Almost a year ago, I received a call from one of my puppy buyers that the puppy I had sold her was dead. She wasn’t even a year old. I can’t imagine how my friend felt, but I was devastated. The puppy had gone to bed with them the previous night, but was dead by morning. I encouraged the owner to have a necropsy done to determine the cause, as for the puppy to die so young was quite a shock. Thankfully, she did and sent me the report. While she didn’t feel that it could be xylitol, her initial contact with the veterinarians at the state lab thought that it was. I thought so too, but as I’m sure not a veterinarian, I forwarded the report to one who is familiar with my breed and asked him to take a look. In our phone conversation, he affirmed the original findings that it was very likely that she had died of xylitol poisoning due to several indicators.
He explained to me in detail how xylitol affected the dog’s body. How the body reacted as if the xylitol was sugar and immediately created insulin. But as there was no actual sugar for the insulin to attach to, as it can not attach to xylitol, it drew the sugar out of the body, causing hypoglycemia. Which, from what I understand, caused her death.
I have done some research since then, but have always been frustrated with the information that I found, as none of it seemed to state that this is a very lethal substance for a dog. Yes, it could be dangerous, yes it could cause vomiting, ataxia, depression and liver failure, but until recently, none of the articles seemed to emphasize that xylitol could and would kill a dog. However, the number of reports of xylitol poisoning has gone up drastically over the last several years, resulting in more scientific and dog health articles becoming available to the general public. This is partly due to it being used in more foods which unknowing dog owners feed to their dogs or leave out where the dog may be able to get into it. When I asked my veterinarian, he was unaware that xylitol poses a threat to dogs. How many other veterinarians are unaware of this threat?
Products that may contain xylitol include sugar-free gum, candies, breath mints, baked goods, ice cream, yogurt, energy drinks, cough syrup, children’s chewable vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste, to list a few. It is also becoming a popular ingredient in food for diabetics and people on low carbohydrate diets as it is lower on the glycemic index. Recently, there has been frequent articles on xylitol being added to peanut butter, which is scary to note, as many people feed their dogs peanut butter as a treat. Check any food that states that it is naturally sweetened or has natural sweetener in it. Look for “xylitol” or the chemical classification of “sugar alcohol” listed in the ingredients.
The level of xylitol varies in each brand and flavor and currently there is no way to know how much is in any one product. Based on information provided by some manufacturers, the quantity of xylitol in just gum alone can vary between 0.9 mg to 1,000 mg. The affects will also vary according to the size and weight of the dog. The Preventative Vet has excellent visual aids that compare the size of the dog to the amount of xylitol that will affect the dog, as well as a list of ingredients to watch for. According to the Pet Poison Helpline even ingesting 0.1 gram/kg can cause acute, life-threatening low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) within 10-15 minutes. A
If the dog owner suspects that the dog has eaten food with xylitol as an ingredient, it is imperative that they take their dog to the veterinarian immediately. The dog’s health can be compromised very quickly; even 10 or 15 minutes may be too late if they ingested a large amount. Treatment will vary, depending on the amount eaten and the size of the dog. The vet may induce vomiting if the dog does not yet show clinical signs.
Fast and aggressive treatment by your veterinarian is essential to effectively reverse any toxic effects and prevent the development of severe problems. If clinical signs have developed, the vet should run a test for low blood glucose and also low potassium levels before treating him. The dog will require hospitalization to monitor the blood sugar and administer intravenous fluids and liver protectants. Other supportive care may also be required.
The best way to insure that your dog does not ingest xylitol is to be aware of what you are bringing home in your food supplies. Make sure that all products that may include it is locked away from your dog. This even includes your purse, pockets, counters, pantry and garbage cans. Be very aware of what your dog is doing when you take them out on walks, as they may find a part of a muffin that contains xylitol laying on the ground or some gum that fell out of someone’s pocket. The Preventative Vet article has excellent suggestions at the end of their article for ways to prevent potential poisoning of your dog.
Here are some excellent articles pertaining to xylitol poisoning in dogs:
Pet Poison Helpline – They also have an 800 number to call for emergencies: 855-764-7661. (A $49 per incident fee applies.)
The Veterinary Medicine DVM 360 website has a scientific article about xylitol which is an interesting and informative read.
Many other articles are available through googling “xylitol and dogs.” Each have a little more information in certain areas and are well worth the read.
To prevent any accidental poisoning of your dog by xylitol, be sure that either all foods brought into the house do not contain it, or keep them secure and unavailable to the dog. Anyone who regularly comes in contact with your dog should also be warned of the danger of xylitol poisoning, including family and friends. It is much better to be forewarned and careful than to lose your dog to this rapid killer.