Many sugarless gums (including some Trident, Orbit, and Ice Breaker brands) and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. Beware of those desserts or baked goods that could also be made with xylitol! Even small amounts ingested can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, or with large amounts of ingestion, liver failure. Signs of a low blood sugar include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, tremoring, or even seizuring, and immediate veterinary attention should be sought! Treatment includes decontamination (i.e., inducing vomiting, if your veterinarian deems appropriate!), checking a blood glucose/sugar level, treating with IV fluids and dextrose (in the IV fluids), liver monitoring tests, and drugs like SAM-E to protect the liver. Safer yet, don’t let your pet purse-snatch your pack of gum!
What it’s in:
Xylitol is a common sugar-substitute used in sugar-free chewing gum, breath mints, candies, and baked goods. It is also found in some smoking-cessation products like nicotine gum. Bulk xylitol can be purchased for cooking at home. Finally, it has dental plaque fighting properties and also found (in non-toxic amounts) in pet mouth wash and oral rinses.
Threat to pets:
Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as causing liver damage to dogs. Cats and people do not experience this problem. Typically, the dose needed to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight (0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight). Chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22-1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint. Thus, to achieve a potentially toxic dose, a 10 pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum! The amount of xylitol typically found in most pet oral-care products is very small and, when used properly, is not expected to cause poisoning unless the dog ingests a very large amount.
Signs of xylitol poisoning:
Within 10-15 minutes of ingestion dogs may develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and start vomiting, become uncoordinated or start staggering. Collapse and seizures may quickly follow. Rarely, these signs may not begin until many hours after ingestion.
Rapid decontamination (induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage), intravenous dextrose (sugar) and fluids, frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels and liver values, liver protectants and in-hospital care.
Excellent when the ingestion is caught early and blood sugars are monitored frequently. Guarded if the dog has already begun to develop liver failure.