Dogs & Cats Graphic 2015

Most people are aware that certain foods that are safe for humans may not be safe for our pets. Chocolate is a good example. Delicious for people but dogs are unable to metabolize an ingredient in chocolate that acts like a stimulant and can cause hyperactivity, seizures and death in dogs. 

But lately, Xylitol toxicity in dogs is becoming more common and is far more dangerous than chocolate. 

Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many foods. Xylitol is most often associated with candy and gum, but products such as peanut butter and spreads may contain this ingredient. 

Besides having a sweet flavor, Xylitol will hold moisture in a food product to keep it soft and spreadable and therefore may be found in products that you would not expect to have an artificial sweetener. Xylitol may be listed on product labels under other names such as Eutrit, Kannit, Newtrol, Xylite, Torch or Xyliton. Some manufacturers may place a warning label on their product, but most do not.

Even in tiny amounts, Xylitol is deadly to dogs. A single stick of sugar-free gum can be toxic to a 20-pound dog. 

In people, Xylitol is absorbed slowly and has little to no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. However, dogs absorb Xylitol quickly, usually within 30 minutes. Xylitol causes a strong insulin release, resulting in profound hypoglycemia. If the blood sugar drops too low, the dog will die.

In addition to causing low blood sugar, Xylitol may cause severe liver damage in some dogs. This can result in bleeding, liver failure and death. 

Vomiting is most often the first symptom. Lethargy and weakness are signs of hypoglycemia and may occur rapidly. However, some dogs may have delayed hypoglycemia for as long as 12 hours. Diarrhea, collapse and seizures also have been seen after Xylitol ingestion. 

There is no antidote for Xylitol toxicity. 

Pets that develop neurologic signs such as seizure and coma will have a poor to grave prognosis. 

All Xylitol exposures should be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian! 

Because Xylitol is absorbed rapidly, early intervention will result in the best prognosis. 

Remember to bring the packaging or wrapper of the product your pet ingested if possible. It may be helpful in determining the amount of Xylitol your pet has ingested. 

Please spread this important information to your fellow pet owners:

1.Xylitol is deadly to dogs, even in tiny amounts. 

2. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener but is found in all kinds of foods not associated with sweet taste. (Xylitol may be listed under different names.)

3. Xylitol toxicity involves rapid hypoglycemia and liver damage. 

4. Early intervention is crucial with Xylitol exposure. 

Please have fun with your pets this Halloween season, but remember to be extra careful with the candy and treats. 

Dr. Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach and is a commissioner on the Long Beach Board of Health & Human Services.

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