wally-283x300Most pet owners know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but there’s an even more deadly poison that many pet owners aren’t aware of. Sugar free gum and candy contain a sugar substitute called xylitol which is extremely toxic to dogs. Each piece of sugar free gum contains enough xylitol to make a small dog deathly ill. The poison acts quickly and can cause seizures and complete liver failure in a matter of hours.

Dogs that ingest xylitol can become sick in as little as 10 minutes. However, some dogs do not show signs of illness for several days. If you think your dog may have eaten even a single piece of sugar free gum, call your veterinarian right away. The faster your pet receives emergency veterinary care, the more likely he will be able to make a complete recovery. Be sure to bring the sugar free gum container with you so your veterinarian knows the exact ingredients.

Signs of Xylitol Ingestion:

  • Vomiting

  • Weakness and Collapse

  • Drunken behavior

  • Tremors or Seizures

  • Yellowness of the gums or eyes

The first sign of xylitol toxicity is often vomiting which then progresses to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. The xylitol tricks the dogs pancreas into secreting more insulin which makes blood sugars drop. Dogs that experience hypoglycemia often tremble, act drunk or have seizures. Hypoglycemia is an emergency and needs immediate medical care. If you think your dog is hypoglycemic from ingesting sugar free gum, call your veterinarian for emergency instructions.

In addition to causing hypoglycemia, xylitol also causes sudden liver failure. The exact reason for liver failure is unknown but xylitol can cause the liver to stop functioning completely 12-72 hours after ingestion. The liver can recover from the toxicity but dogs need intensive care, monitoring and sometimes blood transfusions.

There is no specific antidote for xylitol toxicity. IV fluids can help support the liver and prevent hypoglycemia. Dogs with liver failure are treated aggressively with liver support medications and sometimes transfusions. Dogs that ingest larger amounts of xylitol often do not survive but prompt medical attention increases the odds that your pet will recover.

If you are a dog owner, make absolutely certain that your dog does not have access to any sugar free gum or candy. As a veterinarian in private practice, most cases of xylitol toxicity that I see are accidental ingestion. It is typically a dog that went rummaging through the owners purse and found a pack of gum. As a pet owner, I choose not to have any sugar free gum or candy in order to prevent accidental ingestion. Consider the risks and keep your gum in a safe place or choose a non-sugar free option instead.