The Dangers of Xylitol and Your Pet

Nov 29, 2022 Dan



All pet parents need to be aware that a simple ingredient in common household items can put your dog at risk.  A breath mint or stick of gum stolen out of a purse.  Peanut butter in a kong.  Toothpaste on your bathroom counter.  

The danger to dogs is so high that it was put in front of the U.S. Congress in 2021.  If passed, the Paws Off Act will forbid the sale of food that contains xylitol unless the food’s label contains a warning about the toxic effects of xylitol for dogs if ingested.



It is a natural sweetener found in many different plants and foods.  It looks and tastes like sugar but only contains about two-thirds of the calories.  This makes xylitol useful for diabetics and those on low carbohydrate diets.  It is lower on the glycemic index.

Wood sugar, birch sugar and birch bark extract are alternative names for xylitol.  Look for any food product labelled “sugar free” then the detailed ingredient list.



Xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver injury in dogs.

Humans absorb xylitol slowly and it does not impact the release of insulin.  When dogs ingest xylitol, their bodies do not metabolize it the same way.  Their pancreas thinks it is glucose and releases insulin in such a way that it causes blood sugar levels to decrease (hypoglycaemia).

This can occur as soon as 30 minutes up to 12 hours after ingestion.

Signs of hypoglycaemia are weakness, unsteadiness, shaking and seizures.

Your dog’s liver can be seriously injured.  The more they ingest the higher the risk.  Signs of liver damage are:

    •  Loss of appetite

    •  Lethargy

    •  Vomiting and/or diarrhea

    •  Yellowing of the skin

In either on of these situations, you dog needs to get to the vet right away!


CATS are not affected the same way dogs are.  A study determined that xylitol did not induce toxic effects on our feline friends.  Cats are also far pickier than dogs and less likely to eat these items.  Still recommended to keep these items from kitties.



According to research, 0.05 grams of xylitol per pound of body weight is considered the danger zone.  Think of it this way.  Gum and breath mints contain anywhere from 0.22 to 1.0 grams of xylitol per piece.  A 10-pound dog could eat one piece of gum, or a single breath mint and it could be toxic.  A heaping tablespoon of peanut butter containing xylitol could be lethal to a 40lb or 50lb dog.  

Ingredient amounts vary but it is always safest to assume any amount is too much.



Gum and breath mints

    •  Peanut butter and jams

    •  Candy and chocolate

    •  Baked goods

    •  Maple syrup

    •  BBQ sauces and ketchup

    •  Some medications

    •  Personal care items – toothpaste, mouthwash, baby wipes, deodorant, body lotions.

Like the food and treats we choose to feed our pets, always pay close attention to the ingredient list.

Xylitol is dangerous and can have very toxic effects very quickly.  Knowing what to look for as well as what to do if you dog ingests xylitol is so important.  We all want our pets to be kept safe. Knowledge is power, now you know to look for this sneaky ingredient to help keep your pet out of harms way.