Vet Buzz from Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT,
Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA
Xylitol toxicity was in the top ten most commonly ingested poisons in 2011 according to Poison Control Hotline. Never heard of Xylitol? Xylitol is an artificial sweetener most commonly used in popular sugar-free chewing gum, candy, baked goods and chewable multivitamins.
Many candies and sweeteners (such as honey) have Xylitol added to them as Xylitol is considered a natural sweetener as it is made from birch trees. We recommend you read the packaging when you buy sweets, and if you do decide to buy a product containing Xylitol, keep it up on a high shelf where Fido is less likely to find it.
Most people do not realize that Xylitol can cause grave disruptions in a dog’s blood sugar levels. Xylitol makes the dog secrete high levels of insulin, which then causes severe low blood sugar. The symptoms of low blood-sugar include lethargy, lack of coordination, dilated pupils and in severe cases seizures. Further, Xylitol can also cause liver failure. Your dog may need to have vomiting induced, an IV catheter and fluids, and monitoring of the blood sugar over a twelve to seventy-two hour period, in addition to a blood panel that includes liver values so your veterinarian can ascertain the degree to which your pet may be affected.
How much Xylitol your dog eats can really affect the overall outcome. An average piece of sugar-free gum contains one gram of Xylitol. This means that a twenty pound dog only needs to eat one and a half pieces of chewing gum to reach a toxic dose.
Just last week we had a large Labrador in our hospital that ate a pack of chewing gum. We induced vomiting and provided supportive care. Thankfully, the full blood panel performed the next day did not show any abnormalities. The blood sugar was closely monitored for the next several days to ensure the dog did not have any further episodes of low blood sugar.
As usual, we advocate that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.