Halloween is close approaching where many kids will soon be bringing home loads of sweets from a night of Trick or Treating and adults will be stockpiling candies and baked goods to give away for said kids. It’s a common time of the year where ones dog might sneak over to indulge in the trove of goodies. While chocolate ingestion is a common problem on Halloween for our pets (we will talk more about that another time), today I am going to talk about the other toxin pets can expose themselves to on Halloween: Xylitol.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as an artificial sweetener in many “sugar-free” products like candies and gums. Xylitol is harmless in people, but in dogs, it triggers a rapid release of insulin in the body which can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Xylitol will trigger hypoglycemia if a dog ingests a dose of roughly 30mg-250mg/lb of body weight. Higher doses of xylitol can lead to liver damage or even liver failure which can be life threatening. 

Xylitol can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a 2-3 hours before clinical signs present itself. Common clinical signs to watch for in your dog includes vomiting, weakness, stumbling around, seizures, and coma. Signs of liver damage usually are noted 1-2 days after a high dose of xylitol ingestion occurs. These signs include vomiting, jaundice, and depression. 

Treatment of xylitol ingestion is first aimed at inducing vomiting if the pet was seen eating any sugar-free products within the last half hour. If the animal has developed clinical signs and bloodwork shows significantly low glucose levels and/or elevated liver enzymes, then hospitalization with fluids, supportive care, and dextrose may be necessary. Prognosis for xylitol ingestion is good if only uncomplicated  hypoglycemia is noted. However, xylitol toxicity that has caused liver damage or failure leads to a more poor prognosis. All in all, it is wise to sift through your kid’s candies and treats this Halloween and to be cognizant of the types of ingredients you will be baking with this season. We don’t need a dog’s night of gluttony to lead to a night in the hospital.