Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs, Birch Sugar Is the Same


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An artificial sweetener called Xylitol is wildly toxic to dogs, deadly in a word. The warning to look on packaging to check for Xylitol still stands but increasingly – for whatever the reason – Xylitol is being called Birch Sugar.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine, In both people and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, Xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing Xylitol, the Xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating a product with Xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening, and treatment may not even prove to be successful.

For dogs, peanut butter is the most common product containing Xylitol or Birch Sugar. Appropriately veterinary professionals and behavior consultants suggest low fat/low salt peanut butter as treats or to be used to stuff into toys, but some of the peanut butte4r brands contain Xylitol, now called Birch Sugar.

Other products which can contain Xylitol or Birch Sugar include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Candy
  • Ice cream
  • Dietary supplements (like chewable or gummy vitamins)
  • Liquid compounded medications (like liquid gabapentin) – make sure any compounded product for pets does not contain Xylitol
  • Mouthwash
  • Sugar-free candies
  • Breath mints
  • Peanut butter
  • Brownie mixes (and other sugar-free mixes).

Keep an eye out for products labeled “sugar free” or “diabetic friendly.”

What Happens if a Pet Ingests Xylitol or Birch Sugar?

Signs of Xylitol (or Birch Sugar) toxicity include vomiting, weakness, collapse, seizures and/or uncoordinated gait.

If Xylitol (or Birch Sugar) toxicity is suspected or you know your pet ingested a product with Xylitol or Birch Sugar, seek immediate veterinary care. If you’re unsure if a product your dog consumed contains Xylitol or Birch Sugar, save the product packaging with the ingredient list to provide to the veterinary care team. Treatment involves monitoring and to ensure blood glucose levels and liver activity remain normal, and support as needed in case of low blood sugar and/or liver failure.

Cats and Ferrets

Cats appear generally less interested in products containing Xylitol, and the damage may not occur, but it can. Ferrets are susceptible too.