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Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

One Stick of Gum Could Be Lethal to Your Dog

By September 03, 2014 | See Comments

dog with tongue sticking out

That loose piece of gum on the floor of your car? It could be deadly to your dog if consumed. Read on to learn the symptoms of xylitol poisoning and what treatments are available.

Dogs -- and puppies especially -- can be pretty indiscriminate about what they eat. Some dogs love to feast on animal feces (yuck). Other dogs prefer grass. And some devil-may-care dogs have ingested entire balls and even butcher knives. So it shouldn’t be surprising to imagine a dog finding a piece gum and swallowing it right up. While you might think it’s funny (or even good for their breath!) to see your dog smacking a piece of Wrigley’s, the reality is that gum poisoning in dogs is serious.

Causes of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in gums, mints, candies, toothpastes, and more. It’s popularity is not only due to its great taste; it also contains two-thirds of the calories of regular sugar and has a host of health benefits, including antibacterial properties that help to prevent periodontal disease and other properties that may help with osteoporosis, the prevention of breast cancer, and more. It’s also great for diabetics because it is low on the glycemic index, a scale that determines how much foods raise blood sugar levels as compared to glucose.

Sound like a wonder ingredient? For humans, it just may be. For dogs, however, it can be lethal. This is because in dogs, xylitol causes a rapid release of insulin from the pancreas resulting in a sudden and extreme decrease in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Many dogs also experience hepatic necrosis, or destruction of the liver tissue, which can lead to liver failure.

In order for a dog to experience hypoglycemia from xylitol, they must consume approximately 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight. Most gums contain 0.3 to 0.4 grams of xylitol per stick, so a dog that weighs 10 lbs could be poisoned by consuming just a half stick of gum. However, certain brands or flavors of gum contain more or less xylitol, and the amount will determine how much needs to be consumed in order to be toxic.

The amount of xylitol required to result in hepatic necrosis is much higher -- 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning appear quickly, usually within 30 minutes of consumption. As blood sugar levels drop, your dog may exhibit the following:

  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Seizure
  • Coma

If the dog is experiencing liver failure, symptoms may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Drinking and urinating more than usual
  • Swollen limbs

Xylitol poisoning may also cause widespread internal bleeding.

Treatment for Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

If you see your dog consume something containing xylitol or suspect that they have, contact your veterinarian or animal poison control immediately at (888)426-4435.

Do not attempt to give your dog any medications or induce vomiting. Inducing vomiting can be dangerous to your dog if you do not know what your are doing, and if the dog is already experiencing hypoglycemia, attempting to induce vomiting may make it worse.

The best course of action is prompt treatment at the veterinarian’s office or the emergency vet clinic. If the pet is seen within 30 minutes and is not exhibiting any symptoms, the veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting. If the dog is already showing symptoms, treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Most dogs will require hospitalization for blood sugar monitoring and will receive a sugar IV drip. Liver enzymes will also be monitored and liver support medications may be prescribed.

The prognosis is good for dogs who receive treatment before symptoms occur and dogs with reversible hypoglycemia. If the dog is already experiencing liver failure or coma, the prognosis is not good. This is why it is so important to get your dog to the veterinarian right away if you suspect they’ve ingested xylitol.

A Note About Cats and Xylitol Poisoning:

There have not been any reports of xylitol toxicity in cats. Still, it it best to prevent your cat from consuming unusual substances. Contact your vet or animal poison control if you ever suspect poisoning or notice any unusual symptoms.

Sources:

Xylitol Poisoning
Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
Toxicity from Gum, Candy, and Toothpaste in Dogs

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Xylitol Poisoning at a glance

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  • 1Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute commonly used in chewing gum
  • 2While xylitol has health benefits for humans, it can be lethal to dogs
  • 3Xylitol poisoning causes hypoglycemia, and symptoms include weakness, disorientation, tremors, and seizures
  • 4Xylitol poisoning requires immediate treatment, so contact your veterinarian right away
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