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  • Writer's pictureCaryl Wolff

Xylitol is Poison to Dogs

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Xylitol is Poison to Dogs

Dogs and Xylitol do not mix. Xylitol is poison to dogs.

This article was written by Christine Moe and is used with permission. Thank you, Christine.

Xylitol Reminder…First Hand Experience with my Cavaliers –

I know that many of you already are well aware of the risks of xylitol (an artificial sweetener used in diabetic foods, mints, chewing gum, sugar free pudding, jello, etc.) when it comes to our dogs, but thought this could serve as a reminder… I almost lost 2 of my girls last night…

I had a friend over yesterday evening, and (without thinking) she put her purse on the ground, and we ended up chatting in another room for an hour or two. When we returned to the room in which she placed her purse, I noticed, to my absolute horror, a *shredded* Orbitz gum box torn to oblivion all over the floor.

I am well aware of the risks of xylitol ingestion with dogs (as little as 2 pieces of gum can cause death in a 20 lb dog). I immediately grabbed my dogs and smelled their breath – the only one with the minty fresh breath… Izzy, my 10 lb female tri puppy. In a panic, Iaccosted my friend as to EXACTLY how much gum she had left in the package – she thought 3 or 4 pieces. Oh my god.

I immediately induced vomiting (with hydrogen peroxide) and Izzy vomited violently 4 times – very minty smelling vomit, with small chunks of the gum. I then rushed both her and Darby (my 3 yo Bl girl – the only other one with access at the time – she didn’t have minty breath, but I wasn’t about to take any chances) to UC Davis for blood glucose monitoring and treatment.

By the way, for those who don’t know, xylitol causes mass insulin release in dogs, leading to severe, acute hypoglycemia. Dogs can show symptoms in as little as 20 minutes, or as late as 12 hours: ataxia (staggering gait), depression, lethargy, confusion, seizures & death.

Even if they survive the hypoglycemia, many dogs experience liver failure and death 3-4 days later. There is no antidote or “cure.” Your only option is to try and stay ahead of it by giving mass amounts of glucose to combat the effects of the xylitol until it finally metabolizes out of their system in 12-24 hours. Also, to check liver enzymes a few days later to see if your dog is experiencing fatal liver failure – no real cure or treatment, just supportive care and prayers.

BOTH Darby’s and Izzy’s blood glucose levels were shockingly low – in the mid-50s (so, yes… clearly they both got some gum). We administered an IV bolus of fluids/dextrose, and because of my veterinary background, they allowed me to take them home… buying a glucometer at a drug store en route (this is around 3am at this point). By the way, they said that if I hadn’t induced vomiting with Izzy when I did… immediately after ingestion, she probably would be dead right now.

So, for the next 24 hours, I am giving “supportive care:” 10mls of Karo syrup orally mixed with a little food to each dog every HOUR, and re-checking blood glucose and giving SQ fluids every 4 hours.

So, it is now 15 hours later, and after 15 “doses” of treatment, they really haven’t improved, but are hanging in there. They both have BG levels that vary between 57 & 70 (normal is 90-130). Fortunately, they are not showing any clinical signs of hypoglycemia (staggering, confusion, seizures, etc). Yes, the glucose hasn’t improved, BUT at least the numbers aren’t dropping, and they are acting “fairly” normal (albeit a bit lethargic & depressed). In theory, the xylitol should completely metabolize out of their systems in 24 hours. So, as long as I can keep ahead of it with the karo syrup, we should be OK with the hypoglycemia side of things. [Note by Caryl - I am not a vet, but I would use Nutri-Cal which is a product specifically made for hypoglycemia in dogs.]

My biggest concern though, as was in the beginning, is hepatic insufficiency (liver failure). It’s sobering to know that a large number of xylitol intoxications (even with successful immediate treatment) are fatal within 4 days due to liver failure… it just completely breaks my heart. I just hope that, between my catching this IMMEDIATELY, and inducing vomiting IMMEDIATELY, and having them treated asap, and the fact the the 3 dogs affected are young and healthy, that we will beat the odds. I will have liver values run tomorrow and Monday – that’s the only way I’ll know if they will be all right. This is scary because people frankly just don’t know enough about xylitol toxicity (and the mechanisms of effect on the liver), as it is a fairly new problem since xylitol as an additive in the US is a fairly new thing.

Xylitol tastes just like sugar, but with fewer calories, so there has been an EXPLOSION of products in the US with xylitol added in the last 6-8 months. By the way, there has also been a parallel explosion of xylitol-related deaths in dogs during that same period. I’ve read that strawberries & raspberries are natural sources of xylitol – who’d have thought!?

Now, please understand that I am not posting this as a “pity/feel sorry for me” post – I posted because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I was so surprised that so FEW people knew about xylitol, I felt that I HAD to post… if this educates even ONE person to the dangers, and saves ONE dog – I could just never forgive myself for NOT posting!

If you want to cross-post this experience, please feel free! I have e-mailed it to my own personal list of dog people. The more people that know about the dangers of xylitol, the better.

This whole experience completely breaks my heart. What a freak accident – I don’t chew gum, and didn’t even THINK about the purse on the floor – consider this “lesson learned!” No purses on the floor, EVER, in my house from now on (I mean, how many people keep gum & mints in their purses?!)! I’m still not sure my girls are going to be OK, and I will definitely keep the list updated… but PLEASE, I implore you, keep ANY xylitol-containing foods or gum FAR OUT OF REACH of your dogs (or preferably, just get rid of them!)!! Just 1 piece/stick can be deadly….

And, if you can spare them, any warm positive thoughts or prayers sent our way would be highly appreciated. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Warmly, Christine Moe Northwynd Cavaliers Sacramento, California

Thanks for visiting Xylitol is Poison to Dogs. I make a small commission on any products or books I recommend.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

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