DNC News

Xlitol is Dangerous for Dogs

Jacob Schor, ND

October 4, 2006

Our dog poppy can sniff out a piece of gum like you wouldn't believe. She'll run into a hedge schnuffing furiously and then emerge moments later happily chewing on a piece of gum. She can't blow bubbles. At least not yet. We've tried to break her of the habit but with little success and up until now I thought it a bit gross but harmless. That all changed when the Journal of the American Veterinarian Medical Association October issue came out a few days ago.


The Urbana, Illinois ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center wrote case descriptions of eight adult dogs who suffered from acute liver failure after eating xylitol.. Recall xyltiol is the sugar extracted from birch trees. It is very, very sweet tasting for its caloric content and has a growing popularity for its health benefits. When used to sweeten chewing gum, it lowers incidence of dental caries (that's cavities) and is useful at preventing recurrent earaches in kids.


When people eat xylitol it has little to no effect on insulin levels. In dogs, this is completely different. Xyltiol causes dogs to release large amounts of insulin and the dogs become severely hypoglycemic.  A 2004 report described a Labrador Retriever who became severely hypoglycemic and needed to be treated with IV sugar solutions after eating xylitol-sweetened gum. [i]


This recent publication is even more disturbing. It describes eight separate cases where dogs became very ill after eating xylitol containing products. Only two of the dogs survived. [ii]


An increasing number of food products contain xyitol, for good reason, it tastes good, and is healthy for people. You can buy it by in bulk at health food stores. At the same time, as these studies point out, it is not just unhealthy for dogs, it can easily prove deadly. If you have xyltiol containing products and a dog in the your house, you must store them with care.  And if you chew xylitol sweetened gum, please dispose of it where a dog will not be able to find it.



[i] Vet Hum Toxicol. 2004 Apr;46(2):87-8. Links

Hypoglycemia following canine ingestion of xylitol-containing gum.

•  Dunayer EK .

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center , 1717 S Philo Rd, Suite 36 , Urbana , IL 61802 , USA .

A 9-mo-old neutered male Labrador Retriever developed severe hypoglycemia, collapse, and seizures after consuming a large quantity of sugar-free gum sweetened with the sugar-alcohol xylitol. The dog was treated with i.v. boluses and continuous infusion of dextrose; its condition improved rapidly, but the dog remained mildly hypoglycemic for 11 hours before recovering fully. In humans, xylitol has little to no effect on plasma insulin or glucose levels, but in dogs xylitol is a strong promoter of insulin release and can cause severe hypoglycemia with ataxia, collapse and seizures. With the increased appearance of xylitol-sweetened products in the US , xylitol toxicosis in dogs may become more common.

PMID: 15080212 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


[ii] J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Oct 1;229(7):1113-7. Links

Acute hepatic failure and coagulopathy associated with xylitol ingestion in eight dogs.

•  Dunayer EK ,

•  Gwaltney-Brant SM .

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center, 1717 S Philo Rd, Ste 36, Urbana, IL 61802-6044.

Case Description-8 adult dogs were evaluated for treatment of lethargy and vomiting after ingestion of xylitol, a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in various products. Clinical Findings-In addition to vomiting and lethargy, 5 of the dogs had widespread petechial, ecchymotic, or gastrointestinal tract hemorrhages. Common clinicopathologic findings included moderately to severely high serum activities of liver enzymes, hyperbilirubinemia, hypoglycemia, hyperphosphatemia, prolonged clotting times, and thrombocytopenia. Necropsies were performed on 3 dogs and severe hepatic necrosis was found in 2. In the third dog, histologic examination revealed severe hepatocyte loss or atrophy with lobular collapse. Treatment and Outcome-Treatments varied among dogs and included IV administration of fluids; plasma transfusions; and, if indicated, administration of dextrose. Three dogs were euthanatized, 2 dogs died, 2 dogs made a complete recovery, and 1 dog was recovering but was lost to follow-up. Clinical Relevance-Although xylitol causes hypoglycemia in dogs, hepatic failure after ingestion has not previously been reported. Because an increasing number of consumer products contain xylitol, clinicians should be aware that ingestion of xylitol can have serious, life-threatening effects.

PMID: 17014359 [PubMed - in process


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