Every responsible assistance dog partner knows there are a number of human foods that are dangerous to dogs. The risk with a few of them comes from an ingredient called xylitol, which is also found in some other human products. This substance is used as a low-calorie substitute for sugar. While it’s considered safe for human consumption, it’s highly poisonous to canines, so it’s important that everyone with a dog knows about xylitol toxicity and where the substance is commonly found.
Here’s some of the most important basic information about xylitol toxicity in dogs.
Common Sources of Xylitol
The following products for humans often contain xylitol:
- Sugar-free gum
- Sugar-free candy
- Sugar-free packaged foods
- Bakery items
- Medicine (especially dissolving varieties, plus some liquids and gummies)
- Lotions, gels, and deodorants (because it helps these products retain moisture)
Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicitiy in Dogs
Xylitol is quite toxic to our canine companions, and poisoning is potentially fatal. How much is consumed, the size and general health of the dog, and how promptly treatment is provided all affect the prognosis. Even a single small piece of sugar-free gum or candy can cause toxicity.
This compound triggers a rapid release of insulin in dogs, which in turn causes a quick drop in blood glucose levels, or hypoglycemia. Symptoms typically manifest about 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion. They may include:
- Loss of coordination
- Dark red splotches/spots on the gums (bleeding disorder)
- Liver failure
Treating Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
If you know or suspect that your assistance dog consumed something containing xylitol, but there are no symptoms yet, contact your veterinarian right away; induced vomiting may be recommended.
Seek emergency veterinary assistance. Prompt treatment is essential. There is no antidote for xylitol poisoning. However, intervention with IV fluids and sugar can help reverse hypoglycemia. Other supportive therapies may be used, and liver function must be monitored.
Dogs that are treated before showing symptoms or that suffer only uncomplicated, quickly reversed hypoglycemia generally make a full recovery. If a dog suffers liver failure or bleeding problems, the prognosis is not good, and if the dog lapses into a coma, survival is unlikely.
Be Vigilant to Prevent Xylitol Toxicity in Your Assistance Dog!
Obviously, prevention is crucial when talking about xylitol toxicity in dogs. Consider skipping the sugar-free gum, candies, and packaged goods. If you do have them, keep them secure and out of reach of your guide, hearing, or service dog.
The same goes for your dental hygiene products—which you should never use on your assistance dog—and your medications and other care products. Buy dental hygiene products made specifically for dogs; some of these actually contain xylitol too, but in much smaller quantities. Still, keep these out of reach of your dog, because dogs who ingest more than the prescribed amount may be in danger of poisoning