Xylitol is a common sugar substitute (also known as sugar alcohol) used in a wide variety of items these days. It seems to be everywhere: in sugarless gum, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, vitamins, candy, baked goods, mints, and even puddings. While harmless to humans, it can be lethal to dogs. Once ingested, there is a window of just 15 to 30 minutes before it reaches the bloodstream. As little as one-and-a-half sticks of a sugarless gum can be fatal to a small dog. According to Eric K. Dunayer, VMD, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the toxin causes rapid release of insulin, which in turn causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar. The resulting hypoglycemia causes weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse, and seisures. There is a strong link with xylitol and liver failure as well.
If you strongly suspect or know your dog has ingested xylitol, time is of the essence. Immediately call your vet, or call the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). They may advise you to induce vomiting in the dog. Regardless, the dog’s blood-glucose levels must be monitored and stabilized.
What can you do to prevent this? Read labels. Keep xylitol out of reach; better yet, keep it out of your house, purse, car and so on. Help get the word out. Many vets and their staff are not aware of this burgeoning threat.