10 pounds or less. If your companion gets their paws on entire pack of gum, you can imagine the disastrous results!

What are the Symptoms of Poisoning?

Xylitol’s main danger lies in its ability to “confuse” your pet’s pancreas—the pancreas thinks xylitol is real sugar, and releases insulin as a result. This can cause a sudden and drastic drop in blood sugar. Symptoms that result may include lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, spasms, disorientation, and seizures. Without prompt treatment, a pet can experience coma or even death.

Most of the time, xylitol will start to cause health symptoms in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion.

What’s the Treatment for Poisoning?

A pet who is known or even suspected to have ingested a product sweetened with xylitol should be rushed to the nearest veterinary emergency room. There, activated charcoal may be administered to slow the toxin’s absorption in the stomach, or vomiting can be induced to rid the system of the remaining poison. As the patient recovers, supportive treatments like fluid replacement or even oxygen supplementation might be needed.

How Can Poisoning Be Prevented?

Clearly, it makes more sense to prevent an episode of xylitol poisoning ahead of time. This means restricting your pet’s access to any and all sweet treats—never leave chocolates, candies, gum, or baked goods out on countertops or tables where pets could reach them. Don’t allow your pet to explore bathroom cabinets, where you may store xylitol-sweetened toothpaste.

Want to know more about xylitol or other pet toxins? Call your Lafayette, LA vet.

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