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Xylitol Warning

Did you know sugarless gum could kill your dog?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used in sugar-free products such as gum and candy as well as for homebaking. It is also used in the production of certain low-carbohydrate and oral health products now on the market. As early as the 1960s, experiments indicated a link between the ingestion of xylitol and hypoglycemia in dogs, however, it is only relatively recently that reports of xylitol toxicosis in dogs have been received. Now we don't normally encourage agility dogs - or any dogs - to chew gum but we checked with our own vet and found that Xylitol could indeed be dangerous. Thank you to Jo Spencer for passing this warning on...
 

Last Friday evening, I arrived home from work, fed Chloe, our 24lb. dachshund, just as I normally do.

Ten minutes later I walked into the lounge just in time to see her head inside the pocket of Katie's friend's purse. She had a guilty look on her face so I looked closer and saw a small package of sugar-free gum.

It contained xylitol.

I remembered that I had recently read that sugar-free gum can be deadly for dogs so I jumped on line and looked to see if Xylitol was the ingredient. I found the first website below and it was the one. Next, I called our vet. She said to bring her in immediately.

Unfortunately, it was still rush hour and it took me almost hour to get there. Meanwhile, since this was her first case, our vet found another website to figure out the treatment. She took Chloe and said they would induce her to vomit, give her a charcoal drink to absorb the toxin even though they don't think it works. Then they would start an IV with dextrose.

The xylitol causes dogs to secrete insulin so their blood sugar drops very quickly. The second thing that happens is liver failure. If that happens, even with aggressive treatment, it can be difficult to save them.

The Vet told us she would call us. Almost two hours later, she called and said that contents of her stomach contained 2-3 gum wrappers and that her blood sugar had dropped from 90 to 59 in 30 minutes.

She wanted us to take Chloe to another hospital that has a critical care unit operating around the clock. We picked her up and took her there. They had us call the ASPCA poison control for a case number and for a donation, their doctors would direct Chloe's doctor on treatment. They would continue the IV, monitor her blood every other hour and then in two days test her liver function. Chloe ended up with a central line in her jugular vein since the one in her leg collapsed, just as our regular vet had feared.

Chloe spent almost the entire weekend in the critical care hospital. After her blood sugar was stabilised, she came home yesterday. They ran all the tests again before they released her and so far, no sign of liver damage. Had I not seen her head in the purse, she probably would have died and we wouldn't even had known why. Three vets told me this weekend, that they were amazed that I even knew about it since they are first learning about it, too.

Please tell everyone you know about xylitol and dogs. It may save another life.

Clinical Signs

Clinical signs of xylitol toxicity can develop in as few as 30 minutes after ingestion. Clinical signs may include one or more of the following:-

  • Vomiting

  • Weakness

  • Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)

  • Depression

  • Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)

  • Seizures

  • Coma

  • Liver dysfunction and/or failure

Treatment

After ingesting a xylitol-containing product a dog may receive one of more of the following treatments, depending on the amount of time that has lapsed since the ingestion occurred.

  1. Vomiting - Should be performed very soon after ingestion of the xylitol-containing product but before clinical signs develop. Frequent small meals or an oral sugar supplement may be used to manage dogs that have not yet shown clinical signs.

  2. Intravenous Dextrose - Following the appearance of clinical signs to control hypoglycemia.

  3. Treatment for low potassium (hypokalemia)-  Continue until the blood glucose levels return to normal levels.

Source: Knowles Animal Clinic