Xylitol Toxicosis

By: Kelly Twigg, Rut Finnsdottir, Samantha Reed

The Basics of Xylitol

  • Used since the late 1800's
  • Xylitol is a 5 carbon sugar alcohol compound
  • 2/3 the calories of regular sugar
  • Safe in humans, and even recommended in diabetics
  • Causes serious, life threatening illness in dogs
  • Exists naturally in plants, fungi, berries, lettuce, mushrooms, birch trees
  • Gained popularity in WW II due to lack of sucrose

How It Affects Dogs

Xylitol is rapidly metabolized (15-30 minutes) in dogs causing a surge of insulin release resulting in

  • hypoglycemia
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • acute hepatic necrosis

What Xylitol May Be Found In

  • chewing gum
  • candy
  • cookies
  • toothpaste
  • peanutbutter

Clinical Signs

Signs can occur as soon as 30 minutes and can last up to 48 hours

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxia
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Weakness

Toxic and Lethal Dose

The toxic and lethal dose can vary depending on the dog.

However, ingesting even 1-2 pieces of gum with xylitol in it can become fatal in small- medium sized dogs; and harmful to medium- large sized dogs.

Treating Xylitol Toxicosis

Obtain baseline measurements of:

  • blood glucose levels (every 1-2 hrs for at least 12 hours)
  • serum potassium levels
  • phosphorus levels

  • liver enzymes
  • coagulation status
If hypoglycemic:

  • administer bolus of 1 ml/kg 50% dextrose diluted with additional amount of 0.9% NaCl (in 1:3 ratio), give IV over 1-2 minute
  • hospitalize with IV fluids for at least 24 hours


The best prevention is awareness and client education. Owners should check to see if the products that they are using contain xylitol and if they do, try to keep them out of the reach of the dog.