Xylitol is a sugar substitute included in many products marketed for humans, including baked goods, candy, toothpaste and gum. While this substance is harmless to people, it's highly toxic to our canine companions. Your pooch could become ill after ingesting something as innocuous as a cupcake containing this sweet substance. If your curious puppy manages to get his paws on something containing xylitol, get him to the vet.
Xylitol is a natural substance, a sugar alcohol derived from vegetable matter such as trees and corn fiber. It's commonly included in products and foods because it adds sweetness but has less calories than sugar and doesn't raise blood sugar very much when ingested. Unfortunately, when a puppy ingests xylitol, it fools his body into thinking he has eaten real sugar. This triggers his pancreas to release the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to remove what it perceives as sugar and use it for cellular functions. Without any sugar being ingested, just xylitol, the insulin removes actual sugar from the blood, causing a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels known as hypoglycemia.
When your little pup ingests xylitol or food containing it, poisoning symptoms can set in as quickly as within 10 to 15 minutes or as slowly as within a few days. Your little pup may experience weakness, vomiting, lethargy, tremors, seizures and collapse; even death is possible. While many of these symptoms are due to hypoglycemia, another toxic effect of xylitol is acute liver disease, an inability for the blood to clot or even liver failure. Liver issues can result in bloody stools or jaundice, a condition where the skin and eyes take on a yellow tint, according to 2ndChance.info, Dr. Ronald Hines' pet health website.
If, from his behavior or evidence of partially eaten items, you believe your puppy has ingested a product containing xylitol, get him to the vet; call ahead and tell them you're coming now. While there is no antidote for xylitol poisoning, your vet can administer intravenous fluids, drugs to protect his liver and dextrose to raise his blood sugar levels, the VCA Animal Hospitals website says. The vet may also take blood tests to evaluate whether the xylitol has caused any permanent liver damage and monitor your pup's blood sugar levels until they even out. Hospitalization with your vet is typically needed for two to five days until a pup is stabilized, Hines writes on 2ndChance.info.
The small size of a puppy makes xylitol poisoning more serious; 45 mg of xylitol per pound of weight results in hypoglycemia, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. A typical stick of gum, the most common xylitol-containing candy, can contain up to 400 mg, enough to poison a young pup up to 10 pounds. A dose 10 times larger is necessary to cause liver damage, about an entire pack of gum. Puppies are generally curious and enjoy tasting new foods, especially those you leave lying around -- so never leave foods, even candy, containing xylitol unattended around your pooch. Quick veterinary treatment usually prevents fatalities in puppies, ignoring your pup's symptoms may limit his prognosis.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Xylitol Poisoning
- VetStreet: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
- Pet Poison Helpline: Xylitol
- American Animal Hospital Association: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs
- 2ndChance.info: Did You Know that Xylitol Sweetener Can Be Very Dangerous to Your Pet?
- Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Experimental Acute Toxicity of Xylitol in Dogs
- petMD: Liver Failure (Acute) in Dogs
- Calorie Control Council: Xylitol
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.