You have surely heard of xylitol before, as it is found in a lot of products we use daily. It first appeared in 1891 and became a commercial product in World War II, in a time when sucrose was not available.
It has been scientifically confirmed to have effects on diabetes, weight loss, and tooth decay. It destroys bacteria, increases saliva, reduces plaque and teeth erosion, delays stomach emptying, and has a minimal impact on glucose and insulin levels.
Therefore, it is definitely our friend, but it turns out, this sweetener causes poisoning in dogs.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar polyol with five carbons, and is found in berries, veggies, fruits, corncobs, trees high in xylan, and the human body.
Yet, the one found in nature is not the same one found in foods. It is artificially manufactured from trees or wood chips, processed with several chemicals, and produced into a white powdery substance, commonly added to items like candy, gum, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, mouthwash, and sugar-free baked goods.
It is completely harmless in humans, but has a low absorption rate, so in some cases, it can have a laxative effect and lead to upset stomach and gastrointestinal problems.
On the other hand, its indigestion by dogs leads to hypoglycemia and liver failure, as well as symptoms like vomiting and lethargy. When a dog consumes xylitol, its pancreas rapidly releases insulin, which leads to a drop in blood glucose, causing hypoglycemia.
Moreover, xylitol leads to an increase in liver enzymes, and thus causes liver failure.
Yet, some dogs may be asymptomatic, and they do not show immediate signs of poisoning or hypoglycemia before experiencing liver failure.
It has been reported that the dose of xylitol that can cause hypoglycemia in the dog is between 50 milligrams (mg) of xylitol per pound of body weight (100 mg per kg). Also, the higher the dose ingested, the more the risk of liver failure.
Additionally, Pet Poison Helpline informed that the most common source of xylitol poisoning comes from sugar-free gum. Some gum brands contain fairly small amounts of this ingredient.
This means that it would take up to 9 pieces of gum to lead to severe hypoglycemia in a 45 pound (20 kg) dog, while 45 pieces would need to be ingested to result in liver failure.
In order to protect your dog, make sure you read the labels of its treats and ensure they do not contain artificial sweeteners, and keep all products, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, foods, and candies, that contain xylitol away from it.
Take your dog to the vet immediately in case you suspect it has eaten this sweetener. If necessary, it will be treated with dextrose, mineral supplements, and blood transfusion.