Xylitol is an artificial sugar substitute, and it’s often used in candies, gums, certain baked goods and sweet foods, and toothpaste. It’s okay for humans to ingest, and is thought to be better for dental health and calorie counts than real sugar. For our pets, though, xylitol is very dangerous! It’s a known pet toxin and can cause serious health problems.
Our canine friends are the most commonly affected by xylitol poisoning; this is likely due to dogs’ tendencies to gobble up whatever morsel presents itself. However, cats have also been known to experience poisoning from ingesting xylitol-sweetened products.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning can start to appear in as little as 30 minutes after initial ingestion, although this can vary depending on your pet’s size, weight, and the amount ingested. It doesn’t take much of a xylitol-sweetened product to cause harm; as little as a few sticks of gum or pieces of candy can cause serious problems in a pet who weighs 10 pounds or less.
Specific symptoms include drooling, lethargy, uncoordinated movements, vomiting, diarrhea, and—without proper treatment—seizures coma, and even death.
If you see or suspect that your pet has ingested a product that contains xylitol as a sweetener, rush them to the nearest veterinary emergency room immediately. Prompt treatment is of the essence! Your pet’s stomach may be flushed to rid the body of the offending agent, or activated charcoal might be administered to slow the poison’s absorption into your pet’s system. As a pet recovers, fluid replacement, oxygen supplementation, and other supportive therapies might be needed.
It goes without saying that preventing an episode of xylitol poisoning is easier and less worrisome than dealing with it after the fact. Fortunately for you, all it takes is restricting your pet’s access to any and all products that contain the sweetener. Make sure to diligently check the labels on all sweet foods, as well as toothpaste and chewing gums, and never leave sweets out on countertops or tables where pets could gain access.
Would you like more information on xylitol poisoning? Contact your North Phoenix, AZ animal hospital today!