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Xylitol- The Christmas Dog Killer: How Keep Your Christmas Merry!

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Holiday candies and Christmas treats are delicious but can kill your dog! I’m not talking about chocolate either. Unfortunately, there are some very toxic substances that become more of a risk during this happy holiday season. Out of all the possible toxic foods xylitol is the biggest threat to your dog. Just the smallest amount can cost you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in vet fees and possibly even your dog’s life. Christmas is a time of happiness and celebration; it shouldn’t be a time of grief.

My dog’s have eaten chocolate, they have eaten onions, some have even eaten grapes… accidents happen. None of those scare me as much as xylitol. I obsessively check every list of ingredients and make all my own baked goods. I am a stickler! Everything containing xylitol I can avoid I do, but it’s getting harder and harder.

What is Xylitol?

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sugar substitute xylitol, a glass jar with birch sugar, liefs and wood on wooden background

Simply put, Xylitol is a sugar substitute. The more we back away from consuming refined sugars the more popular Xylitol is becoming. Xylitol is everywhere now! It is becoming increasingly harder to avoid because we have been eliminating sugar from our diets. It’s wonderfully healthy to stop eating so much sugar, but the problem is xylitol is EXTREMELY toxic to our beloved dogs! I mean EXTREMELY! Even the smallest amounts are a medical emergency, so there is no safe amount for a dog. Companies don’t make it easy to avoid either. Labels don’t always come out and list xylitol as an ingredient it can be hidden under the label of “naturally sweetened.” 

What Products To Avoid?

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and is found in many sugar-free sweet treats.
Photo by Sarsmis

As a result of the movement away from granulated sugar Xylitol is showing up in many of our normal everyday products. So, even products that were previously safe may now be adding it. Keep being vigilant! Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in sugar-free candies and baked goods but is becoming more widely used. Xylitol can sometimes be hard to find on ingredient labels. Look for the key phrases “sugar alcohol”, “artificially sweetened”, “naturally sweetened”, “new”, and “reduced”. Products with these phrases are guaranteed to contain some amount of xylitol, therefore are safer to avoid.

Below is a list of common products that are known to contain xylitol. Xylitol has started to be used in more than just sugar-free foods due to it’s versatility.

  • Candy Canes
  • Sugar-free Candies
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Peanut butter
  • Jellies and jams
  • Cereals
  • Sugar-free pudding
  • Sugar-free gelatin
  • Baked goods
  • Mints
  • Drink powders
  • Ketchup
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Maple syrups
  • Honey
  • Protein bars
  • Protein powders
  • Flavored waters
  • Chocolates
  • Some athletic wear
  • Pacifier and bottle wipes
  • Cosmetics
  • Over-the-Counter vitamins
  • Medications

Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

Xylitol, a toxic sugar substitute, can be found in candy canes.
Photo by Photoboyko

DO NOT MIX! Any time a dog ingests xylitol it is considered a medical emergency! It is estimated that this sugar substitute kills over 6,000 dogs die each year. It’s so toxic that even the smallest amount can cause your dog some serious problems like hypoglycemia, liver failure and death. Although completely safe for human consumption xylitol acts differently on your dog’s body.

Unlike in people where xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar; in your dog the smallest amount can cause a HUGE insulin surge. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. It regulates the levels of sugar in the blood by regulating the amount of sugar body cells take in to utilize. Because this rapid insulin surge causes the cells to quickly take in and use up sugar from the blood quickly a rapid fall in blood sugar levels soon follows. This is condition is known as hypoglycemia. Xylitol toxicity occurs quickly leading to dogs showing symptoms with in 10 to 30 minutes after ingesting. Due to it’s quick absorption seeking medical treatment quickly is extremely important. The longer xylitol has to act on your dogs body the more likely damage is done to their liver.

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning

  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty walking or standing; “Drunk Walk”
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression/lethargy
  • Elevated heartrate
  • Black tarry stools
  • Bruising
  • Issues clotting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the mucous membranes)
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Treatment For Your Dog

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If you just THINK your dog MIGHT have gotten into xylitol it is important to seek medical treatment. DO NOT induce vomiting because that can cause blood sugar levels to fall even lower. The quicker your vet can treat your dog is the better their prognosis. Normally treatment will consist of intravenous fluids and glucose to raise their blood sugar. Because of the serious health risks your vet may recommend that your dog stay under supervised care.

The holidays are about family, love and togetherness. No one wants to spend them in an emergency room wondering if your precious pup is going to make it because they ate Becky’s sucker. Be diligent! Read all ingredient labels on candies and surprisingly even clothing now. Immediately call your vet or the closest emergency clinic if you think your dog has gotten into xylitol. Keep this holiday season merry and ring in the new year with all your loved ones. Here’s to a pawsome 2021!

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