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Xylitol - What Pet Owners need to Know!

The Halloween decorations are starting to go up around Regina and people are beginning to bring home candy in preparation for this treat-filled holiday.  Most pet owners are aware of some of the well-known hazards for dogs at Halloween such as chocolate ingestion, but how many are aware of a more subtle poison such as xylitol?  As always at Wascana Animal Hospital, our team wants to educate as many of our clients as possible so we can hopefully prevent any of these cases from occurring! 

Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute to sweeten many products.  It is commonly found in chewing gum, sugar-free candy, toothpaste and other oral hygiene products, and even certain peanut butters!  There is also a granulated form of xylitol used for baking, especially for people on low-carb or diabetic diets.    Xylitol is toxic to dogs in very small amounts and when ingested can cause two potentially lethal effects.  The first is hypoglycemia (when the dog's blood sugar drops dangerously low) and the second is liver damage.  In cases of hypoglycemia, the dog's blood sugar levels can drop low enough to result in seizures, coma and even death.  When the liver is damaged, its ability to function becomes compromised; consequently there can be problems with blood clotting causing bleeding, and the liver tissue itself can actually die resulting in organ failure and death.  

It takes very little xylitol to cause toxicity in a dog.  It is estimated that one stick of chewing gum can be enough to potentially cause hypoglycemia in a 20 lb dog!  All dogs who have ingested xylitol-containing products should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Xylitol is absorbed into the blood stream very rapidly after being eaten, yet it is a sneaky toxin, since some dogs may not show any symptoms until 12 hrs or longer after ingestion!  There is no specific antidote for xylitol toxicity.  Treatment is aimed at supporting the patient as much as possible and trying to minimize the damage the xylitol has caused.  

So this Halloween, be sure to keep any gum or sugar-free candies that may contain xylitol (along with the chocolate) out of paw's reach to keep our furry family members safe!  Remember that if you have any concerns about possible ingestion of any toxin, please contact our team at Wascana Animal Hospital and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.  

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