Several brands of gum, candies, baked goods and other products contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which can be dangerous to your pet. Xylitol triggers the release of insulin in the body. Insulin is the chemical that helps to control sugar balance in the body. When too much insulin is present, the blood sugar can drop to very low levels, a medical condition called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, brain damage and even death.
Xylitol poisoning is a concern for several reasons. Xylitol toxicity triggers hypoglycemia, but it doesn't stop there. Xylitol also has a potential link to liver failure. In addition, problems can begin with ingestion of very small quantities. Two sticks of gum or less can cause a problem. The other concern is that many people, including medical personnel, are not familiar with this toxicity. This means proper treatment may be delayed.
Xylitol toxicity symptoms may include weakness, poor balance, vomiting, depression and seizures. These signs can develop within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. This means that your dog is not necessarily safe just because symptoms didn't occur quickly. Some owners may not realize that a medical emergency is taking place until several hours after chemical ingestion.
Your veterinarian may induce vomiting, depending on when the food product containing xylitol was consumed. Blood glucose levels will be monitored frequently, and IV fluids containing dextrose may be needed. Several days of hospital care may be required. Your dog's liver values will also be monitored over time. Your veterinarian may also work in coordination with poison control.
There are many things that you can do to help prevent this tragedy. Tell fellow dog owners about this problem. Please treat all gums, candy, baked goods, etc., that contain xylitol as toxic to dogs. Keep them out of reach or locked in cabinets. It is critical to take your dog for veterinary care immediately when you first suspect that he/she has ingested any product containing xylitol. This is the best way to ensure a positive outcome.
Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton. Read all her columns at recordnet.com. Contact her at .