My Dog Ate Xylitol and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

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my dog ate xylitol

Key Takeaways:

  • Xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs, even in small doses. 
  • If your pup eats anything containing xylitol, you should call your veterinarian and get immediate emergency care whether or not you see signs of poisoning. 
  • Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to reverse the effects of xylitol on the body.

You accidentally dropped your chewable vitamin on the floor, and your four-footed friend snapped it up before you could stop her. When you check the label, you find that the vitamins contain xylitol. 

What should you do?

Call your veterinarian or the pet poison helpline at (855)764-7661 immediately and follow their instructions.

In this article, we’ll discuss xylitol and why it’s extremely toxic for dogs. We’ll describe what you should do if your dog eats food containing xylitol and the signs of poisoning. So that you know how to prepare for the office visit, we’ll describe how your veterinarian will treat Xylitol poisoning and the anticipated recovery period. 

So let’s get started.

How Much Xylitol Is Toxic to Dogs?

Xylitol is very toxic for dogs and can cause dangerously low blood sugar(hypoglycemia), seizures, liver failure, and death. It takes about 0.045 gm/lb to cause hypoglycemia in a dog. Doses of 0.11-0.22 gm/lb can cause liver damage.

Generally, one piece of chewing gum contains 0.2-1 gm of xylitol. So, a single piece can cause a 20-pound dog to have hypoglycemia. And 2-3 pieces could trigger liver failure.

Xylitol is highly toxic for dogs. Very small doses can cause hypoglycemia and liver damage. Even one piece of chewing gum is enough to affect a 20-pound dog.

What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Xylitol?

If you know or suspect your dog ate xylitol, contact your veterinarian or the pet poison helpline right away. You’ll need to get treatment as soon as possible to detoxify your dog and counteract the poison’s effects. 

In the case of xylitol toxicity, you should not induce vomiting unless your veterinarian tells you to take this action. If your dog is already hypoglycemic, vomiting can make his condition worse.

If your dog ate xylitol, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately and seek treatment as soon as possible. Do not induce vomiting unless the doctor orders it. 

What You Should Do Immediately if You Suspect Your Dog Has Been Poisoned by Xylitol

Xylitol is extremely dangerous for dogs. It’s used in a variety of household products including:

  • Baked goods
  • Chewing gum
  • Peanut butter
  • Breath mints
  • Medications
  • Oral hygiene products

If you suspect your furbaby was poisoned by xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately and seek emergency care. The body absorbs this poison rapidly, so the sooner your dog gets treatment, the better his odds of recovery.

If you suspect your dog ingested xylitol, you should contact your veterinarian and seek emergency care. It doesn’t take long for the poison to enter the bloodstream, so early treatment increases the chances of recovery.

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Xylitol But Is Acting Normal?

Whether your dog is acting sick right after eating xylitol or not, you should still treat it as an emergency. This substance is extremely toxic to dogs and needs to be treated seriously any time your pooch ingests the chemical. 

While signs of xylitol poisoning sometimes appear in less than an hour, that’s not always the case. When xylitol is in some substrates, like gum, absorption of the toxin takes longer. As a result, hypoglycemia may not develop for about 12-18 hours, and signs of liver damage can take as long as 24-48 hours to surface. If you wait for signs of poisoning, it may be too late.

Even if you don’t notice immediate symptoms, the poison can still be causing damage to your dog’s body. When absorption is delayed, your veterinarian may be able to remove the food or product your dog ingested before all of the xylitol enters your dog’s bloodstream. By getting him emergency care as soon as possible, you may be able to reduce the toxic effects. 

Any time your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, you should get veterinary care. This chemical is extremely dangerous for dogs, but sometimes absorption is delayed. If you wait for symptoms, the poison may already be causing damage to the body. The sooner you seek treatment, the better.

What Are the Signs of Xylitol Poisoning?

Signs of xylitol poisoning can start to appear within about 30 minutes or may be delayed up to 12-18 hours. The initial symptoms are related to hypoglycemia and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia or loss of coordination
  • Lethargy or depression
  • hypokalemia(low blood potassium)
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and coma

Signs of liver damage and failure can take longer(24-28 hours or more)  to develop and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Icterus/jaundice
  • Low blood platelet count and delayed clotting
  • hyperphosphatemia(high levels of phosphorus in the blood)

The first signs of xylitol poisoning are usually related to hypoglycemia and include vomiting, weakness, ataxia, and seizures. Signs of liver damage emerge later and include jaundice, delayed clotting, and high blood phosphorus. 

What Happens to Dogs That Eat Xylitol?

When dogs eat xylitol, the most common effect is a sudden drop in blood glucose. When blood sugars are low, cells don’t have the energy they need for normal functioning. As a result, your dog may be lethargic and lack muscle coordination. Unless the cells get the fuel they need, signs progress to seizures and coma or death. Xylitol also damages the liver.

Xylitol causes a rapid drop in blood glucose and also causes liver damage. Due to these effects, normal cellular functioning is interrupted. When the cells lack the necessary fuel, dogs can become lethargic and lose muscle coordination followed by seizures and coma.

Why is Xylitol Toxic to Dogs?

Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol, is a common sugar substitute in baking products, medications, gum, and other items. When a dog eats something that has xylitol, the chemical is absorbed into his bloodstream quickly and has devastating effects. 

While xylitol is safe for humans, this chemical triggers a rapid release of insulin from the pancreas. The circulation of insulin in the blood causes a dangerous drop in blood glucose known as hypoglycemia. Left untreated, this condition can be life-threatening.

Larger doses of xylitol also cause liver damage and sometimes liver failure. The mechanism for this effect is unknown.

When a dog ingests something containing xylitol.his body quickly absorbs the chemical. Once in the bloodstream, xylitol stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. The rapid rise of this hormone causes severe hypoglycemia, which is life-threatening. How xylitol causes liver damage is unknown.

How Will My Vet Treat Xylitol Poisoning?

Because xylitol is so dangerous for dogs, your veterinarian will act aggressively to reverse the toxic effects. The first thing he’ll do is check your pooch’s blood glucose.

 If your dog ingested the poison within six hours of treatment, his blood glucose is normal, and there are no toxic symptoms, the doctor will usually induce vomiting. The goal is to evacuate the stomach contents and prevent absorption of as much xylitol as possible. Activated charcoal is usually not effective on xylitol, so this is generally not a treatment option.

If your dog is already showing clinical signs, or after the vomiting is done, your veterinarian will monitor blood glucose and potassium levels every two hours for 12-24 hours and treat him accordingly. Additionally, the vet will check liver enzymes every 24 hours for at least 72 hours. 

Dogs that suffer xylitol poisoning are generally hospitalized for 12-24 hours for monitoring and treatment. Depending on bloodwork, your veterinarian may IV fluids with dextrose to counteract the hypoglycemia, liver protecting drugs, and any other supportive care that’s needed. 

Treatment for xylitol poisoning is aggressive and usually starts with induction of vomiting. After that, your veterinarian will monitor bloodwork and provide IV fluids with dextrose, liver-protecting drugs, and supportive care as needed. Dogs with xylitol poisoning are generally hospitalized for at least 12-24 hours for observation and treatment. 

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover From Xylitol Poisoning?

The recovery period and prognosis depend on how much xylitol your dog ingested and the severity of his symptoms. For dogs that are treated early and have uncomplicated hypoglycemia, the prognosis is highly favorable. It usually takes 24 hours or more for blood glucose to stabilize. 

Dogs that have mild increases in liver enzymes often recover in a matter of a few days. However, if blood work indicates liver insufficiency or a sharp rise in liver enzymes, the prognosis is guarded at best. One study showed that 62.5% of these dogs died or were euthanized. For those that survive, treatment will be prolonged. 

Recovery and prognosis depend on the dose and severity of the poisoning. Dogs with minor symptoms of hypoglycemia usually recover in 24 or more hours. If liver enzymes are mildly elevated, your pup can bounce back in a few days. Severe liver damage may require long-term treatment if your dog survives.

The Final Woof

Xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs. It can cause severe hypoglycemia and liver damage. You should contact your veterinarian or the pet poison hotline any time you suspect your dog ate something that contained xylitol. 

When dogs eat something with xylitol, their bodies rapidly absorb the chemical. It stimulates the pancreas to release insulin which makes blood glucose levels drop quickly. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, ataxia, lethargy, seizures, and coma. Treatment for xylitol poisoning is aggressive and requires hospitalization. If dogs have uncomplicated hypoglycemia or mild increases in liver enzymes, the prognosis is good, and recovery usually takes a few days.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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