As 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):
Loss of coordination (Ataxia)
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.