For humans, chewing gum is a harmless habit that helps freshen breath and keeps boredom at bay. For pets, however, gum sweetened with Xylitol is a potentially deadly substance that is roughly 100 times more toxic than milk chocolate.
While many pet parents don’t realize how toxic Xylitol can be, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of Xylitol poisoning in order to be able to respond better should your pet ever ingest this dangerous substance.
Signs of Xylitol Poisoning
Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is widely used in gums, mints, foods like pudding and gelatin, toothpastes, and sugar-free multivitamin and fish oil supplements. While the Xylitol content of these products varies hugely, a pet that ingests less than 0.1 gram of Xylitol can easily experience life-threatening symptoms. Typically, the most life-threatening symptom of Xylitol toxicity is acute hypoglycemia that can arise within ten to fifteen minutes of Xylitol ingestion. Other symptoms include collapse, vomiting, tremors, seizures, jaundice, changes in stool, coma, liver failure, and death.
Treating Xylitol Poisoning
If you believe that your pet has ingested a dangerous quantity of Xylitol, get him to the vet immediately. Rapid treatment is necessary to produce positive outcomes, and often, the veterinarian will choose to induce vomiting to limit the level of toxins in the pet’s body. Keep in mind, however, that you should never attempt to induce vomiting before instructed to do so by a veterinarian, as this may harm your pet or make the condition worse.
In some cases, veterinarians may order IV fluids, monitoring of blood sugar and liver levels, supplementing sugar levels via IV lines, or administering liver-protective drugs to ward off liver failure. While vets often give activated charcoal in pet poisoning scenarios, it does not bind Xylitol, so it is not often used in cases of Xylitol poisoning. Once the animal is discharged from the veterinarian’s office, it is likely that the vet will order a re-evaluation of blood work within two to three days.
Preventing Xylitol Poisoning
Like all cases of pet poisoning, the easiest way to prevent Xylitol toxicity is to keep all substances containing the sweetener out of pet’s the reach. This means that chewing gum, toothpaste, candy, puddings, oral rinses, and supplements should be securely locked away. The danger of products containing Xylitol is that they are often appealing to pets and certain supplements, such as fish oil, may be ingested in large quantities if left in an area where pets can reach them. If you suspect that your pet has ingested Xylitol, contact an animal poison control hotline or your veterinarian immediately.
Xylitol poisoning may be dangerous, but it can be treated. In many cases, pets that receive prompt treatment are subject to the most positive prognoses. By knowing the signs and symptoms of Xylitol poisoning and being equipped to respond quickly if your pet begins to display symptoms, pet parents could be better prepared to keep their furry companions safe and healthy.