Pixabay, bulldog puppy

Xylitol pet poisoning cases have more than doubled over the past five years, and Pet Poison Helpline officials want people to take note. The animal poison control center is bringing awareness to the issue during National Poison Prevention Week, which this year is March 21-27.

The reason for the uptick, according to officials, is due to the increasingly number of people cutting back on sugar, which has led to more products containing xylitol.

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index that is found naturally in berries, plums, corn, oats, mushrooms, lettuce, trees and some other fruits, officials said. Now it is being used to sweeten everything from chocolate and other candy, to peanut butter and toothpaste.

“While that’s great news for people, pets aren’t so lucky,” officials said.

The increase in products containing xylitol has resulted in a corresponding increase in the number of xylitol-related pet poisoning cases, according to the veterinary toxicology professionals at Pet Poison Helpline. Between 2015 and 2020, calls regarding xylitol poisoning increased 108 percent, and the biggest one-year increase was in 2019, when calls were up 47.2 percent from 2018, according to officials. In 2020, xylitol poisoning calls to the Helpline were second only to regular chocolate poisoning calls.

“Most humans can safely consume products containing xylitol,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, which is based in Minneapolis. “In fact, some research suggests that the chemical compound may also have positive health benefits for people, including better dental health, prevention of ear infections and it possesses antioxidant properties. Xylitol consumption by pets, particularly dogs, on the other hand, can be extremely toxic and potentially deadly. The most common effect of xylitol poisoning in dogs is a precipitous drop in blood sugar. Seizures, brain damage and death are not uncommon, as is liver failure that sets in hours or days afterwards.”

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of the dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures, officials further noted.

“The number of xylitol poisoning cases continues to rise, and sometimes those cases are tied to other trends such as the legalization of marijuana,” officials said. “As the use of marijuana increases nationally, so does the consumption of THC-infused edibles—many of which contain xylitol. For example, a California dog recently ingested more than 30 THC-infused mints that were sweetened with xylitol. Her owner not only had to worry about the negative effects from both the THC and the xylitol, but if there would be any negative interactions between the chemicals, causing further harm to her dog.”

A poison list can be found here.

Pet Poison Helpline, a division of SafetyCall International LLC, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $65 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case, according to officials.

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