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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Gouley

The Hidden Deadly Danger!

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The Hidden Deadly Danger!

Xylitol, a sugar substitute used in sugar-free gum and other products, can be harmful to dogs.

Over the past several years, the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received several reports—many of which pertained to chewing gum—of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, according to Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at the FDA. The most recent report was related to "skinny" (sugar-free) ice cream.

And you may have heard or read news stories about dogs that have died or become very ill after eating products containing xylitol.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used in candy and chewing gum (and some other products, such as peanut butter & 'skinny' ice cream). It is also found in some pharmaceuticals, mouth wash, toothpaste, and items such as chewable vitamins and throat lozenges. It can also be used in home baking products.

n both people and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol.

Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening.

Just three grams of Xylitol can kill a 65-pound dog. As a general rule of thumb, between eight and ten pieces of gum may be deadly to a 65-pound canine, but a smaller dog could easily die after ingesting far less. (as few as two sticks of gum.)

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, in-coordination, collapse and seizures.Those symptoms can develop within 30 minutes, and a dog afflicted with these symptoms will need immediate veterinary care to survive. Without help, irreversible brain trauma occurs and the dog more than likely will die.

Liver failure is another potential result. According to a study published in the October 2006 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, of eight dogs who had ingested Xylitol, five died of liver failure, and an additional three canine deaths that occurred after the study was completed were also determined to stem from that cause. While more research needs to be done to categorically prove that Xylitol actually causes canine liver failure, at this time indications point that way.

If you think your dog has consumed sugarless gum or any other product containing Xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately. The two most common treatments for xylitol toxicity apomorphine, used is to induce vomiting, and intravenous fluids.

Cases of xylitol toxicity in dogs will likely increase as human use of xylitol-containing products becomes more common. Client education by veterinarians is important because the labels of most xylitol-containing products do not warn users of the potential dangers to dogs of ingesting xylitol.

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