Xylitol is a sweetener used in gums, candies, and baked goods. In its pure form xylitol looks and tastes like sugar. It has a wide safety margin in humans but it is toxic to dogs.
Hypoglycemia: in dogs, the pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin. The insulin released rapidly removes real sugar from circulation. Blood sugar levels plummet resulting in weakness, disorientation, tremors, and potential seizures.
Liver failure: Xylitol causes the destruction of liver tissue. An acute and complete liver failure can cause death.
Other effects: Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.
The hypoglycemic dose is low – a 10 lb. dog can be poisoned by as little as a stick and a half of gum. The dose to cause liver failure is ten times higher – a 10 lb. dog would have to eat an unopened package of gum for liver destruction to occur.
The patient should be seen quickly. Treatment may include induction of vomiting, intravenous fluids for 24 hours (or more), liver and blood clotting tests, and monitoring for several days.
At this time feline toxicity is unknown. There have been no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats.
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