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.
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. 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 and complete blood count. Your veterinarian will also ask you various questions to discover the underlying cause for your pet's condition.
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 your veterinarian may place the animal on a fluid therapy regimen. The dog may also undergo frequent blood tests to assess the progression and degree of the xylitol toxicity, and to assess the animal's liver function.
Dogs suffering from low blood sugar alone tend to recover well, but if liver damage occurs, the prognosis may be poor. Blood glucose levels will be monitored for at least 24 hours; liver enzyme tests would most likely be repeated often for at least the following 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 cabinets or areas too high for your pet to access. If you keep gum in a purse make sure to keep the purse closed and out of reach of your pet.