Summer is quickly approaching, and with summer comes diets. Many dieters’ favorite sugar-free products – gum, mints, peanut butter, baking substitutes, etc. – contain a sugar substitute called xylitol. While this ingredient is harmless to humans, it can be fatal if ingested by their canine companions.
Xylitol toxicity in dogs causes a severe drop in blood sugar, which can lead to weakness, stumbling, seizures, and even death. This drop in blood sugar is the most common effect of xylitol, however, it can also cause liver failure in some cases. The toxic effects to the liver are unpredictable (idiopathic) and do not occur in all dogs; however, those that experience liver toxicity can develop life-threatening to fatal liver failure.
Even just a few pieces of sugar-free gum containing xylitol can cause severe hypoglycemia and potential liver failure in dogs. If you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol, please have them seen by a veterinarian right away.
Immediate treatments for xylitol toxicity include inducing vomiting with safe injectable medication and measuring blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be seen in as little as 30 minutes, but in some dogs it can take hours to see effects. Most dogs that develop low blood sugar will need IV sugar (dextrose) support for 12-24 hours, or until the xylitol is no longer active. Liver values are also monitored for 24-48 hours. Vomiting is often seen shortly after eating xylitol.
For a list of other common household toxins, visit our 24/7 Emergency Service page.