It seems that the numbers of dogs who are poisoned after consuming Xylitol are increasing quickly. Authorities feel that this may be due to the increase in consumable products for people that contain Xylitol.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is primarily used as a substitute for sugar in a lot of diet and confectionary products. Derived from the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, Xylitol is naturally occurring and can even be found in corn husks! It is a crystalline sugar alcohol that is used to replace sugar as a sweetener in various food products, most popular of which is chewing gum and candy.
It effectively imitates the effect that natural sugar has on the body, causing a release of insulin from the pancreas as well as an overall reduction in blood sugar levels.
Bloating and diarrhea affects humans who have consumed too much Xylitol; however, it is felt that these side effects are less problematic that what is experienced after over-consumption of the more popular sugar substitute, Sorbitol. Because of the more severe side-effects of Sorbitol, manufacturers are scrambling to replace some of the sugar in their products with Xylitol instead.
Sadly, Xylitol negatively effects dogs as it is quickly absorbed through their digestive tracts, which causes a quick and strong release of insulin that is associated with secondary hypoglycemia.
In 2009, the ASPCA's Animal Poison Center received roughly 2,690 calls that were directly related to a pet who accidentally consumed Xylitol. These numbers indicate a 40% increase from 3 years ago and 30% increase from just 2004!
Dr. Eric Dunayer, Senior Toxicologist at the Animal Poison Control Center affirms that dogs that accidently ingest products that have been sweetened with Xylitol, will have experience a sudden drop in their blood sugar levels; this will result in a loss of coordination, depression, and even seizures:
"These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately."
Dr. Dunayer maintains that there is a correlation between Xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs, although it was previously believed that only large consumptions of Xlyitol would result in such problems in dogs.
"We seem to be learning new information with each subsequent case we manage. Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain Xylitol as one of the first ingredients. However, we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener," explains Dr. Dunayer.
Dr. Dunayer also states even with the consumption of smaller concentrations of Xylitol, the onset of clinical signs may well be delayed for as long as 12 hours after a dog accidentally ingested in.
"Therefore, it is important to remember that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won't develop later on."
Xylitol in tiny amounts can potentially cause significant toxic poisoning in dogs. Even just one to two pieces of regular sized chewing gum that contains Xylitol can be potentially toxic to a dog that weighs less than 20lbs.
In dogs who have ingested Xylitol, the symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of coordination, pale gums, liver damage/failure, and even seizures. If these symptoms are not immediately treated, Xylitol toxicity may eventually lead to liver failure, blood clotting abnormalities, and possibly death. Therefore it is of extreme importance that your take your dog to a veterinarian immediately if you suspect that he ingested any Xylitol containing product, especially if it has been less than 2 hours as a veterinarian will have better luck in preventing your dog’s body from absorbing it.
As a dog owner you can prevent Xylitol poisoning by removing all consumer products containing Xylitol from your home.
Photo Credit: House of Sims