Sugarless Products Can Be Dangerous for Dogs

Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is frequently used in chewing gum, candies, baked goods, and other products marketed as sugar-free. This is great for people trying to cut down on their sugar intake, but there is a problem-- xylitol is poisonous to your dog!

Because it is widely used as a sugar substitute in a variety of products that may be accessible to your dog, care must be taken to ensure your dog does not ingest products that contain xylitol. Read on to find out more.

Xylitol can be found in the following products:

■ Sugarless gum: Brands like Trident, Orbit and Ice Breakers may contain xylitol
■ Cough medicine
■ Artificial sweetener that can be added to baked goods in place of sugar
■ Mints
■ Toothpaste and mouthwash
■ Sugar-free candy
■ Vitamins
■ Smoking cessation gum
■ Some peanut butters

The Danger

Unfortunately, these items are common household items that may be left lying around your home, where your dog may accidentally ingest them, and that could prove fatal! Xylitol is toxic to dogs, as it causes a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This causes blood sugar levels to plummet, resulting in hypoglycemia, which can lead to liver failure and death if toxicity is not treated and supportive care provided quickly.

Signs of Trouble

Symptoms of xylitol toxicity include weakness, vomiting, tremors, loss of coordination, staggering, and seizures, and may appear immediately or within 12-24 hours after ingestion of xylitol.

Even a small amount, such as that contained in gum or candy, can be harmful or even kill a dog, depending on the dog's size. If your dog ingests xylitol, contact your veterinarian or the pet poison control line for instructions. If the product was recently ingested you may be instructed to induce vomiting, but if a significant time period has passed this may not be helpful--you should seek professional advice before initiating treatment. Transport your dog to a veterinarian where blood work can be conducted to check blood sugar levels and liver function. Gastric lavage or other steps to empty the GI tract of remaining xylitol may be taken. Supportive care and monitoring will be conducted, which will include, IV fluids, blood sugar monitoring, and medication to protect the liver and address hypoglycemia. With prompt treatment, most dogs will recover, but if liver failure has begun the prognosis is less certain.

Important Precautions

Pet owners should take precautions to prevent xylitol poisoning. Be sure to check ingredients on sugarless products and avoid products with xylitol. Other sugar-free products made with sorbitol are considered safe for dogs. If products with xylitol are necessary in your home, keep them out of your dog's reach and in secure containers. Toothpaste can contain xylitol, so when brushing your dog’s teeth, always use toothpaste formulated for dogs, not human toothpaste.

You should always be aware what consumable products in your home contain. Many products that are safe for people can be deadly to your dog. Ensure that your dog only ingests products that are appropriate for dogs by keeping consumables not intended for your dog out of reach.

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