"Anything Sugar-Free Could be Deadly for Your Dog

"Anything Sugar-Free Could be Deadly for Your Dog

Health & Safety

Lots of people like to eat things that are sugar-free because as everyone knows, sugar is not only bad for teeth, but for your general health too. However, most sugar-free foods contain xylitol which is extremely dangerous to dogs if their ingest it. It only takes a very small amount for a dog to get very ill and it could even prove fatal which is why if you suspect your canine friend has eaten anything sugar-free by accident, you need to get them along to the vet as soon as you can.

Although xylitol tastes lovely and sweet, it is in fact made up of a whole lot of chemicals. For a long time it's been a firm favourite used as sugar substitute because it contains far less calories. On top of this, anything that contains xylitol will not cause the same amount of damage to teeth. As man foods contain it rather than natural sugar which includes sweets, cakes as well as many nutritional supplements.

Most dogs love eating anything sweet, but unlike humans who can digest xylitol quite easily, our canine friends on the other hand might love the taste, but as it enters their digestive tract, xylitol is processed at a much faster rate and it is for this reason that it could prove deadly to them. When xylitol is processed too fast the dog's system reacts by producing much larger amounts of insulin and as a result their blood sugars can drop quite dramatically to often fatal levels. When this happens, a condition known as hypoglycemia sets in. There are certain symptoms to watch out for should this happen which are as follows:

  • Lethargy
  • Dullness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Seizures

However, even if a dog survives the first stage of xylitol poisoning, they are not out of the woods because the chemicals often cause serious liver damage which may even lead to total renal failure. The symptoms of liver damage include the following:

  • A loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Mucous membranes and skin have a yellow tinge to them – jaundiced

Secondary Health Issues Associated with Xylitol Poisoning

A few dogs may develop another condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). This condition sees blood clots forming in vital organs and other places of the body, but conversely may be the cause of abnormal bruising and internal bleeding too. Many vets refer to this condition as “death is coming” which says it all as to how severe they believe the condition to be when seen in dogs which is why it's so important for them to see a dog that's suspected of having eaten any product containing xylitol as a matter of urgency. Once a vet knows what is going in, they can begin a treatment as soon as possible. If left for too long, the chances of a dog making a full recovery would be very slim indeed.


When a dog eats just a small amount of xylitol it can prove fatal and the only way of preventing their blood sugars from falling to dangerous levels which puts them at risk of hypoglycemia taking hold, is to induce vomiting. However, this needs to be done as soon as possible for it to be effective. Some vets will give a dog specific medication to protect their livers although it is not known how good or effective these really are, but it really is a question of “anything is better than nothing”. A dog would need to be closely monitored for at least three days to make sure they are recovering and that they are not developing any further complications associated with xylitol poisoning.

A vet would recommend keeping a dog at the surgery where they would be given all the medication and treatment needed to get them through a very hard time and the prognosis is often guarded which can be a worrying time for owners.


A dog only has to ingest a small amount of xylitol for it to cause very serious liver damage. As such, you should never give your pet anything that's sugar-free because the chances are it contains harmful chemicals and unless you are 100% percent that any items do not contain any, you should avoid offering your canine friend any goodie or treat. Should your dog show any symptoms of xylitol poisoning, getting them to the vet as matter of urgency is crucial so vomiting can be induced before the right treatment can be given in an attempt to save their lives. If you think the first signs of them suffering from hypoglycemia have already started, you can put a sugary substance like honey or molasses on the gums to keep them going until you arrive at the vets.

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