Xylitol Poisoning in Cats

Xylitol Poisoning in Cats

Xylitol is a very common sugar substitute that home cooks and people who want to lose weight can use every now and then. Unfortunately, it is also a common ingredient in other types of household products, including cleaning supplies, shower gels, or shampoos.

Many dog owners know that xylitol is very toxic to dogs, as upon ingesting a very small amount, most develop liver failure and severe hypoglycemia. But is xylitol toxic to cats?

We’re answering this question and more in today’s article, so keep on reading!

Is Xylitol Toxic to Cats?

You are probably going to be disappointed, but there is no clear answer to this question to date. There was a study published in Hungary in 2018 about the toxicity and effects of this substance on our feline friends.

However, after analyzing the results and, more importantly, the number of cats involved in that study, we could say that they might not be relevant enough. First of all, only six healthy and middle-aged cats were taken into the study, which is not enough to create an accurate statistic.

Secondly, every cat’s body is different, so some might have a bad reaction to it, whereas others might experience no symptom of illness whatsoever. The study did provide us with some rather valuable information, such as the fact that the toxic dose in cats might be considerably higher compared to that in dogs.

According to the abstract, at a dose of 1,000 mg/kg of body weight, cats in the study experienced a mild, yet significant increase in their blood glucose concentration. However, it remained within the physiological limits, which is why it is assumed that xylitol doesn’t produce the same body modifications in cats as it does in our canine friends.

How Can Cats React If They Ingest Xylitol?

Since the two most common changes that this substance determines in a pet’s body are too low or too high blood sugar and hepatic complications, the symptoms that you might notice in a cat that ingested xylitol are the following:

  • A lack of coordination in basic movements
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Possible seizures and collapse

A too low blood glycemic index can lead to coma in all animals, whether cats and dogs.

What Should You Do If Your Cat Accidentally Ingests Xylitol?

The best piece of advice that we can give you if this happens is to get to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, xylitol is quickly absorbed into the body, which means that if the veterinarian flushes out your cat’s stomach or if they give him or her activated charcoal, these two methods might have no particular effect.

The pet does have to be kept under strict observation for at least several hours. This is necessary because if they enter shock due to blood sugar changes, the vet needs to administer a number of medications that could save your cat’s life.

If you believe that your cat has somehow ingested xylitol, make sure to get in touch with your vet or go to a local emergency pet clinic right away.

Why Are Cats Less Likely to Ingest Xylitol?

Cats and dogs do have some similarities, but they are different in many ways, especially in terms of their nutrition. A dog’s sense of smell is also excellent, but it doesn’t beat the performance of a cat’s nose.

On top of that, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they are generally less inclined to eating ‘human’ foods, no matter whether they might be carb-rich or not.

Furthermore, cats (especially adult ones) are less likely to eat a lot of food all of a sudden, even if they are extremely hungry.

If you have been a dog owner for a while, you probably know that dogs tend to sometimes scarf down their food without even so much as taking a single breath. This is also why they are prone to developing a condition called bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus), which doesn’t nearly affect cats as much.

So, there are three main reasons why cats are less likely to end up at the vet hospital with a case of xylitol intoxication – they are obligate carnivores, they have a superior sense of smell, and they take their time when they eat their food.

What Other Artificial Sweeteners Are Dangerous for Cats?

Xylitol isn’t the only type of sweetener that can be found in low-calorie and low-sugar foods these days. It is by far one of the most common ones, since it can be found in anything from candies and ice cream to pastries and yogurts. To make matters worse, it is now found in cosmetics and body and face care products.

Another potentially dangerous artificial sweetener that can cause worrying symptoms in cats is sorbitol.

Even though low amounts of sorbitol are practically harmless and, unfortunately, it is now a common ingredient of canned cat food varieties (as it improves their texture), it can still present a health risk for cats.

Sorbitol’s main changes in a cat’s body relate to the intestinal transit. As such, a cat that has eaten a large amount of canned food that contains sorbitol could experience a bout of diarrhea.

Diabetic cats are more likely to experience severe symptoms as their bodies already produce sorbitol. If a cat also has sorbitol from his or her food, this could lead to a painful health issue called diabetic neuropathy.

Final thoughts

Even though there haven’t been enough studies performed on this so we can’t know for now just how toxic xylitol and other artificial sweeteners are for cats, the best piece of advice that we can give you is to never allow your feline buddy to have access to any products that contain these substances.

After all, prevention is worth a pound of cure, and since you can’t know for sure whether your cat might be unlucky enough to develop severe symptoms of xylitol poisoning, it’s better to be safe than sorry.



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