Recently, many people have been adopting xylitol as a substitute for sugar, and it features in many sugar-free foods like sodas and chewing gum. Reasons for its adoption include its glycemic control, lipid metabolism, and bone development. It also helps maintain sound oral health, as it prevents dental cavities.
Can dogs consume xylitol? This is a common question among dog owners, especially those who consume a lot of sugar-free snacks. We will be of help if you have the same query, as we take an in-depth look at the relationship between dogs and xylitol.
What is Xylitol?
It falls under the classification of polyalcohol or sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in fruits such as plums and strawberries and vegetables like pumpkin, though in small amounts. Our bodies and other animals also make little amounts of this substance when breaking down carbs.
Xylitol’s use started to grow during the Second World War due to sugar rationing. Food experts started looking at sugar substitutes, leading to a growing interest in xylitol. Production is mainly by industrial fermentation, giving a fine white crystalline substance.
Besides snacks, xylitol is present in gummy vitamins, mouthwash, toothpaste, and skincare products. Additionally, you find it in quick-dissolving tablets.
Why are Many People Using Xylitol?
The reason behind the increased consumption of xylitol is that it has fewer calories than sugar but with the same sweetness. It ranks low on the glycemic index, making it a safer option for people with diabetes or people who want to consume fewer carbs.
Research shows that xylitol is good for your oral health. Unlike sugar which causes dental cavities, xylitol prevents it and also curbs the formation of plague. It is safe, but first-time users may experience digestive upsets when it is over-consumed. The sugar alcohol can draw water into your intestines or undergo fermentation. This translates to bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea in some cases.
Xylitol and Dogs
Back to our primary topic; is xylitol safe for dogs? While it has many benefits to humans, it is very toxic to dogs. If you have sugar-free snacks with this substance, it is better to keep them away from your fuzzy friend, as a small amount is enough to bring severe reactions.
What does Xylitol do to Dogs?
Insulin from the pancreas controls the blood sugar level in the body for both humans and dogs. In humans, xylitol does not stimulate the release of this substance. Canines experience an opposite effect, as the absorption of xylitol is rapid, causing a surge in insulin production. It results in low blood sugar, a severe condition if left untreated.
Additionally, xylitol can cause liver failure in dogs, though it is not yet clear how it comes by.
Low blood sugar occurs as fast as 10 to 60-minutes after ingestion of xylitol.
How Much is too Much Xylitol for Dogs?
The amount of xylitol varies from food to food. If consumed in low amounts, it will cause hypoglycemia and liver failure in large quantities.
Sugar-free gum is the primary cause of canine poisoning by xylitol. Most of the time, low blood sugar is the outcome as the candy has a tiny amount of sweetener.
However, some chewing gum has large amounts of xylitol and can put your dog into toxic shock due to liver failure. Fruits like plums have slight traces of xylitol. The problem comes when the dogs eat the plum pit, which has cyanide, a substance that is extremely toxic and can be life-threatening,
Signs of Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
You have to be keen on the symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs in case your dog becomes a casualty. The first signs are due to low blood sugar, which shows between ten minutes to an hour after consumption. The dog may experience vomiting or diarrhea, followed by general weakness or poor coordination.
Moreover, you may notice tremors, seizures, or a coma. In severe cases, the canine may experience liver failure.
If you notice any of these signs and you think your pup may have consumed xylitol, you should reach out to the vet immediately. Quick action can stop the toxicity from going overboard and even save your canine’s life.
Treatment for Xylitol Poisoning
While there is no antidote for xylitol poisoning, your veterinarian can offer various treatment solutions. The first step they may take is to induce vomiting to prevent the further absorption of the substance into the bloodstream. Do not try and induce the vomiting yourself, as you may further aggravate the situation. Let experienced hands do it.
The vet may also conduct some blood sugar and liver tests to know the extent of the damage. The go-to remedy in most cases is intravenous dextrose. Your dog may also receive other meds prescribed by the vet to stabilize its condition.
Preventing Xylitol Toxicity
Prevention is always the way to go when dealing with your dog’s health. You can put in measures like keeping away food and medication with xylitol. If it’s snacks, you will have to be selfish or substitute them with healthy treats for your pet.
Check foodstuff labels and other materials to ensure that they do not have xylitol.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a Home Remedy for Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs?
Xylitol poisoning is a cause of alarm among many dog owners, seeing how fast this substance spreads and triggers a reaction. The good news is that there is something you can do as you wait for help. Get corn or maple syrup after confirming that it is xylitol poisoning. Pour a little on a cup and gently rub it on your dog’s gums.
This should counter the high amounts of insulin produced. Do not pour the syrup directly into your dog’s mouth, as it may cause severe effects. Once that’s done, you can call your vet for further assistance.
Should I Induce Vomiting After My Dog Ingests Xylitol?
It may seem to be a smart move to make your dog vomit after taking food with xylitol. It may help prevent further absorption of the substance, minimizing the reaction. However, an experienced hand should take on this task as it is very delicate and can cause further complications. Let your veterinary doctor handle it as they are ready for any eventuality.
How Long Does a Dog Take to Recover from Xylitol Toxicity?
The recovery time depends on how fast you act after realizing your dog is in danger. If you act promptly, it may recover from hypoglycemia within 3 to 5-hours. It may take a longer time for liver failure, up to 5-days on some occasions.
Xylitol is a choice sweetener for many people who want to keep off sugar. It has low calories and is suitable for people living with diabetes or who want a low carbohydrate diet. Xylitol is also good for oral health as it promotes salivation and prevents cavities.
Despite its benefits, it is highly toxic to dogs. When ingested, it causes a spike in insulin, leading to a low blood sugar content, which can be fatal. High-quantity consumption of xylitol may lead to liver failure.
If you have a dog at home, you should be vigilant with foodstuffs containing xylitol to prevent any complications.