At any one time there may be a product in your household that contains an extremely dangerous substance that is toxic to your pets but none is more hidden in plain sight than xylitol. Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute derived from nature and often found in everyday products such as sugar-free peanut butter, ketchup, gum, and protein bars, toothpaste and mouthwash, baked goods, liquid medications and gummy vitamins, and even in lotions, gels, and deodorants (it has certain properties to aid in skin care.) According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the most common source for xylitol toxicity is sugar-free gum. This naturally occurring substance, which is completely safe for humans, is potently toxic to your pets.
When humans ingest xylitol it does not significantly raise blood-sugar levels compared to glucose, but when dogs ingest xylitol it causes their blood-sugar levels to rapidly drop resulting in hypoglycemia within 10-60 minutes. Some dogs have also shown to experience acute liver failure. If left untreated, your pet can die.
As we cannot always be watching our beloved pets, signs that your pet may have eaten xylitol are usually visible within 15-30 minutes after ingestion. These signs include: weakness, vomiting, staggering, lethargy, tremors, seizures, and coma. If you witnessed your pet ingesting xylitol or notice any of the signs of hypoglycemia immediately take your pet to his or her vet or the closest emergency hospital. Time is of the essence to ensure fast and aggressive treatment by a veterinarian to ensure reversal of any toxic effects and prevent the development of severe problems. Full recovery can be expected provided your pet has been treated as quickly as possible.
To avoid xylitol toxicity in your pets, simply read the ingredients to any sugar-free products, medicines, or cosmetics to ensure xylitol is not one of them. If for medical or dietary reason you require xylitol based products, make sure they are stored securely and far from the reach of a curious pet.