XYLITOL – A SUGAR SUBSTITUTE IN OUR FOOD CAN BE LETHAL FOR DOGS

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23/02/2012
Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in a variety of products including ‘suger-free’ chewing gum, nicotine replacement chewing gum, baby food, cakes and muffins and home-baking products. It may be listed on a package as E967.

XYLITOL ACTS LIKE A MASSIVE INSULIN INJECTION

Xylitol is safe for us because it is absorbed slowly. It is dangerous, potentially lethal for dogs because it is absorbed very rapidly. Almost all of it is in a dog’s bloodstream within 30 minutes of eating xylitol containing baby food or biscuits or chewing gum.

Xylitol triggers a dog to release insulin. The more xylitol that is eaten the greater the amount of insulin a dog pumps into its blood. That’s what causes the precipitous drop in blood sugar. Xylitol triggers the dog’s pancreas (where insulin is produced) to release up to six times as much insulin as sugar does. As little as 0.1g/kg xylitol can cause critically low blood sugar or “hypoglycemia”.

Some but not all dogs vomit after eating xylitol-containing foods. Some, but not all become lethargic and are unable to walk. If a toxic amount of xylitol is eaten a dog collapses and has seizures.

If a dog survives the sudden surge of insulin, liver failure can follow. Eating 0.5g/kg usually results in liver failure.

Working out how much xylitol is in a product is difficult. That’s because most products list ‘sugars’ (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol etc) but don’t say how much of which. If a product is manufactured here in Europe it will list Xylitol as E967.

American research suggests that we assume there is 0.3g of xylitol in a stick of gum. That means that one and a half sticks of gum is toxic to a typical Yorkshire terrier or small Poodle. In home-baked goods, assume that a cup of xylitol contains 190 grams.

Because it is absorbed so quickly, dogs need to be induced to vomit within a maximum half hour of eating xylitol. Telephone us and we will tell you how to do this safely at home with a small amount of washing soda crystal or salt. (These procedures can be dangerous in themselves.) If that isn’t possible bring your dog to us immediately where we will monitor blood sugar levels (and liver function and blood electrolytes) constantly for the next 12 hours. If blood sugar drops we will give a 25 % dextrose solution intravenously followed by an intravenous drip containing 5 % dextrose.  Monitoring blood sugar will continue daily for two more days. If your dog has eaten more than 0.5g/kg we will start concentrated dextrose treatment immediately, whether or not blood sugar has dropped. We will also give liver protectants.

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