Doctors at MedVet Chicago warn dog owners about the dangers the artificial sweetener, Xylitol, presents to dogs. A sugar substitute, Xylitol, which is safe for human consumption, is highly toxic to dogs and can lead to the animal’s death. Xylitol can be found in products such as sugar-free candy, sugar-free gum, sugar-free baked goods, peanut butter, stool softeners, allergy medications, chewable cold, and flu medications, vitamins, toothpaste, breath mints, and mouthwash.

“Even a small amount of xylitol can make dogs seriously ill,” said MedVet Chicago’s Supervising Emergency Veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein. According to Dr. Klein, symptoms of Xylitol ingestion can appear as quickly as 10-15 minutes after exposure. Dr. Klein suggests, “If your dog starts showing signs of unusual lethargy, loss of coordination, weakness, seizures or vomiting, seek immediate veterinary care. If your veterinarian is not available, contact MedVet or a pet poison control hotline.”

Xylitol can cause a rapid release of insulin into the dog’s bloodstream, leading to a severe drop in blood-sugar levels (hypoglycemia). The symptoms of lethargy, loss of coordination and vomiting can be followed by internal hemorrhaging, liver failure and death. Treatment can be extensive and may require blood tests, induced vomiting, IV fluids, blood transfusions, medications, and hospitalization. Sometimes, the dog cannot be saved.

MedVet strongly urges dog owners to take the following steps to prevent harm to dogs:

  • Keep sugar-free candies and sugar-free gum out-of-reach of your dog. If you keep sugar-free candy or sugar-free gum in your purse, make certain that it is in a zippered compartment and out of the reach of dogs.
  • Never give your pet baked goods and be extra careful to keep sugar-free baked goods out of your dog’s reach.
  • Use only pet-formulated tooth care products when brushing your dog’s teeth.
  • Keep products such as vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste out of your dog’s reach.

If a dog ingests Xylitol, it should be considered a medical emergency and owners should seek immediate treatment from their family veterinarian.

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