There are many types of artificial sweeteners becoming more commonly used in human foods. The most concerning is Xylitol.
Xylitol is found in various products, including:
• Candy and gum
• Chewable or gummy vitamins
• Breath mints
• Peanut butter
• Sugar-free desserts
But read the labels carefully, Xylitol can also be recognised as birch sugar, birch sap, birch bark extract, or wood sugar making it even more confusing to the consumer.
In humans, Xylitol is very slowly absorbed but in dogs it is absorbed rapidly and induces insulin production. This causes dangerously low blood sugar levels. This can cause seizures, coma and death. It also causes liver damage which can lead to clotting issues and death. Vomiting is often the first sign of ingestion with other signs including lethargy, diarrhoea and collapse.
How much causes toxicity?
The amount that can cause toxicity is very low. It is hard to determine the amount of Xylitol in some foods as its concentration may not be provided. It has been estimated that as little as one piece of gum in a small dog can cause toxicity.
What should I do if my dog has ingested Xylitol?
Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Treatment is more successful the earlier it is started. To determine if a toxic amount has been ingested it is important to know the concentration in the product and the weight of the dog. Decontamination may be indicated if ingestion is recent. There is no antidote to Xylitol so supportive therapy is required. Dogs can still die despite treatment, the prognosis is poor if seizures, coma or liver failure is seen.
How do I know if my dog has ingested Xylitol?
There is no test for Xylitol but low blood glucose is the main finding on blood tests.
How can we prevent toxicity?
The best means is for Xylitol containing products to not be present in pet owning households. As with most things prevention is far better than cure.
If you have any questions regarding Xylitol or other potential toxins, please call Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital on 4736 2027.