Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
There are certain sugar-free gums, candies, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and baked goods which contain xylitol, a 5-carbon sugar alcohol used as a sweetener. When ingested by dogs, xylitol may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and in severe cases, liver failure. This naturally-occurring sugar substitute is also available as a granulated powder for cooking and baking.
Symptoms and Types
In most cases, symptoms will develop within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion of the xylitol. However, there are some sugar-free gums that delay the onset of symptoms for up to 12 hours. Some of the more common symptoms of xylitol toxicity include:
There may also be cases of widespread bleeding in the dog. This can occur in the stomach, intestines, or abdomen. The dog's gums may also be affected: ecchymoses (dark red splotches on the gums) and petechiae (dark red specks on the gums).
Liver failure may occur in severe cases of toxicity due to the dog's low blood sugar. A small piece of sugar-free gum (or 0.1 g/kg of xylitol) may be considered a toxic dose of xylitol, depending on the dog's weight.
The ingestion of xylitol or xylitol-containing products causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in the dog's blood glucose.
Your dog will undergo a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Your veterinarian will also ask you various questions to ascertain the underlying cause for your pet's condition.
Dogs with xylitol toxicity may have bleeding disorders; coagulation profiles and fibrinogen testing will be done to confirm these types of disorders.
Your veterinarian may suggest several methods to induce vomiting. However, this does not always improve the dog's condition.
If the dog has low blood sugar or serum potassium, your veterinarian will place the animal on a fluid therapy regimen. The dog will also undergo frequent blood tests to assess the progression and degree of the xylitol toxicity, and to assess the animal's liver function.
Living and Management
Dogs suffering from low blood sugar alone tend to recover well, but if liver damage occurs, the prognosis is guarded to poor. Blood glucose levels will be monitored for at least 24 hours; liver enzyme tests should be repeated often for at least 72 hours.
Check the ingredient list of all your household products which may contain xylitol (gums, candies, toothpaste, etc.). Place those items containing xylitol in locked cabinets or areas too high for your pet to access. If your dog is extremely persistent about stealing food, it is probably best not to have xylitol in your home.
Image via Shutterstock