Your Pet and Xylitol

Xylitol is a very common pet poison—you likely have a few items in your home already that contain the toxin! Below, your Happy Valley, OR veterinarian tells you all about xylitol and how to keep your beloved pet safe from harm.

What Exactly is Xylitol?

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is often used in place of sugar in candies, gums, and certain baked items. The substance is fine for humans to consume, but it’s very toxic for our animal friends! Cats and dogs alike can suffer from the effects of xylitol poisoning, although dogs are the most commonly diagnosed pet.

How Much Causes Poisoning?

The exact amount of xylitol that it will take to poison your pet depends on your four-legged friend’s size, but generally speaking it only takes very small amounts to cause problems. As little as a stick or two of xylitol-sweetened gum can poison a pet who weighs less than 10 pounds. Larger animals are likely to gobble up as much candy or gum as they can get their paws on, so the danger is quite real!

In most cases, xylitol will begin to result in detrimental health symptoms in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion.

What are the Symptoms?

When a pet ingests xylitol, their pancreas confuses it with real sugar. This is the true danger of the toxin—the pancreas releases insulin in response, causing a sudden and dramatic decline in blood sugar level. The resulting symptoms can include lethargy, disorientation, vomiting, diarrhea, spasms, and seizures. If a pet doesn’t receive prompt treatment, coma and even death may follow.

What’s the Treatment?

Have you seen or even suspected that your pet has eaten a product containing xylitol? Take them to the closest veterinary emergency room for quick treatment. The professionals there may administer activated charcoal to slow the toxin’s absorption in the stomach, or vomiting may be induced to get rid of the poison entirely. As your pet recovers, supportive measures like oxygen supplementation and fluid therapy will likely be necessary.

How Can I Prevent Poisoning?

It goes without saying that preventing an episode of xylitol poisoning is far easier and safer than dealing with it after the fact. Fortunately for you, preventing poisoning is as easy as restricting your pet’s access to all candy, gum, and pastries!

Ask your Happy Valley, OR vet for more information on xylitol and its effects.

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