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Xylitol, Dogs, & Confusion

Posted by Musashi Tuesday, December 21, 2010 4:20 PM


Working in the health industry, more specifically Xylitol, I have the opportunity to field questions from across the board. Today I'd like to address the Xylitol and Dogs issue. This is by far the most recent controversial side of the Xylitol Industry.  

The handful of times that I've dealt with question, typically at a trade show, one of our awesome customers or curious potential customer states, "I hear that Xylitol kills dogs, and if its killing dogs, why are you making it available to the masses since its clearly unsafe." This is the most common misconception. A simplified rebuttal to this statement is, “Dogs are also able to metabolize meat scavenged from animals, but its unsafe for people. Dogs and people metabolize things completely different.” 

To elaborate on this, when some dogs (not all) ingest Xylitol, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and/or hepatic necrosis may occur.  Since some dogs are unable to metabolize the Xylitol, it causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose. This in turn may cause the following symptoms:
·        Vomiting             
·        Weakness
·        Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
·        Depression
·        Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)
·        Seizures
·        Coma
·        Liver dysfunction and/or failure

Effects of People and the History of Xylitol
Xylitol was first discovered in the 1890’s by French and
German scientists by hydrogenating D-Xylose (birch sugar). Xylitol exists naturally in corn, berries, some fungi, and the human body produces Xylitol naturally as a metabolic by product. During World War II, Xylitol was utilized as the main
sweetener in Finland due to the unavailability of sugar in the region. Shortly after the war ended and trade lines opened once again, sugar replaced Xylitol as the preferred  sweetener again. In the 1970’s, multiple studies focused on exploring the benefits of Xylitol such as: low glycemic index, 2/3 the calories of sugar, anticariogenic properties, inhibiting growth of certain bacteria such as otitis media.

For more information please visit Xylitol.Org, and this issue of Veterinary Medicine