Monday, August 9, 2010

Xylitol Toxicosis In Pets

Xylitol is a commonly used sugar substitute that is as sweet as sugar with only two-thirds its calories. It is frequently found in sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, desserts, and toothpaste. In people, xylitol is a safe compound with few associated side effects however it may have significant adverse effects in dogs. The ingestion of xylitol has been associated with a severe drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and acute liver failure.

Signs of low blood sugar have been noted as soon as 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion as it is rapidly and almost completely absorbed! Why is there such a drop in blood sugar? Xylitol causes a rapid, significant increase in insulin secretion in dogs and insulin causes the blood sugar to decrease.

Acute liver failure can also become evident up to 72 hours after ingestion. Although there are two thoughts as to how this occurs it is not exactly known how this happens. It is believed that products produced by the liver when breaking down the xylitol cause severe damage. One toxic by-product depletes the liver cells of their energy source while the other reactive product damages the cell membranes, both leading to cell death.

If liver injury occurs after Xylitol ingestion the prognosis is unfortunately poor. A study revealed that 63% of dogs that ate xylitol containing products died despite aggressive medical management. Interestingly, the dose ingested does not equal whether one pet or another will develop liver failure.

If you noticed your pet eat something they weren’t supposed to, look at the ingredients. If xylitol is listed on the product bring the product packaging and your dog to the veterinarian immediately. If your dog recently ate a xylitol containing product your veterinarian can induce vomiting to try and get out as much of the product as possible. The vomiting may not be effective if ingestion was not within the past 30 to 60 minutes as xylitol is quickly absorbed by the body.

Signs of xylitol toxicosis include vomiting, diarrhea, a drunken gait, coma, and seizures. Sings of low blood sugar can occur within 30-60 minutes and if liver failure occurs signs are usually evident within 12 to 72 hours of ingestion.

Dogs have a better prognosis if improvements in blood work abnormalities related to the liver and stabilization of the blood sugar levels occur as well as lack of progression to acute liver failure within 3 days of ingestion.

It is therefore important to make sure that your xylitol containing products be kept away from your pets. It only takes a quick second for your dog to jump on the counter and eat the package of sugar free gum you just purchased. If this occurs call your vet immediately and don’t forget the package on your way out.