Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. Xylitol, however, is way more lethal.
Matilda is a four-year-old spayed female Basset Hound. About an hour before her visit, Matilda took a package of gum off the counter. She ate or chewed up about half of the package.
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.
Matilda 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.
We induced vomiting and gave Matilda anti-emetics to control the vomiting after treatment. Matilda also got activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxin in her gastrointestinal system.
After the treatment, we gave Matilda a meal 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 didn’t get treatment as fast as she did?
What is xylitol?
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 treatment, 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 dog is showing clinical signs, they need intensive round the clock veterinary monitoring until the dog is clinically normal and all blood parameters are normal.
Xylitol toxicity seems to be dose-dependent. However, it takes only a tiny amount 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 received immediate treatment. Yet, her blood sugar was already dangerously low and probably still dropping!
What to do if your dog eats some
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.
List of Products Containing Xylitol