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Xylitol in fruit toxic to dogs?

Species: Dog
Breed: Pug
Age: 8-11 years
Hello Dr. Marie,

I've recently become very aware of the dangers of xylitol with dogs. However, I'm confused about naturally occurring xylitol.

I've read that xylitol is present in several foods and veggies, including strawberries. Yet, per your list and others, strawberries are considered safe for dogs.

Would you mind clarifying this for me? Is naturally occurring xylitol different than the xylitol used in sweetening gum, etc...? My dog loves strawberries, but I want to make sure this is a healthy choice for him.

Thanks so much!
~Piper


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Interesting. I was not aware that there was xylitol in fruit. So, I did some research for you.

There are some fruits that naturally contain xylitol but the amount of xylitol in the fruit is miniscule. This study says that raspberries are one of the fruits with the highest amount of xylitol. They contain 400 ug (micograms) of xylitol per gram of raspberry. So, let's say a dog ate 1 cup of raspberries. 1 cup of raspberries is about 123 grams of raspberries. So, this would equate to 0.05 g of xylitol.

(To do this math I converted 400 ug to g which is 0.0004 g. Then, I multiplied 0.0004 x 123 to get 0.05 g.)

So, how much xylitol is toxic to dogs? Xylitol can cause low blood sugar when given at a dose of 0.2-0.4g/kg. So, let's say you have a 10kg (22 lb) dog. This means that 2-4 g of xylitol could cause low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar at this level is not likely to be fatal. Xylitol can cause severe liver damage (and death) at a dose of 1.6-2g/kg. So, that means that a 10kg dog would have to eat a minimum of 16g of xylitol to be fatal.

So, let's put this all in context. One piece of xylitol gum contains 1-2g of xylitol per piece. In our 10kg dog, as 2-4 grams could cause low blood sugar, this means that two pieces of gum could cause low blood sugar. As the fatal dose of xylitol for this dog is 16 g, then possibly 8 pieces could be fatal.

Now, let's go back to the raspberries. There are 0.05 g of xylitol in 1 cup of raspberries. This means that in order to eat enough raspberries to cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) a 10kg dog would have to eat 4-6 cups of raspberries. To eat enough rasberries to be fatal, that same dog would have to eat at least 32 cups of raspberries!

So, it's all about dosage. Many dog toothpastes contain xylitol and I often get asked why such a toxic chemical would be in a dog toothpaste. It is because the amount is tiny as compared to the toxic dose.

Thanks for such an interesting question!

---This question was asked in our Ask A Vet For Free section.---



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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