Canine Toxicity From Sugarless Chewing Gum Containing Xylitol

May 30, 2011

Photo of Cardiff Xylitol Chewing GumAs an avid gum chewer (it keeps me from biting my nails), dog owner, and veterinarian, I am alarmed to see the increasing trend of toxicity secondary to dogs inappropriately consuming sugarless gum containing Xylitol. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center (APCC) database indicates 150 cases in 2007, all related to the consumption of Xylitol based sugar-free gum.

Xylitol is a crystalline sugar alcohol used to replace sugar as a sweetener in various food products, including chewing gum and candy. Xylitol mimics sugar’s effect on the body, causing release of insulin from the pancreas and reduction in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Dogs quickly absorb Xylitol from the digestive tract, causing a sudden and strong release of insulin with secondary hypoglycemia.

A very small amount of Xylitol can potentially cause significant toxicity in dogs. A mere 1 to 2 pieces of chewing gum containing Xylitol can be potentially toxic to a dog weighing 20 pounds or less.

Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity include (but are not limited to):
Lethargy
Vomiting (Emesis)
Diarrhea
Loss of coordination (Ataxia)
Seizures

If untreated, Xylitol toxicity can also lead to liver failure, blood clotting abnormalities, and death.

As this toxicity is completely preventable, please keep all Xylitol containing products out of your home if you have pets. In my clinical practice, I have seen cases of Xylitol toxicity after a dog consumed sugar-free gum from a purse belonging to his owner’s friend, so be aware that this toxicity can occur even if you keep a Xylitol-free household.

Should you suspect or are aware of your pet having consumed a product with Xylitol, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (AAPCC) at 888-426-4435.  It is worth the $65 consultation fee to start a case file with a board certified veterinary toxicologist to determine the best treatment.

For the record, Cardiff consumed no chewing gum during the photo shoot for this article.

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Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn Finch, DVM May 30, 2011 at 5:16 AM

I recently saw a very big dog for xylitol toxicity. She had just gotten into a small package of xylitol-containing sugar-free gum and her Mom rushed her in – even with her quick action and immediate decontamination on arrival at the hospital, her blood sugar was significantly lower than normal! Even knowing how dangerous it is, it was unnerving to me how quickly xylitol can affect a pet! (She did very well after treatment.)

My daughters came home from grocery shopping with their Dad soon after that and came into the house yelling “Mom! We have brought home all xylitol-free products!” Yay. I educated the Finches. Thank you for educating everyone else! :)

Patrick Mahaney May 30, 2011 at 7:33 AM

Dr Finch,
Thank you for the comments and sharing your experience with treating Xylitol toxicity in a large breed dog. I have only treated small dogs having chewed up sugarless gum (mostly Orbitz), so your info reinforces that we need to be vigilant about keeping it away from all dogs irrespective of size!.
It is so great to hear that your kids are doing their part to keep you household safer for your pets.
Bravo!
Dr PM

Jana Rade May 30, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Such innocent looking thing, isn’t it? I guess we need to keep spreading awareness until everybody can name chewing gum as dangerous to dogs when woken up in the middle of the night.

Patrick Mahaney May 30, 2011 at 9:22 PM

Thanks Jana (and Jasmine) for your comments. I commonly treat Xylitol toxicity, especially during my emergency practice shifts. Next post will be a case profile of a sweet dog that suffered the fate of exploring his mom’s purse.
Let’s keep spreading the education/awareness of this issue!
Dr PM

Doc Truli May 31, 2011 at 5:35 PM

A client asked me if it would be safe to use all-natural baby toothpaste from the health food store. Guess what? Yup. Xylitol. Read your labels, even at the health food store!

Patrick Mahaney May 31, 2011 at 9:10 PM

Xylitol can find its way into so many things. Even CET Paste, made by Vibrac, has sorbitol in it. I don’t know of a pet toothpaste that does not have some sort of sugar alcohol in it.
Suggestions?
Dr PM

Jana Rade May 31, 2011 at 9:15 PM

We are using biotene oral gel, no xylitol there. No chicken or other stuff either.
http://www.petkingbrands.com/products/bioteneAntiGel.html

Jana Rade May 31, 2011 at 9:17 PM
Joan May 12, 2012 at 5:06 AM

How much would I need to kill a large dog?

Thank you in advance!

Joan

Patrick Mahaney May 14, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Joan,
Thank you for your comments.
Here’s a great article from veterinary partner that give the dosing range for Xylitol toxicity in dogs.
I hope to see you back again on my bog.
Dr PM

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