Preventing a dangerous pet poisoning episode is an obvious concern for pet owners. But one of the most harmful substances a pet can cross paths with isn’t in the garage or garden shed.

Traditional pet toxins, such as antifreeze or rodent bait are easily identifiable and well-known, however Xylitol poses a threat every bit as real, but is stealthily hidden behind multi-colored packages of gum, candy, or peanut butter.

What Is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in various plants, fruits, and trees. It’s popularity in recent years is due to it’s sugar-free chemical makeup. It sweetens food artificially, but it has fewer calories than sugar and is thought to prevent cavities from forming.

It can be increasingly found in the following products:


  • Sugar-free gums, mints, and candies
  • Baked goods (Xylitol can be purchased in granulated form in the baking or beverage sweetener sections)
  • Foods labeled as “safe for diabetics”
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste
  • Multivitamins
  • Chewable medications
  • Nasal sprays
  • Prescription and over the counter medications

What’s Behind Xylitol Toxicity?

Xylitol is safe for people but only because we metabolize it differently than cats and dogs. It’s dangerous for pets because it promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas into the blood.

In turn, a rapid, life-threatening decrease in blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) results, usually within 30-60 minutes of ingestion. Xylitol toxicity can also extend to the liver causing damage and even failure (acute hepatic necrosis).

Don’t Ignore the Symptoms

Xylitol toxicity necessitates pet emergency care. You may notice any of the following symptoms if you know or suspect your pet ate a food or product containing Xylitol:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Racing heart rate
  • Discolored gums
  • Bruising
  • Clotting problems
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

It is imperative that pet owners act quickly on behalf of their seriously ill pet. Please contact us immediately for help. Depending on your pet’s symptoms and when they ate the Xylitol, we may induce vomiting, closely monitor blood sugar levels, and place them on IV fluids.

The Long Haul

Easing symptoms of hypoglycemia is possible if caught and treated early on.

The severity of poisoning depends on your pet’s size, weight, age and relative health, but Xylitol toxicity can occur after a shockingly small amount. The prognosis for liver failure is bleak. Death can occur within 36 hours if symptoms are ignored.

Prevent an Incident

Like other toxic substances, eliminating opportunities that could expose them to Xylitol is crucial.

  • Keep coats, backpacks, and purses off the floor and hung up behind a closed door.
  • Do not allow your pet to sniff around in the bathroom where medications and dental care products might be accessible.
  • Check the food label before giving a peanut butter treat to your dog. When in doubt, don’t give anything labelled as “sugar-free” to your pet.

A Bright Side to Xylitol Toxicity?

As a result of rising numbers of Xylitol toxicity cases, more pet owners are taking active roles in preventing a similar situations. If we can assist you further with this goal, our team at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center is always here.