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Key takeaways

Xylitol toxicosis occurs in cats following ingestion of a toxic dose of this common artificial sweetener.

  • Xylitol toxicosis does not appear to affect cats with the same severity as dogs, but there is some evidence that liver damage may still occur
  • Symptoms of xylitol toxicosis in cats are currently unknown
  • More research is also needed to determine the most appropriate diagnostic tests, treatment protocols, and overall prognosis
  • Ensuring that pets do not have access to potentially dangerous substances, including xylitol, is the best means of prevention.
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A closer look: Xylitol Toxicosis in Cats

Xylitol appears in a variety of sugar-free products including toothpaste, nut butters, candy, and gum. Much of the research and knowledge regarding xylitol toxicosis focuses on dogs, as it can be a very serious condition in this species. For cats, the information is not conclusive.

A rare form of liver damage occurs in dogs following some large ingestions of xylitol. It is suggested that this potentially fatal syndrome may also occur in cats. The likelihood of xylitol toxicosis causing liver damage appears to be dependent on the pet’s specific metabolism, meaning not all pets are affected the same way. It is impossible to know which pets will be affected by xylitol toxicosis. Any xylitol ingestion or suspected poisoning requires prompt veterinary care as a precaution.

Risk factors

To date, there have been no cases of feline xylitol poisoning reported to the biggest poison control hotlines, and it is unknown whether xylitol is truly toxic to cats.

Possible causes

The cause of xylitol toxicosis is the ingestion of xylitol, a sugar substitute found in a wide range of household items and food products. The body reacts to it in the same way it would to sugar, producing insulin when none is needed. Products containing xylitol include:

  • Toothpastes and mouthwash
  • Sugar-free chewing gum
  • Nut butters
  • Sugar-free candy and mints
  • Vitamin supplements

Main symptoms

Since the research is not conclusive in regards to feline xylitol toxicosis, and since there have been no widely reported cases, the most common symptoms are unknown.

Testing and diagnosis

As there is not enough known about the effects of xylitol on cats, there is no specific information available on diagnostic testing or treatment if there is a suspected case. Many cases are managed similarly to other toxicoses, including inducing vomiting. There are no safe methods to induce vomiting in cats at home, so cats known to have ingested any toxin require immediate veterinary care. Blood work and urinalysis will point to any instances of organ damage and guide further diagnostics and treatment strategy.

Steps to Recovery

Toxicosis in general is not contagious, however if one household animal has access to a toxic substance, it is likely that any other animals in the house have access as well. Restricting cat access to xylitol-containing products is the best method of prevention.

Is Xylitol Toxicosis in Cats common?

The prevalence of xylitol toxicosis in cats is unknown. There may be unreported cases, cases that are treated for toxin ingestion without knowing the cause, or the toxicity may not affect cats in a serious way.

Typical Treatment

Unknown, but likely modeled after treatment of other toxicoses and guided by diagnostic findings.


Dr. Beth Turner - Writing for Preventive Vet
A Jerzsele, Z Karancsi, E Pászti-Gere, A Sterczer, A Bersényi, K Fodor, D Szabó, P Vajdovich - Writing for Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
PetMD Editorial - Writing for PetMD
Sharon A. Center, DVM, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Roger Gfeller, DVM, DACVECC; Michael Thomas, DVM; Isaac Mayo; The VIN Emergency Medicine Consultants - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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