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Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

September 15, 2019

Xylitol is one of the most common and dangerous pet poisons out there. It’s most likely in your home right now! In this article from your Tipp City, OH vet clinic, learn more about what xylitol is, how it affects your dog or cat, and how to prevent the problem.

The Basics

Xylitol is an artificial sugar, used as a substitute sweetener in many candies, gums, toothpastes, certain baked sweets, and other goods. It’s okay for humans to ingest, but it can prove very dangerous for our animal companions. Xylitol can poison dogs and cats alike, although dogs are more commonly diagnosed—this may simply be due to dogs’ tendency to gobble up whatever they find in their path.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Xylitol poisoning can manifest itself in as a little as 30 minutes after ingestion by your pet. For this reason, it’s important to take your pet to the vet’s office as soon as you know or suspect they’ve ingested something that contains xylitol.

Xylitol “confuses” your pet’s pancreas, because the organ mistakes xylitol for real sugar and releases insulin when it’s not supposed to. This leads to a dramatic and sudden drop in blood sugar, which results in symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, spasms, uncoordinated movements, seizures, and—without prompt treatment—coma and death.

Another reason that xylitol is so dangerous is because it only takes small amounts to cause trouble. Only a stick or two of gum sweetened with xylitol can cause poisoning in a small pet who weighs less than 10 pounds.


A pet suffering from xylitol poisoning should be rushed to their veterinarian’s office right away. Activated charcoal might be given to slow the absorption of the toxin in your pet’s stomach, and vomiting may need to be induced to get rid of the remaining poison in the gut. As a pet recovers from xylitol poisoning, fluid replacement, oxygen supplementation, and other supportive measures might be needed for a return to full health.

Preventing Poisoning

Clearly, you want to avoid xylitol poisoning in the first place, rather than deal with it after it’s already happened. Fortunately, preventing xylitol poisoning isn’t difficult. It’s all about restricting your pet’s access to the products that contain it. Store sweet treats of all kinds in closed containers or cabinets, and don’t let your pet have access to toothpaste in the bathroom.

Call your Tipp City, OH veterinarian for even more great tips on keeping your pet safe at home.