Xylitol is a popular sweetener found in many products including:

  • sugar-free gums and candies (Ladies check your purses!)

  • toothpaste and mouthwash

  • baked goods and more

When ingested by Brittanys and other dogs, xylitol may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, internal bleeding, and in severe cases, liver failure! In most cases, symptoms develop within 15 to 30 minutes. However, there are some sugar-free gums that delay the onset of symptoms for up to 12 hours. The ingestion of Xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in your Brittany’s blood glucose. 

Xylitol, sometimes known as birch sugar, is a sugar alcohol that’s toxic to dogs. Xylitol is dangerous to dogs because it’s absorbed into their bloodstream much faster than in humans, leading to a quick and significant release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release can cause a severe drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) within 10 to 60 minutes after ingestion, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Some dogs may also experience liver failure after consuming xylitol.

Xylitol is found in many products that you might not suspect, so it’s important to scour labels carefully for it and birch sugar. Examples of foods that commonly contain xylitol or birch sugar include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Candy
  • Ice cream
  • Dietary supplements, including chewy or gummy vitamins
  • Liquid compounded medications, including gabapentin
  • Mouthwash
  • Sugar-free desserts
  • Breath mints
  • Peanut butter

Know the Symptoms of Pet Intoxication

If you suspect your pet has consumed something toxic, act immediately — don’t wait for signs of illness. Prompt action may help limit the toxin’s absorption. Rush your pet to an emergency vet, providing detailed information about the ingested toxin. Quick medical intervention can be life-saving. And keep in mind that pet poisoning can result in a wide variety of symptoms.

“Symptoms of pets ingesting toxins can be anything — including altered mentation, or any change in normal behavior, which can include excitability, anxiety, compulsive behavior, decreased consciousness, or apathy to their surroundings; drooling; seizures; tremors; weakness; excessive thirst; vomiting; or abnormal bleeding or bruising,” Rutter said.

“Some toxins will have delayed onset of clinical signs, which means that the owner would not likely notice any changes in their pet for up to 10 days. In some cases, the delay is too late to prevent permanent organ damage,” she explains. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline 24/7 at 855-764-7661 for information regarding potential poisoning of all animal species. They also have emergency instructions on hand, which include:

  • Remove your pet from the area.
  • Check to make sure your pet is safe: breathing and acting normally.
  • Do NOT give any home antidotes.
  • Do NOT induce vomiting without consulting a vet or Pet Poison Helpline.
  • Call Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
  • If veterinary attention is necessary, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic immediately.