Though considered safe in humans, Xylitol is very toxic in canines. When ingested by dogs, it can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hepatic necrosis (liver failure). .Xylitol is rapidly absorbed and causes an increase in insulin secretion, which results in a rapid decline of blood sugar in dogs. Metabolism of Xylitol occurs in the liver, and this may play a role in its toxicity towards this organ.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used as a sweetener in gum, candies, and baked goods. Discovered in the late 19th century, it was used during World War II, when there was a sucrose (sugar) shortage. Its use gained popularity with the rise of Atkins-like “low-carb” diets. The 5 -carbon sugar alcohol is reported to have less than two-thirds of the calories of most sugars, yet is has a similar sweetness to sugar.
A dog that has consumed Xylitol or products containing this sweetener, might exhibit the signs and symptoms of lethargy, weakness, ataxia, and vomiting. Seizures, coma, and death are also possible. If consumption of Xylitol is known or suspected, immediate hospitalization and treatment with dextrose(type of sugar) intravenously is needed. This is done to establish normal blood-glucose levels. To protect against hepatic injury, treatment with antioxidants are administered along with the dextrose. Liver damage may not always occur.
Xylitol has a wide margin of safety in most mammals. It is not toxic to cats, and is actually recommended to be added to cat drinking water to prevent cavities. In fact, Xylitol is commonly used in human oral care products, such as, toothpaste and mouth-wash. It prevents certain bacterial growth. In doing so , it prevents oral bacteria from producing acids that damage the surfaces of teeth. Although considered safe in humans and particularly beneficial to diabetics, Xylitol is severely toxic, and life-threatening to dogs. Be sure to read labels when giving food stuff to dogs, and even when using household products around them. Some non-edible products used around the home contain Xylitol. Even worse, Xylitol may not be listed as an active ingredient in some products, and it may even be a component of some medications and vitamins.