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Pets and Xylitol: A Deadly Combination

Xylitol is one of the most common—and deadly—pet poisons out there. Although our canine friends are the most frequently diagnosed (likely thanks to their generally indiscriminate tastes), just about any house pet is at risk. Here, your Sugar Land, TX vet tells you more.

What is Xylitol, Anyway?

Xylitol is an artificial sugar substitute that is commonly used in various candies, gums, and certain baked goods. The substance is okay for humans to ingest, and is even touted for a lower calorie count and potential dental benefits. However, xylitol is highly toxic to our animal companions.

How Much Does it Take to Poison My Pet?

This depends on the size of your pet, but it does not take a large amount to cause serious symptoms. As little as a stick and a half of gum or a few small pieces of candy can poison a smaller animal who weighs 10 pounds or less. A full-grown dog may decide to eat an entire pack of gum or candy, at which point they’re at serious risk for toxic effects.

What are the Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning?

Usually, the symptoms of xylitol poisoning appear within about 30 minutes of ingestion. Since your pet’s pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin as a natural response, the major symptom of xylitol toxicity is a dramatic and sudden drop in blood sugar. Resulting symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, spasms, and seizures. If a pet doesn’t receive treatment promptly, they can even slip into a coma and die.

What’s the Treatment?

A pet who is suspected or known to have ingested a product containing xylitol should be rushed to the nearest veterinary emergency room. There, a veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to slow the poison’s absorption in the stomach and digestive tract, or vomiting may be induced to rid the system of the offending agent. Oxygen supplementation, fluid therapy, electrolyte replacement, and other supportive care measures will need to follow until your pet returns to full health.

How Can I Prevent Poisoning?

As you might imagine, preventing a case of xylitol poisoning is far less worrisome and safer than dealing with it after the fact. Fortunately, it’s as simple as making sure your pet can’t gain access to any products containing xylitol. Never leave harmful foods out on the counter or kitchen table!

Contact your Sugar Land, TX veterinarian for more information.

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