Holiday Hazards: Toxic Candy

With the holiday season here, there are more dangers lurking around your home than ever for your furry little friends. Xylitol is a type of sweetener that is found in many things around our houses and, while it’s perfectly safe for human consumption, it’s deadly to dogs. Xylitol is found in many sugar-free gums and baked items. It is also found in toothpaste, candy, and drinks. This sweetener can cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and liver failure in canines. These problems can mimic many other medical problems so be aware of where your dog is and what he is getting into this holiday season and all year long.

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning
The consequences of xylitol poisoning usually have a fast effect and can be noticed within as little as 15 minutes of consumption. Problems could set in though for up to 12 hours, so keep an eye on your pet if you think he is exhibiting any unusual signs such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Collapse or Coma
  • Seizure
  • Bleeding

Causes of Xylitol Poisoning
Dogs that get into foods containing xylitol may become very ill and could even die from it. While it is safe for human, even a small amount could be fatal to a dog, depending upon his weight. When xylitol is ingested, insulin is released very quickly which drops the dog’s blood glucose level rapidly.

Medical Diagnosis
If you suspect your dog has gotten into something with xylitol, you’ll need to take him to the vet immediately. There, he will undergo a complete blood panel including a urinalysis, blood count, and a chemical test. Bleeding disorders may present themselves and fibrinogen and coagulation testing will need to be done.

Treatment for Xylitol Poisoning
If you can catch him in the act of ingesting a product containing xylitol, sometimes inducing vomiting can counter the problem. If your dog has resulting low blood sugar, a fluid regimen and frequent blood testing may help liver functions to normalize.

With so many diet products on the market, the chances of having something with xylitol in the house are high. Be aware of what you are buying and what the ingredients are. If you have anything containing xylitol that you just can’t do without, keep it locked in a cabinet or closet where your dog cannot get into it. If he just won’t leave it alone, it’s best to avoid products with xylitol at all.

Again, always contact your vet or pet poison hotline (800-213-6680) immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol or any other toxic substance.

About author

Erin Gleeson

Erin Gleeson is the Outreach Specialist at PetMeds and works with the PetMeds Cares donations program. She has loved animals as long as she can remember and has worked in several veterinary offices in the past as a veterinary technician. She has one cat, a middle-aged tabby/tortie from a south Florida cat rescue. You can also find Erin on Google+.

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