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The Not So Sweet Story of Frankie and the Xylitol

We recently had a big scare when one of our favorite clients, a little puppy pug named Frank, had to be rushed to the emergency vet after possibly ingesting some chewable dietary supplements that had the artificial sweetener Xylitol in them. By the time his owners had discovered the open pill bottle, Frankie (who weighs only a few pounds) was vomiting and exhibiting lethargy and muscle weakness.

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Frankie!

I don’t want to keep you in agonizing suspense here… Frankie was brought in to the emergency vet, treated, and is expected to make a full recovery. Thank goodness! But, obviously this is every pet owner’s nightmare, so what can we do to prevent an incident like this from happening in our homes? Let’s take a closer look…

 

What is Xylitol and Why is it so dangerous?

 

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is used in a wide variety of products as a low calorie alternative to sugar. It is dangerous to dogs because it triggers a surge in insulin production. The excess insulin will drop blood sugar levels very rapidly, in as quickly as 15 minutes, so you need to act fast if you believe your pup has ingested any products that contain Xylitol. This drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) will lead to symptoms such as weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting, seizures, liver failure, and possibly even death.

 

It takes only .1 gram of Xylitol per kg of animal weight to cause hypoglycemia and only .5 g/kg for possible liver damage. For medium to large dogs, that would be equivalent to eating 8-10 pieces of sugar free chewing gum containing Xylitol, but for small breeds or puppies it could mean a negative reaction after consuming just a couple of pieces of sugar free gum. So we must be very careful not to put products containing Xylitol where they could be accessed by hungry and curious hounds!

 

Keeping your home safe

 

Products containing Xylitol have become more and more common in recent years. There is debate as to the benefits and possible side effects of consuming Xylitol for humans, but for dogs it is clearly toxic. The safest way to protect your pet is to keep Xylitol out of your home. However, If you use products that contain Xylitol, please put them in a cabinet and out of reach of your nosy pets. If you have small children, you should also keep these items away from them in case they decide that Fido needs fresher breath.

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Common products containing Xylitol (I didn’t make this beautiful collage, I found it on the internet!)

Products that may contain Xylitol:

  • Sugar free gum, candy, or mints
  • Sugar free baked goods
  • Children’s vitamins
  • Chewable pills
  • Toothpaste

 

Take a moment to check the labels on products like these, and any other low-sugar or sugar-free products you have in your house. And never give your pet any human treats or supplements that may contain Xylitol.

 

What to do if you believe your pet has ingested a product with Xylitol?

 

If you believe your dog has ingested Xylitol, please contact your veterinarian immediately! The quicker they can get a blood test, the quicker they can begin necessary treatment. If you live in Western Mass and your vet is closed, contact one of the following emergency animal hospitals:

 

Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital

141 Greenfield Road

South Deerfield, MA 01373

(413) 665-4911

 

Tufts VETS (Veterinary Emergency Treatment & Specialties)

525 South Street

Walpole, MA 02081

(508) 668-5454

 

Luckily, Frankie was found in time, and will be back to his old tricks in no time! If you have friends with animals, tell them about the risk of Xylitol poisoning, and let’s all work to keep this dangerous chemical away from our pets. With a little foresight, it is easy to prevent exposure to Xylitol and to insure the best health for your sweet companions.