The Danger of Xylitol to Your Dog and Ferret

My regular trip to the grocery store this week brought a health risk for dogs and ferrets to the forefront of my mind.

As I was standing in the checkout line, I noticed a number of hard candies and mints with xylitol on the label. Xylitol may help keep us slim and protect our teeth, but it is deadly for our dogs and ferrets. The Animal Medical Center’s Emergency Service has seen several dogs suffering from xylitol-induced illness. The danger is serious enough to have caused the FDA to issue a warning to pet owners because xylitol poisoning is on the rise.

Xylitol is an organic compound and a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used as a low calorie sweetener. Chewing gum and candies are commonly sweetened with xylitol. Recipes abound on the Internet for home baked treats using the sweetner as an ingredient. Medical products such as throat lozenges, cough syrup, children’s multivitamins, toothpaste and mouthwash contain xylitol because it helps prevent tooth decay.

When a dog or ferret consumes xylitol, blood sugar drops dangerously low (hypoglycemia) and can result in seizures. Even if the hypoglycemia is reversed with administration of intravenous sugar (glucose), there is still the potential for development of liver failure and death.

If your dog inadvertently ingests one of the many xylitol-containing foods, medications or any other potentially toxic substance, go to an animal emergency room immediately as the drop in blood sugar occurs very quickly. Take the package, bag or box containing the xylitol product with you. The information on the package will help when your veterinarian contacts one of the animal poison control services included in the links below. These services are open 24 hours a day to advise pet owners and veterinarians on optimal management for pet poisonings.

For more information on other foods toxic to pets, visit:

Fur the Love of Pets: Kitchen Catastrophies

ASPCA: Poison Control

MSPCA Angell Poision Control Hotline

Pet Poison Helpline

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.