dog licking a spoon with peanut butter

Xylitol poisoning in dogs: Keeping your pet safe from a highly toxic ingredient

Xylitol is highly poisonous to dogs, even in small doses. If ingested, it can cause your pet’s blood sugar levels to plummet and in some cases result in liver damage.

In this article, we will look at:

  • What xylitol is and the foods that contain it
  • Why it is toxic to dogs
  • Keeping your dog safe from toxicity
  • What to do if you think your dog has ingested xylitol

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol found in certain plants. It is commonly used as a sweetener to replace sugar and can be found in many sugar-free products. The popularity of this ingredient has risen over the years and it is now often used in baking.

Which foods contain it?

Some common examples include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Sugar-free sweets or mints
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Selected soft drinks, jellies and jams
  • Selected baked goods
  • Selected cereals
  • Certain types of peanut butter

But isn’t peanut butter good for puppies?

Peanut butter is usually a great snack for dogs – but not if it contains xylitol. When purchasing treats for your dog that aren’t specifically designed for pets, it is important that you stay aware of toxic ingredients and that you always read the packaging carefully.

Why is xylitol poisonous to dogs?

Xylitol will cause your dog’s blood sugar to reduce drastically, this happens because their pancreas (the organ responsible for regulating blood sugar) cannot tell the difference between this toxic product and real sugar. If your dog ingests xylitol, their pancreas thinks the blood sugar levels are getting too high so it produces insulin. Insulin has no effect on the Xylitol but it will cause blood sugar levels to drop with dangerous consequences.

Liver failure is also a possible result of xylitol poisoning, although no-one has discovered why this is.

Note: The severity of harm depends on the quantity of xylitol the dog ingests, but even the smallest amount of this product can cause problems.

How do I protect my dog from toxicity?

Avoid giving them any baked goods or any of the ingredients listed above, especially if they contain sweeteners.

It’s a good idea to store these products high up, preferably in a cupboard or drawer that your dog can’t open. Be extra careful with things like chewing gum that could easily fall out of your hand and into your dog’s way.

What are the symptoms of xylitol poisoning?

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Discoordination
  • Seizures and tremors

Note: if you think your dog has ingested a product with xylitol in it, or any other harmful product, your vet will need to take action very quickly. For this reason, it’s important that you do not wait for symptoms to appear but contact your vet immediately.

What should I do if my pet is poisoned?

You should remain calm, visit your vet immediately and remember to bring the wrapper of the product your dog has eaten.

If you get your dog to the vets early enough, the vet will be able to induce vomiting and remove most of the toxic product from your dog’s stomach. Afterwards, your dog will likely be put onto an intravenous drip to correct their blood sugar levels.

If the reaction spreads to your dog’s liver, they may require specialist treatment.

Do you need more info on xylitol poisoning?

If you have further questions about xylitol, or to find out more about the right peanut butter to feed to your dog, we recommend chatting to your vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.