Xylitol is poisonous to dogs — well over 6,000 cases each year!
ASPCA-Animal Poison Control received 3,727 xylitol calls in 2014 (2015 numbers not yet reported) and Pet Poison Helpline received 2,900 xylitol calls in 2015 — and these are just the cases that get reported to the animal poison control hotlines! There are many more that never get reported, either because the attending veterinary team gets it well under control without the input from the specialists at poison control, or because the dog never even makes it to the veterinary hospital.
Fortunately, with prompt recognition, quick diagnosis, and appropriate treatment, the prognosis for a dog that eats a product containing xylitol can be good. Of course, there are many other factors that will impact your dog’s odds of recovery and survival, including the amount of the product they ate, how much xylitol it contained, how recently they ate it, your quickness in taking the steps listed below, and a host of others.
Xylitol is a potent and very fast-acting poison in dogs — Time is of the essence!
Here are the steps you need to take if you know or suspect that your dog ate something that had xylitol in it…
Evaluate Your Dog and Get Them the Help They Need — Fast!Ask yourself: Is my dog staggering, walking like they're drunk? Is my dog collapsing, having seizures, or vomiting? Does my dog seem “out of it?” If so, or if there are any other concerning signs, follow these steps:
- Corn syrup or maple syrup: If you have one of these types of syrup handy and you can do so without getting bit or without overly delaying Step 2 below, rub some onto your dog’s gums. This is a TEMPORARY fix to try and raise their blood sugar and counteract the insulin released as a result of the xylitol. DO NOT pour the syrup into your dog's mouth — you could make matters significantly worse by doing so!
- Get to the vet: Even if their concerning signs improve after you’ve rubbed syrup onto their gums, get them immediately to the vet. Again, the syrup is a temporary fix and their blood sugar is likely to plummet again. Go immediately to your vet, or to your nearest open Animal ER if your vet isn’t open or can’t get you in. Ideally call them while you’re on your way to let them know that you’re coming in and what’s wrong with your dog, that way they can be ready to initiate immediate treatment and evaluation upon your arrival.
Ask yourself: "Is my dog acting normal? Does my dog seem unaffected by the product it's eaten?" If you know or suspect, that your dog’s eaten something that has xylitol in it, it’s still immensely important that you err on the side of caution and take this important step:
- Call for advice: Time is always of the essence when it comes to animal poisonings, and that’s even more so the case when xylitol is involved! Dangerously low blood sugar can develop in as little as 30 minutes! Call your veterinarian or one of the dedicated animal-specific poison control hotlines immediately for advice on what to do and what to watch for.
When contacting poison control and/or going to the vet, have handy or bring the packaging of the product your dog ate (or whatever's left of it). It's important for the team that's giving you advice and treating your dog to know what's listed on the ingredient label. Sometimes the concentration of xylitol in each serving is disclosed, which is important in evaluating the severity of the poisoning (how much xylitol versus the weight of your dog), although often the concentration of xylitol is not listed; that's why we're asking everybody to sign our petitions to manufacturers and the FDA to improve xylitol labeling standards.
Report Your Case to the Food & Drug AdministrationOnce you’ve done the steps above and your dog is getting the care and monitoring they need, it’s time to report the incident to the FDA. They WANT to hear from you!
The FDA’s Division of Veterinary Product Safety shared the following list with us in response to our communications with them and asked us to share it with our readers and petition signees. They truly wish to — and need to — know about what happened. They shared with us that “Submitting an adverse event report by the appropriate method enhances the ability of FDA to efficiently handle and evaluate reports. We encourage the submission of these reports to aid in monitoring their safety and in keeping the public informed about safety concerns.”
The FDA needs to know the details and how widespread the problem is so that they can know best how to respond. The appropriate method to report your case depends on the type of xylitol-containing product your dog got into. See the two methods below.
How to Report Cases of Xylitol Poisoning to the U.S. FDA
- Reporting poisoning cases and other adverse events in animals resulting from foods and other edibles is done either through the online Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your FDA District Office. “Foods and other edibles” includes such xylitol-containing products as candies, gums, mints, chocolates, peanut and nut butters, raw xylitol, desserts, yogurt, jams, syrups, condiments, sauces, water and drink powders, power and protein bars, and powders, and any other foods. Additional information about reporting food product adverse events in animals can be found here.
- Reporting poisonings and other adverse events in animals associated with pharmaceuticals, supplements, cosmetics, and health care products that are not foods, is done by submitting Form FDA 1932a or, for products specifically approved for use in animals, contact the drug manufacturer. This is the procedure for reporting cases where xylitol-containing toothpaste, floss, mouthwash or rinses, medications, vitamins, supplements and oils, cosmetics, hair care, body and face care, and other personal care products, and devices are involved. Additional information about reporting adverse experiences for drugs, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and devices in animals can be found here.
Spread the Word — Awareness Saves Lives!
It's time to raise awareness, to have your voice heard, and to help others avoid a similar situation. Here are some of the ways you can do this:
- Share your story on your Facebook page — it’s a great way to let your friends and family know about this danger and what you’ve been through.
- Share our social xylitol posts on your social pages and here’s a whole Xylitol & Dogs Pinterest Board we’ve created.
- Complete and share our Xylitol Label Improvement Petitions. We’re working to improve labeling on products that contain xylitol, and we’re making progress… but there’s still (LOTS) more to be done. The more people who sign and share the petitions, the more change we can bring about, and the faster we can do so. There’s one petition for manufacturers, and one for the FDA.
- Directly contact the manufacturer of the product your dog ingested. Let them know about what happened and ask them to make label changes. (If you hear back from them, please let us know — share your conversation with them, including any letters or emails you recieve, here.)
- Contact your local TV news station and/or newspaper. Ask them to do an awareness and pet safety piece about your and your dog’s experience with xylitol.
- Download our free xylitol awareness poster. Print out copies and bring them to your veterinarian, groomer, local dog parks, pet stores, and any other local businesses that will hang them for you.
Other names for xylitol in product ingredient lists:
- Alcohol Sugar (this could include other sugar alcohols and not include xylitol)
- Birch Sugar
- Pentahydric alcohol
- Sucre de Bouleau
Sometimes xylitol is listed in “inactive ingredients” or in the “other ingredients” list. These lists are not required to be itemized in order of quantity of the ingredient in the product, as it is in the main ingredient label. This unfortunately can cause people to incorrectly assume that there is a small amount of it in the product.
We hope that this article has been helpful for you and we’re sorry to hear that your dog has been affected by xylitol. Know that we, and others, are working hard to raise awareness and help prevent xylitol poisonings. We wish for the best outcome for you and your pooch, and sincerely thank you for sharing your story to help others avoid a similar situation.