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As an avid gum chewer (it keeps me from biting my nails), dog owner, and veterinarian, I am alarmed to see the increasing trend of toxicity secondary to dogs inappropriately consuming sugarless gum containing Xylitol. The Animal Poison Control Center database indicates 150 cases in 2007, all related to the consumption of Xylitol based sugar-free gum.
Xylitol is a crystalline sugar alcohol used to replace sugar as a sweetener in various food products, including chewing gum and candy. Xylitol mimics sugar’s effect on the body, causing release of insulin from the pancreas and reduction in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Dogs quickly absorb Xylitol from the digestive tract, causing a sudden and strong release of insulin with secondary hypoglycemia.
A very small amount of Xylitol can potentially cause significant toxicity in dogs. A mere 1 to 2 pieces of chewing gum containing Xylitol can be potentially toxic to a dog weighing 20 pounds or less.
Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity include
(but are not limited to):
Loss of coordination (Ataxia)
If untreated, Xylitol toxicity can also lead to liver failure, blood clotting abnormalities, and death.
As this toxicity is completely preventable, please keep all Xylitol containing products out of your home if you have pets. In my clinical practice, I have seen cases of Xylitol toxicity after a dog consumed sugar-free gum from a purse belonging to his owner’s friend, so be aware that this toxicity can occur even if you keep a Xylitol-free household.
Should you suspect or are aware of your pet having consumed a product with Xylitol, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (AAPCC) at 888-426-4435. It is worth the $65 consultation fee to start a case file with a board certified veterinary toxicologist to determine the best treatment.
Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Opinions in this article are not necessarily those of the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) and our corporate alliance, Zoetis, are pleased to bring you another installment in a podcast series devoted to canine reproduction education for pet owners, breeders, and veterinarians.
In this podcast we discuss whelping and dystocia with Dr. Cindy O’Connor of Slade Veterinary Hospital in Framingham, MA. Dr. O’Connor received her DVM from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the Animal Medical Center in New York. After her internship, she pursued specialty training in the area of veterinary medical genetics, pediatrics, and reproduction at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and became a board certified specialist in veterinary reproduction.