Xylitol: Toxic to Pets

August 9, 2012

Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute found in chewing gum, candy and toothpaste, as well as other products we humans use.  While it is safe for people, many don’t realize that the ingredient is extremely toxic to pets.  Xylitol is made from various fruits, like plums and berries, and the bark of birch trees. A dog will eat anything that smells good to him.  While we women instinctively know to keep our handbags away from curious toddlers,  how many of us think about nosy dogs or cats?  No matter how well-trained you believe your dog is, the food instinct can overcome their good behavior at any given moment.

Cats do not follow our orders, and you cannot count on them ignoring something they want.  Although cats aren’t usually attracted to anything sweet, curiosity might lead them to play with chewing gum, getting the product on their paws – later licking those paws – or leaving the gum on the floor where the dog could get it.  Don’t take the chance. I tend to place my purse on a chair or counter when I enter the house.  I no longer carry gum in it but in years past, I did and never once thought about an animal snooping through it for a treat.  Yet, consuming just a small amount of sugarless gum could kill a dog!

Dogs quickly absorb Xylitol into the bloodstream, causing an acute insulin release resulting in vomiting, diarrhea and low blood sugar that appears as weakness.  Symptoms can occur as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion.  Early detection and treatment is crucial to the animal’s survival, because the substance will eventually attack the liver. Treatment of Xylitol poisoning requires immediate veterinary care.  In some cases, vomiting will be induced; intravenous fluids will be administered and blood work will be run to determine if the liver has been damaged.

Read the labels of any sugar-free products you use.  If Xylitold is listed as the first ingredient, know that it will only take a small amount to cause severe damage to your pet.  Not all products list Xylitol on the ingredients label, so it’s better to be safe and assume that if a product is sugar-free, it must be kept away from pets. Be alert to the contents of your handbag and any other places you might store a sugar-free product.  Think about where your toothpaste is stored.  Do you keep sugar-free candy around?  That also contains Xylitol.  Can Fido or Fluffy reach it?  Time to do your homework on this killer of pets.

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