Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs: Xylitol And The Basset Hound—Matilda’s Story

Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. Xylitol, however, is way more lethal.

Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs: Xylitol And The Basset Hound—Matilda's Story

Matilda’s story

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. Unfortunately, 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.

Emergency visit

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

Even with 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 required to save Matilda.

Xylitol toxicity

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, and 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 is to be completely safe and keep your home xylitol free!  I would even recommend telling the manufacturers of xylitol-containing products that you can no longer 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.

Related articles:
Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs: What Happens In The Dog’s Body with Xylitol Poisoning

Further reading:
List of Products Containing Xylitol

Categories: ConditionsDog toxinsXylitol poisoning

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Dr. Shawn Finch

Dr. Shawn wanted to be a vet ever since she was 9 years old. She went to The University of Nebraska at Lincoln for her Pre-Veterinary Medicine degree and to Iowa State University for her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Shawn has been a vet since 1998. She is a member of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the Nebraska Academy of Veterinary Medicine. She is a supporter of local pet savers, including Nebraska Humane Society, Taysia Blue Siberian Husky and Malamute Rescue and Basset and Beagle Rescue of the Heartland. She is on the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board. Shawn and her husband Russ, who owns Russell Finch Construction, have two wonderful daughters, Amanda and Abby. The Finch family also includes Joy the Puppy, a Lab mix, Luna Lovegood, a chihuahua X Westie and Noodle the Poodle, a miniature poodle. Dr. Finch and her family are members of Westwood Community Church. Shawn M. Finch, DVM practices at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

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