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Surprise Toxin Can Harm the Family Dog

pet poison helpline
Photo courtesy bybecka.,com

We all know not to feed our dog chocolate. We need to keep poisons and cleaning agents out of harm’s way. Never allow a pet to be unsupervised in a room full of food, as a turkey dinner can cause pancreatitis or worse. Do you know about a hidden and surprising toxin that can harm (or kill) your dog?

Savvy dog parents will know about Xylitol, an artificial sweetener added to many sugar-free products. Cocker mom, Angela Kussman, found out how harmful Xylitol can be when her dog, Boomer, got into her Xylitol-based breath mints and nearly died. He has made a full recovery but other dogs are not so fortunate. And the information in this article just might surprise you.


While meeting with pet brands and vendors at the recent BlogPaws Conference on Lake Las Vegas, I took the time to talk to the folks at the Pet Poison Helpline. We talked about Xylitol and I felt pretty savvy knowing that sugar-free items need to be kept out of a dog’s prying paws and mouth.

Then the other shoe dropped.

Xylitol is found in items other than sugar-free products. These items include certain dietary supplements and vitamins, nasal products, prescription drugs, foods with xylitol as the primary sweetener, and even some over the counter medications.

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol normally found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables. Because of its sweet taste and plaque-fighting properties, it is frequently used as a sugar substitute in chewing gum, breath mints and dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash,” Anna Brutlag, DVM, says. “Xylitol is typically considered part of a product’s “proprietary ingredients,” so the quantity will not be listed on the package label. While some companies are willing to release the amount of xylitol in their products, many are hesitant to do so and may even ask for veterinarians to sign a confidentiality statement prior to release.

Re-read that last sentence very carefully: “While some companies are willing to release the amount of xylitol in their products, many are hesitant to do so and may even ask for veterinarians to sign a confidentiality statement prior to release.

cocker spaniel
I treasure this little guy and want him out of harm’s way.

This means at Pet Poison Helpline, most companies have been willing to share information with them for use in emergency case management but request that it otherwise remain confidential. Pet Poison Helpline recommends that if you are in doubt of the xylitol quantity in a product, it’s best to contact an animal poison control center for assistance.

PPH has seen several cases of dogs becoming severely intoxicated after ingesting homemade bread, muffins and cupcakes made with xylitol.

Here are some products containing xylitol that you might not expect: 

Over-the-counter medications:
> Axia3 ProDigestive Antacid (flavored chewable tablets, propriety amount)
> Children’s Allegra Oral Suspension
> Fleet Pedia-Lax Liquid Stool Softener
> Umcka Cold and Flu chewable tablets (homeopathic product).

Dietary supplements, vitamins:
> KAL Colostrum Chewable, Vanilla Cream (chewable tablets)
> KAL Dinosaurs Children’s Vitamins and Minerals (chewable tablets)
> Kidz Digest Chewable Berry from Transformation Enzyme
> L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears
> Mega D3 Dots with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per “dot” (dissolvable tablet)
> Stress Relax’s Suntheanine L-Theanine chewable tablets
> Vitamin Code Kids by Garden of Life (chewable multivitamins)
> Super Sleep Soft Melts by Webber Natural (dissolvable tablets).


Nasal products:
> Xlear Sinus Care Spray
> Xylear Nasal Spray (for adults and children)
> Xyliseptic Nasal Spray.

Prescription drugs:
> Abilify Discmelt Orally Disinteg­rating Tablets (aripiprazole), an atypical antipsychotic
> Clonazepam Orally Disintegrating Tablets, benzodiazepine
> Emtriva oral solution (emtricitabine), HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibitor
> Mobic Oral Suspension (meloxicam), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
> Neurontin (gabapentin) Oral Solution
> Riomet (metformin) Oral Solution, antidiabetic agent
> Varibar barium sulfate products, liquids and puddings for swallowing studies
> Zegerid Powder for Oral Suspension (omeprazole), proton pump inhibitor.

Foods with xylitol as the primary sweetener (excluding gums and mints):
> Clemmy’s Rich and Creamy ice cream products
> Dr. John’s products (hard and soft candies, chocolates, drink mixes and so on)
> Jell-O sugar-free pudding snacks
> Nature’s Hollow jams, syrup, ketchup, honey and so on
> SparX Candy
> Zipfizz energy drink-mix powders.

The bottom line is to keep these products away from dogs. According to PPH, “The toxicity of xylitol is dose-dependent. The dose necessary to cause hypoglycemia in dogs is approximately 0.1 grams/kg, while the amount needed to cause hepatic necrosis is approximately 0.5 grams/kg. Most chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22 to 1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint. Therefore only one piece of gum may result in hypoglycemia in a 10-pound (4.5-kg) dog.

cute dogs

Dr. Ahna Brutlag is associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline and SafetyCall International, PLLC.

Talk about a Fi”dose” of reality: When our dog, Dexter, needed an antibiotic called in and it was on a weekend, our vet called a local human pharmacy. Our vet is over 90 minutes from us, but we do have emergency access nearby. However, we just needed the antibiotic. He called it in and then called us to be double sure to check NO xylitol was in it. The reason? It was a child’s prescription since I have a small dog. Often times, Xylitol is added as an artificial sweetener to medicines for kids. Thankfully, there was not. Just never ever give your dog a medicine without checking with your veterinarian first.

In the coming weeks, Fidose of Reality will be sharing other dangerous toxins and surprising items that we had no clue could be toxic to a dog. In the meantime, you can read through the many articles and the database of information available from Pet Poison Helpline.

In terms of services, Pet Poison Helpline is a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. They have the ability to help every poisoned pet, with all types of poisonings, 24 hours a day. Their knowledge and expertise of pet poisons will put your mind at ease when dealing with a potential emergency. In order to provide this critical service, PPH charges a $39 per incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case.  (it is our opinion that this is nominal if a pet’s life and well being are at stake and when seconds count).

Keep the number handy, which is: 1-800-213-6680. The website for more information is

Pet Poison Helpline Logo_0
Keep this info handy

 How diligent are you about keeping toxins out of your dog’s way?

Here are some very dedicated pet parents worth checking out who, no doubt, take preventative measures to keep their pets safe from harm:


  1. We keep all medications and chemicals out of the way of the boys. If we are leaving the house, we always put rubber bans over the cabinets that have cleansers and human grooming products in them. The Pet Poison representatives were very helpful at BlogPaws 2014.

  2. THank you for posting this all important information on Xylitol. We have informed our members from South Suburban Chihuahua group often about it. We wish it was publicized more but sadly hardly anyone speaks of it. We also add it to the list of harmful items in our blog. ASPCA also has a poison hotline (they also charge for it). Thanks again for this VERY IMPORTANT topic!


  3. We’ve got to be so careful these days. I love having the Pet Poison Helpline app on my phone because you never know when a calamity would/could occur. Thanks for a great post.

  4. Xylitol is actually a form of Birch odor which is why if you participate in an scent work with a dog you can’t have gum or other items on you because they cause false positives. The Birch we use in nose work is so very minimal it wouldn’t be harmful if ingested and in most cases the dog would have to eat the container to ingest the Birch anyway. There are groups out there that say nose work is dangerous because of this, but it is not the case. The danger lies in gum, etc at your own home.

  5. That is scary! I never thought so many products could contain potentially harmful levels of Xylitol. I never considered that medications could contain Xylitol. Thanks for this important and thorough warning, Carol. I recently found a Rolaids that must have fallen out of my bag on the floor. I didn’t think anything of it but I’m going to research if it has Xylitol in it. And I’ll be much more careful with my mints, and antacids from now on!
    Catherine Armato

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