Monday, May 18, 2009

Darnitall That Xylitol

Did you know?
Dogs and Xylitol do not mix. Picture this. You come home to find that "Lucky" discovered your pack of Trident gum sitting on the coffee table and couldn't resist that minty fresh smell. Strewn across the floor are multiple gum wrappers and as "Lucky" comes over to give you a welcome home lick you realize her breath never smelled so good. Unfortunately, "Lucky" has just earned an immediate trip to the Vet.

Let me tell you why!
Multiple flavors of Trident gum contain Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol manufactured from birch trees or other natural xylan-rich sources. Xylitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is even produced by the human body during normal metabolism. Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in low carbohydrate foods and sugar free candy and gum, including popular brands like Trident, Orbit, Icebreakers, and Altoids or Xylitol gum found in health food stores. Scientific studies have found this natural sweetener to have numerous health benefits for humans, but for dogs ingestion can be dangerous or even lethal.

In dogs Xylitol is absorbed extremely quickly. The immediate result is that it fools the pancreas into releasing a huge spike of insulin, which is quickly followed by a precipitous drop in blood sugar (acute hypoglycemia) since there isn't really any surplus sugar for the insulin to work on. The next problem, which isn't quite as well understood, is severe (and often fatal) liver toxicity and failure. There isn't yet clear evidence of causation and these cases may be due to late discovery and a progression of the severe hypoglycemia rather than a direct connection to the Xylitol. Either way, it isn't good. It doesn't take a whole lot of xylitol to be a toxic dose, and the effects are so rapid that the window of opportunity to treat the dog is extremely small.

Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity include weakness, uncoordinated movements, vomiting, and depression. Your veterinarian will likely induce vomiting if the ingestion is recent. Other treatments can include administration of fluids by IV and glucose supplementation based on lab tests to monitor Blood Glucose levels, plus other supportive measures to maintain proper liver function. The outcome is dependant on the amount of Xylitol ingested relative to the size of the animal and the time lapse between ingestion and treatment. The more immediate the treatment, the better.

The moral of the matter how bad her breath smells don't let "Lucky" chew gum.

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