Xylitol And The Basset Hound

by Shawn M. Finch, DVM

Matilda is a four-year-old spayed female Basset Hound. Some time within an hour before she was brought in, Matilda had taken a package of gum off the counter and eaten or chewed up about half of the package.

Xylitol And The Basset Hound

Matilda’s owner did not expect us to say gum could be dangerous for dogs, but she called us (gum wrapper in hand) because she did not know for sure.

What seemed like a pretty innocuous event was indeed a medical emergency!

She brought Matilda to the hospital as quickly as she safely could.

She had no abnormal physical signs on presentation. A complete blood panel was done.

Matilda’s glucose level was down to 60 mg/dL.  (Normal 70-150).  

All other parameters, including liver values, were normal.

Vomiting was induced and anti-emetics given to control the vomiting after treatment.  Activated charcoal was given by mouth to absorb any remaining toxin in her gastrointestinal system.

Matilda was given a meal after treatment, and her blood glucose returned to normal levels.  She returned in the morning for a physical exam and glucose recheck.  No physical abnormalities were noted, and glucose levels were normal.

What could have happened if Matilda wasn’t brought in and treated as fast as she was?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in many products including gum.  Xylitol is also sometimes used as a sweetener in compounded drugs.  What makes a medication palatable for a child could be deadly for your dog!

Even with a rapid assessment by the owner and treatment by the veterinary team, xylitol toxicity cases do not always end as happily as Matilda’s case!
Even if they are, often much more intensive therapy is needed than that which was needed to save Matilda.
Xylitol ingestion can be rapidly fatal due to insulin release and the resulting hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  
It can also cause a more chronic liver failure that can be fatal.  
Life-saving treatment often includes intravenous fluid with dextrose (to combat the low blood sugar), supportive care and liver protectants.  If the pet is showing clinical signs, intensive round the clock veterinary monitoring is often needed until the pet is clinically normal and all blood parameters are normal.
Xylitol toxicity seems to be dose dependent, but such a small amount is needed to cause medical problems, including fatalities, that any ingestion is a medical emergency.   

Time is of the essence!  
Matilda ate a few pieces of gum and was treated immediately, and her blood sugar was already dangerously low and probably still dropping!
Good plan:  Seek medical treatment immediately if you even suspect xylitol ingestion!
Better plan:  Keep all xylitol-containing products out of reach of pets.
The best plan of all:  To be completely safe, keep your home xylitol free!  I would even recommend telling the manufacturers of xylitol-containing products that you are no longer able to keep their products in your home due to the severe danger they pose to dogs.

Matilda now enjoys a xylitol-free household and has not had any further medical emergencies to date.

Categories: ConditionsDog toxinsReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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